The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles will honor nearby Crescenta Valley High School student-athlete Zach Johnson with the organization’s Rising Voice Award on May 5.
Johnson has been a leader in his school for quite some time. On March 14, one month to the day after the shoot in Parkland, Fla., Johnson organized a well-publicized walk-out of about 20% of the student body at his school, designed to urge lawmakers to take action against gun violence.
“I knew that at my school people would want to get involved, but there wasn’t anyone who wanted to step up and get the ball rolling,” Johnson told Outsports. “I knew once we got the ball rolling it would be a huge thing.”
He’s not just a social-justice advocate. Just last Friday Johnson was part of the Crescenta Valley High School quartet that broke the school record for the 4X1600-meter relay. They ran the nearly four-mile event at the Mt. SAC Relays with a time that Johnson said was the third fastest in the nation this year. The team placed second in the meet, finishing just five seconds off the winning time.
In other words... Zach’s fast.
In addition to being a top senior on his cross-country and track and field teams, Johnson is the senior class vice-president. As such he helped coordinate a series of events with the Gay-Straight Alliance at his school earlier this year.
When he came out to everyone in his life on Jan. 1, 2016, Johnson assumed it would create issues within his friendship circles and on his teams. Instead, it went very differently
“It went really well,” Johnson said. “There was no negativity. I haven’t dealt with any of that since.”
Johnson was surprised at the non-reaction to his coming out. He had been told for many years that gay men would have a problem in sports. Instead, he has found the complete opposite.
“The world of sports is a very masculine place, and I thought it would make things weird,” he said. “I thought maybe my running would be undermined, but that wasn’t the case.”
Johnson will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, where he will run cross-country and distance races in track and field.
His boyfriend will be attending the Univ. of Pennsylvania this autumn. While that’s a five-hour drive, they currently deal with a 90-minute commute between them, so Johnson said they are used to some distance.
GMCLA will host its seventh annual Voice Awards on May 5 in Hollywood, and tickets are still available. The event was created to honor people who have leant their voices to advancing social justice and equality. The awards consistently focus on under-represented voices and often highlight people like Johnson who don’t make big headlines but who are creating real change in the world.
Also being honored that night is political commentator and CNN personality Ana Navarro.