Ever since publicly coming out as gay, pro baseball player Bryan Ruby has made it his mission to promote LGBTQ inclusion in the sport he loves. But in recent weeks, his efforts have extended beyond the baseball field, and into city hall.
Along with many other LGBTQ people and advocates, Ruby has been fighting to preserve Pride celebrations in Franklin, Tenn., a large suburb about 30 minutes south of Nashville. On Tuesday, the city voted to allow its annual Pride festival to occur, with the mayor casting the deciding vote.
Ruby, who publicly came out in September 2021, shared a video on Instagram explaining the power and purpose of Pride celebrations.
“For me, Pride is not political. It’s personal,” he said. “It’s a time for all of us in the LGBTQ+ community to come together and celebrate who we are. It’s important, sometimes life saving, to allow celebrations of Pride to happen.”
Tennessee has emerged as a battleground in the escalating culture wars over LGBTQ Pride, becoming the first state in the nation to sign a bill banning drag performances — categorized as “adult cabaret” — on public property or anywhere minors might be present.
Mercifully, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. But anti-LGBTQ sentiment still runs high in the state legislature and select city councils.
That includes Franklin, where more than 100 people — including those from the Tennessee Pride Chamber, the local LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Franklin Pride — made impassioned statements about Pride before the council voted on whether to allow the event this year. The environment became hateful and hostile at times.
Ultimately, Mayor Ken Moore voted to preserve Pride. The measure won by a 5-4 margin.
In many respects, Ruby’s experience as an out gay man in the conservative world of baseball makes him the perfect spokesperson to push for Pride in mid-Tennessee. As co-founder of Proud To Be In Baseball, an advocacy group focused on elevating LGBTQ inclusion across the game, he understands the importance of visibility and personalized stories.
He’s written about how his teammates ask him about his boyfriend and gay weddings, and shared his experiences playing on five different clubs throughout Europe. (Ruby says he was welcomed in every locker room, by the way.)
Over the holiday season, Ruby, who moonlights as a Country singer-songwriter, debuted a new Christmas carol dedicated to his boyfriend.
It takes a lot of self-assurance to write Country ballads about your boyfriend. In the aforementioned video, Ruby says Pride celebrations helped him learn to love himself.
“As I kid, I felt for the longest time that there was something wrong with me, and I worked really freaking hard to get over that shame about who I am,” he said. “I am really proud of woh I am now. I love who I am. It just feels like a huge insult that my community that has been working so hard to be outstanding, upstanding citizens in Tennessee, that our home is now telling people like me that we should be ashamed again about who we are. I refuse to be ashamed about who I am anymore.”
The LGBTQ people of Franklin refuse to be ashamed, too. And this week, they won.