It’s a warm start to what offers to be a steamy June day, but the barbell feels cool in my hands as I grasp the iron. The sun heats up the hot-pink cape draped over my back and glints off my silver-sequined hot pants, refracting beads of sunshine on an audience of a couple hundred spectators and three judges near me.  

I ignore the bent sequins pinching my inner thighs, and the fact that the bar holds just over 241 pounds — not a lifetime personal best, but a weighty PR since a back injury four years earlier. I ignore the fact that the bar in my hands holds 60 pounds more than my attempt last year only at that same event: Pull for Pride, a nationwide athletic fundraising series. 

My thoughts are on my feet, ready to push the woking platform away, but my heart is on my wrists: Temporary tattoos spell out, in rainbow colors, “LOVE” and “TOGETHER.” I set my shoulders and take a bracing breath. Stand up, I tell myself, even while I’m unsure I can. 

For decades, endurance athletes of all kinds have run, walked, swum, hiked, and danced for causes as varied as cancer research and parkland stewardship. The barrier to entry is low — spend the money for entry fee, rally your community to raise money for a result in care about, and show up the day of to put one foot in front of the other. 

It’s individuals literally continuing to move forward in an effort to move their communities forward. An attractive concept. 

Pull for Pride was created in 2021, the brainchild of Shannon Kim Wagner, the New York City trainer who founded the Women’s Strength Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to building stronger communities by increasing ­use of strength training. Wagner was inspired by powerlifting, a strength sport that challenges participants to take three attempts to lift their heaviest weights within the squat, bench, and deadlift. 

Pull for Pride narrowed the main focus to a single move: the deadlift, which involves the straightforward act of picking a weight up off the floor and setting it back down. Multiple events nationwide — all happening in June, recognized as Pride Month over the United States — would benefit vulnerable LGBTQ youths, a lot of whom fall victim to homelessness.

This concept, too, was beautiful in my experience: Lift a heavy weight and lift someone who needs a hand. Hold huge weight in your hands and increase in solidarity with young people carrying the weight of the world on their backs. Stand tall and proud — no sloppy postures in deadlifting! — using the people in your own backyard. 

In 2021, participants in four cities — Brooklyn, N.Y.; Minneapolis; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C. — raised more than $30,000. In 2021, athletes in seven cities raised a lot more than $120,000. Each venue’s donations go straight to a local group. The awareness-building around an often-ignored issue, however, defies city limits and manmade borders. Both years, I’ve been part of the team that helped organize and fundraise in Minneapolis.

I share this to not toot my own horn, and not to make a political statement. We each have causes we support and different talents we can use to aid them. The world today is full of need, but thankfully it’s also filled with opportunity. 

Whether I’m moving my community forward inside a 5K or lifting my neighbors up via Pull for Pride, I’ve been lucky in finding a handful of ways to be of service. Selfishly, I admit my service serves me, too, by connecting me to people near and far.  

Love. Together. As I begin to stand up, sequins biting my haunches, my heart belongs to my community, to those who have gathered to cheer for me personally. I push my limits for myself as well as for those hidden from my view, whose stories go unheard by people who have had the privilege of always knowing there’s a roof over our heads, to be loved and accepted as we're by our families, friends, and neighbors. 

I push my feet into the platform, rooting them down into the earth. I feel the weight in my hands, and about halfway up remember it’s the most heavy I’ve lifted in a long while. It feels hard, although not impossible, in part because I’m strong, but also because I’m not alone. Cheers erupt as I lock out at the top of my deadlift, a smile breaking over my face. I understand I’ve got it — that we’ve got it. 

Love, together. Strength for all.