On Oct. 24, 2020, I married my partner of 8 years, Justin Romeri.
It was a perfect fall night considering the country was in the middle of a pandemic and we were unsure until a short time prior to the date that the wedding was going to happen.
The wedding colors were based on the colors of the San Francisco Giants, our beloved baseball team. Miniature Giants helmets filled with Cracker Jacks lined the tables for the guests. A candy station with jars decorated in baseball-themed stickers awaited the guests. The officiant of the wedding dawned a black robe with two baseballs on the back with the letters “J” and “B” in them separated by a heart.
It came time to make speeches. My best man was someone I met through umpiring baseball and he was talking about sports officiating and my leadership of the sports I supervised. As the time came for me to give a thank you speech, I stood up and looked at the 150 guests in attendance and saw the other sport supervisors for the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association, where I serve as president and supervisor of the baseball and football units.
I saw that a large portion of guests were fellow officials, friends who were there to support Justin and me. Thinking back to the past 11 years in sports officiating and now seeing there was support from “straight” sports officials, one thing came to mind — I am lucky.
When I decided I would begin officiating high school sports here in Central California 11 years ago, I was not sure a man who was openly gay would be fully accepted into the ranks, let alone being promoted to supervisor and assignor and eventually president of the association.
While I was somewhat nervous about this new journey, it was similar to the one I had just completed. At 21, I was sworn in as an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. I was entering a field as an openly gay man where homosexuality was not always accepted. I knew that I would have to prove myself and erase the possibility of judgment of performance due to my sexuality. I was successful in my mission.
Being out in the world of sports is still difficult. It is still not accepted in many places.
I told myself when I began officiating that I would not hide who I am, but I would not advertise it either. I would work hard at becoming the best official I could be on the field.
As I became more comfortable and developed friendships with my fellow officials, I became much more open to who I am. That quickly developed into Justin being a part of the “crew,” even being called the “real supervisor” at times. At big games and social events, he was expected to be there with the other officials’ wives and girlfriends. We were accepted with no questions asked.
I have proved to my fellow officials that no matter what my sexual orientation is, I can do the job. I’ve gained the support and trust to become the supervisor of two sports and president of a sports official’s association. Not all LGBTQ people experience the support I have gotten from the sports officiating world.
That support had never been so real until the night of Oct. 24, during the biggest event of my life. My fellow officials were saying “congratulations CC” (crew chief) and celebrating by calling balls and strikes, safes and outs. It made me realize I was just “one of the guys” and my sexual orientation did not matter.
Bryan Pinto, 43, is president, baseball and football supervisor of the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association in Fresno, California. He is also a doctoral candidate in Criminal Justice at Walden University. He can be reached at [email protected], Facebook (Faceboook.com/bryan.pinto1), and TikTok (@bryguy559).
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
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