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Matthew’s Place

WHAT I KNOW NOW: Founder of Pride Nation, Dr. Ryan Starzyk


  • Dr. Ryan A. Starzyk — my friends call me Ryan or Dr. Ryan

Where you live now:

  • Presently residing in Phoenix, Arizona, since April of 2012.

What you wanted to be when you were a teenager:

  • A criminal defense attorney (because I do enjoy a lively debate).

What you do now:

  • Dr. Ryan A. Starzyk is a US military combat veteran, past candidate for public office, business services consultant to large organizations, and social impact entrepreneur. He is the owner and founder of BlueFire Group, a social purpose business promoting a radical transformation from strict profit motives to community-focused local economic development to create a more sustainable and equitable future. He currently serves as the Global Project Manager for InterPride, an Executive Advisor at The World’s Best Connectors, and the Founder of Pride Nation, providing LGBTQIA+ News Worldwide.
  • Dr. Starzyk is a proud lifetime member of the LGBTQIA+ community advocating for increased access to mental health services, banning conversion therapy, and racial equity. He has served on the board of directors for his local Phoenix Pride, awarding over $1 million in community grants and scholarships. He also is a Pride 365 Champion joining the fight to end pink-washing and ensuring that only those authentic and consistent businesses supporting the LGBTQIA+ community stand out from those that don’t. Dr. Starzyk believes his moral duty is to fight for global LGBTQIA+ rights and racial equity.

What you’re most proud of:

  • I am proud of my work with phxPRIDE as a board director for the last six years and my achievement as a Doctor of Business. When I started with phxPRIDE, the organization struggled with its brand identity and public image. People knew us for throwing a big party but failed to realize we do community grants, scholarships, and programming throughout the year. After six years of dedication, countless hours, and hard work, we were able to rebrand ourselves, raise awareness about our various programs, and are in the best fiscal position in the organization’s history. It was a collective effort, and I am proud to have been part of the leadership team to make it happen.
  • Achieving a doctorate is hard. It took several years of sacrifice in personal and professional relationships, opportunities, and experiences. I was stuck in this cycle of studying and fighting for thesis approval. But I eventually achieved this goal through hard work and resilience. If you decide to pursue this goal, make it a very selfish one. It has to be. The sacrifices make it worth it for this to be a self-indulgent goal.

Three words that describe your teenage self:

  • Confused, Frightened, Lonely

Three words that describe you now:

  • Determined, Fearless, Focused

What you would tell your teenage self:

  • It gets better ( and buy as much Apple stock as possible).

What you wish you knew about coming out that you know now:

  • You control the outcome of your own life; nobody else does. Be yourself, live your life, and never let anyone tell you something is wrong with you.

What you love most about being a part of the LGBTQ+ community:

  • I am seen for who I am. Not what someone else wants me to be.

Person you most admire:

  • There are many people I admire for different reasons. Therefore, I can’t say there is just one person overall, as there are many for specific reasons.
  • I admire former First Lady Michelle Obama for being a pillar of strength, love, and brilliance while serving with former President Barack Obama.
  • I admire Representative Liz Cheney for standing by her convictions in the face of adversity. However, she also sought redemption for past views on same-sex marriage, admitted she was wrong, and genuinely asked for forgiveness.
  • I admire Nelson Mandella for his decades of selfless service in pursuing a more equitable society.
  • I admire Pete Buttigieg for stepping up and making the plunge into national politics by running for President as the first (known) gay man in history to do so. He showed us once again that anything is possible.
  • I admire President Joe Biden’s Director of the CDC Division of HIV Prevention, Dr. Demetre Daskalaki, for his unabashed approach to reaching members of the LGBTQIA+ community on their terms and in their comfort zones. A reporter at the conservative media outlet, The Daily Caller, tweeted, “Meet Joe Biden’s monkeypox czar: a ‘progressive, radical gay’ doctor who performs HIV screenings in sex clubs and gives meningitis shots in drag. Now he’s in the White House.” What’s not to admire when someone drives the GOP nuts just for being their true, authentic selves?

If you could change one thing about the world, you would:

  • Abolish all religions.

What inspires you now:

  • Funny, the first thought I had when reading this question was one of great concern. It’s tough to say what “inspires” me today. I can say that I am dedicated to fighting for the right to be seen as our authentic selves, but to say I’m inspired by any one issue, leader, or matter would be a lie. The world as we know it has become troubling when large parts of our population won’t even agree on simple, basic facts. I’m not talking about the types of ideologically driven “facts,” just those that involve foundational and indisputable attributes that only one answer is possible.
  • To be inspired is to be fearless. To be inspired, one must be ready to take risks, make sacrifices, and never let anything stop you from pushing forward. But you also have to set short and long-term goals. So, now we go back to the original question of, what inspires me now?
  • I am inspired by the power of working together towards greater equity and inclusion.
  • I am inspired when world leaders can sit down and have a diplomatic discussion without threatening thermonuclear war.
  • I am inspired when I see same-sex couples holding hands in public.
  • I am inspired by those who work tirelessly to keep the Pride movement alive through volunteering, taking leadership roles in our community, and showing strength in the face of adversity.
  • I am inspired by my partner’s love for over 15 years. He stuck by me through the lowest points in my life. He fought relentlessly to achieve his goal of becoming a university professor and continues to fight for equity and inclusion.

Every day I find myself seeking new inspiration to keep pressing forward. We must fight for what is right, the right to be seen and heard and treated with dignity and respect. As you finish reading this, remember that we are stronger when working together.



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