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Thursday, June 30, 2022

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Steven Shyne (right), SDSU grad and CEO of Think Red Project, with husband, John, and their twins Steven Shyne (right), SDSU grad and CEO of Think Red Project, with husband, John, and their twins
 


Celebrating PRIDE: Coming Out Again and Again

Steven Shyne, SDSU grad and CEO of Think Red Project, describes why for him, coming out continues to be a process.
By Suzanne Finch
 

Each autumn, thousands of people of all ages, sexual orientation and gender identity descend on Downtown San Diego to make new friends, dance the night away, and raise money to support local HIV/AIDS service organizations. 

The Red Dress Party San Diego was established in 2016 by San Diego State University graduate Steven Shyne (’13, marketing), co-founder and CEO of a nonprofit called the Think Red Project.

“The Red Dress Party is a whimsical fundraising event where everyone is encouraged to be brave, let loose and celebrate impact,”  Shyne said. “Like the name suggests, attendees are required to wear a red dress (or dress-like garment) which unites the crowd in one radiant theme. Over the years we’ve raised nearly $200,000 for San Diego County-based HIV organizations and the communities they serve.” 
 
Crowd at a recent Red Dress Party San Diego
 Crowd at a recent Red Dress Party San Diego 

The Think Red Project isn’t the only organization established by Shyne. He used skills learned as an SDSU marketing student to co-found CXperts in 2019 with fellow SDSU grad Ramsay Crooks (’03, journalism).

“CX stands for customer experience,” said Shyne. “Our objective is to improve and optimize the digital experience for the customers of our clients.” 

Both Shyne and Crooks sit on the advisory group for the Fowler College of Business’ marketing department to advise faculty on how “to help shape the curriculum while ensuring that students get relevant, real-world experience and exposure to digital marketing trends and expertise.” 

Courage

While it takes some measure of courage to start your own business and a nonprofit organization, Shyne has shown courage in his personal life as well.

“I was born, grew up and went to high school in Montana,” said Shyne. “As if high school isn’t hard enough, imagine a kid who’s grappling with gay identity issues, and being in Montana in the 1990s.  As tumultuous as that sounds, I did end up coming out in high school and was the first guy to do so in that school. I thought it was the right thing:  1. To be true to myself; 2. To set an example for the visibility of others, and; 3. Because I’m a terrible liar and the truth was bound to come out anyway.” 

Eventually, Shyne found his way to SDSU which he said was the right place for him to complete his marketing degree program in 2013.  “I never once felt alienated, threatened, or out of place,” he said. 

'You are constantly coming out'

Although he had come out as a gay man long before he entered SDSU, Shyne explained that this is a long-term process. 

“One of the biggest challenges or at least longest-running themes — as a gay man or any queer person could tell you — is that you don’t just ‘come out’ and it’s done,” he said.

“You are constantly coming out with each new class or workplace," said Shyne. "With each mention of ‘my husband’ to clients or vendors, I am revealing something. Sure, it gets easier, but there’s still always that little voice in the back of your head that remembers previous rejections, misgivings or little awkward moments. Having come out so early, I’ve had a lot of practice and that little voice is all but a whisper now.” 

The meaning of “Pride”

To Shyne, Pride Month is “a many-layered thing.” 

“For starters, it’s a reminder of progress,” said Shyne. “Pride, as we know it today is a product of the Gay Rights Liberation Movement, which was a community uprising demanding rights and protection. While that progress has moved quickly, it is also a reminder that progress can be eroded and we need to watch for, and fight against, those who would infringe upon our rights.”

“Pride Month also means visibility,” said Shyne, reflecting on the need to keep a sharp focus on all those socially marginalized, including LGBTQ+ people. “Waving our flag serves as a reminder that we are participants in a larger society.”

While there is still progress to be made in society toward the LGBTQ+ community, Shyne has experienced some of that progress in his own life as a husband and a father, something that was nearly unthinkable during his days as a high school trailblazer. 

“I met John around 16 years ago, but we never seriously discussed parenthood until about six years ago,” he said. “Now we are the parents of twins. How time flies.”