Jason Altamirano, a native of Hatch, New Mexico loves playing sports. He played a number of sports when he was growing up and always had a desire to do more. “I always had a drive to be a part of a team,” he said, adding that he loved challenging himself both physically and mentally. His parents, however, insisted that school work had to come first.
Now living in Denver, at age 31 Jason has managed to put his time and energy into both sports and education. For the record, he loves volleyball; sand, grass or indoor hard court, it makes no difference. It has a special place in his heart since it was part of his coming out journey at age 18 when he had no idea about anything “gay” or where to even meet anyone like him. But he knew he needed some sort of outlet to connect to the LGBTQ community.
Then he found an online forum called Connexions. Talking about that experience, Jason says “I was able to look at gay men who were involved with rafting, outdoor excursions and volleyball. It no longer exists but that was my stepping-stone to where I am now. I played and grew as an athlete and as a gay man while creating my life story never looking back or with regret.”
Along the way Jason recounts that he learned what he could, gained wisdom from the mistakes he made along the way and best of all, he created friendships that he still has to this day. All this fueled his drive to continue moving forward. In what has become the major theme that runs through his life, Jason says “I wanted to give back.”
He calls coming out his greatest personal achievement because as he discovered his own personality and embraced who he truly was, it enabled him to accept others for who they are rather than who they pretend to be. Describing that experience, Jason says “it gave me courage to help others in any way I could as a friend, confidant, or significant other. But personally, coming out gave me a whole new outlook on life. Not having fear or feeling shame to be my true self gave me a giant push to finish school, to be successful in every way I could be, and to have a renewed passion for adventure with all life has to offer.”
Jason already holds an undergraduate degree in a dual major – pre med which is basically a biology/chemistry major, and sports medicine and dietetics. Currently he’s a neuromuscular therapist or NMT specializing in pre/post-operative care and in rehabilitation for both sports and injury situations as well a strong emphasis on debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and neurological damage.
Having already passed his MCAT, the required admission test to medical school, Jason is busy studying for his entrance exams with an ultimate goal of pursuing nursing or physician’s assistant with a specialization in anesthesiology. But he isn’t spending all his time on his studies. Having learned as a youngster how to balance studies with having fun, in his free time he’s playing sports. If it’s not volleyball then he’s usually at the gym, doing yoga or enjoying all the outdoor fun Colorado can provide and what he describes as “shenanigans with family and friends in my life.”
But for Jason, it still comes back to volleyball, the game that was his connection to finding himself. In the 13 years since his search began he’s still involved, both as an athlete and as president of the organization he first joined. It also led to his greatest athletic achievement, being named as the Colorado Athlete of the Year at the 2016 Compete Sports Diversity Awards last year in Denver. “I don’t play to gain notoriety or to be in the spotlight,” he said, “but to be surprised with such an honor truly meant the world to me!”
Part of his drive to give back to the LGBTQ sports community began by joining the board of his volleyball team just to see how it all worked behind the scenes. Then he was granted an official position, put in charge of player development. Now he’s the president of the organization and the league director, all because he still wants to provide for others that same wonderful experience he’s had through his years of playing.
Jason also hopes to influence those athletes in turn, to do the same for others. He says that “Whether they are gay or straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender men or women, good or bad at sports, I knew I sucked when I first started and yet so many were there to help and have patience. Now that I’m on the other side, I would be happy to pass on the torch.” Hopefully, all athletes will take a lesson from Jason Altamirano!
By Connie Wardman
Header Photo Left: Jason Altamirano accepts his Award as Colorado Athlete of the Year at the 2016 Compete Sports Diversity Awards
Photo courtesy of AMS Creative Imaging Photography
Header Photo Right: Jason Altamirano playing indoor hard court volleyball
Photo by Tony Contreras Photography