Let’s Have That Hard Conversation

My name is Kevin Dennison, known in the derbyverse as Kevlar, and I’m pansexual.

Throughout my life I have been physically and emotionally attracted to men and women, regardless of how they necessarily identify their own gender or sexuality. Pansexual, bisexual, gender-blind, whatever. The meanings of all of these words can easily blur together depending on who you talk to. But, it’s the term I have chosen for myself as I continue to explore my sexuality and my self-identity and it’s the term I have chosen to use in, hopefully, engaging conversation. Maybe I’ll always be pansexual. Maybe one day I’ll just be Kevin, or Kevlar. Who knows! I have had relations with both sexes. Some that have been very good, some that have been very hurtful, but I have learned from each and every one of them.

Roller derby, like many of you, has saved my soul too. I know there are those out there who find this cheesy, I did too at first, but it’s true. For YEARS I disliked myself, I was unhappy, I was scared, I was alone, depressed, anxious, stressed and felt empty inside. I simply… did not like Kevin. I hated him actually.

He was weak, he was defensive, he was scared, he was irritable, he was overweight, drinking to numb himself, not sleeping, not showering for days, overeating to kill time during the day, obsessed with World of Warcraft, rarely socializing, always feeling awkward, uncomfortable and miserable and bitter AND… I HATED how pathetic that made me feel. Derby offered me an outlet to start to change that, and that change has been HUGE.

then and now

Here’s Kevin, to Kevlar, after just one year. This is the change derby has instilled in me. This is the confidence and strength it has helped me discover in myself. And yet, for quite some time I’ve STILL felt empty. I’ve still felt anxious and stressed and exhausted. Until yesterday, when one video changed my outlook on everything. If you haven’t seen it yet. Please WATCH IT NOW. This is Ash Beckham and a few of her words has helped me find that last push to bust open my closet door: “All a closet is, is a hard conversation. And although our topics may vary tremendously, the experience of being in and coming out of the closet is universal. It is scary, and we hate it, and it needs to be done…. no matter what your walls are made of, a closet is no place for a person to live.”

A great deal about this video hit me square in the face like a ton of bricks. The long term damages of not having hard conversations, holding onto grenades, being yourself, etc. But one part in particular hit me and knocked me flat on my backside. It was this: “We have all been there before and you may feel so very alone but you are not. And we know it’s hard but we need you out here, no matter what your walls are made of. Because I guarantee you there are others peering through the keyhole of their closet looking for the next brave soul to burst the door open, so be that person and show the world that we are bigger than our closets.”

To every single one of you derby girls and boys out there, be you skaters, officials, announcers, coaches or fans, I want to say thank you. I have looked out through my keyhole at so many of you and your bravery in being yourself, breaking down your doors and living the lives you want to live has gradually helped me find the strength to do the same. I’m DONE with this closet. It is depressing in here, lonely, empty, draining and my hand hurts from clutching this grenade. That’s enough. No more.

So, to anyone and everyone of you derby folk out there still hiding in your closet, still holding your grenades, still peeping through your keyhole. You’re NOT alone either. You are in a sport surrounded by SO many others who have experienced that fear, that anxiety, that stress and that exhaustion, just as you have. And when, or if, you’re ready… PLEASE bust open whatever that goddamn door is keeping you locked up with. Come out and join us.


  1. Right on little buddy! I’m proud of you! Hopefully this is the return of the fun-loving and awesome Kevlar that I went to Nationals with and haven’t seen for a while!

    1. Interestingly, last March I was at my second darkest, most unhappy, most vulnerable and most anxious points in my life. I’m used to wearing masks to hide when I’m not in my closets. Would love to hear Ash Beckham talk about masks too actually. But, that’s not important anymore. What’s important is here, now and what’s to come, and it’s all looking a lot brighter.

      1. I wish I’d have checked the box to receive notifications on replies… I’m just seeing this now!

        Anyhow, I never would have guessed things were so dark though the mask of “Ka-Kaws” and “Pew Pews” on that trip. Either way, I’m glad thing are brighter and better now!!

  2. I love you, Kevin. It breaks my heart to see the unhappiness in your face in some of those before pictures. I know firsthand how depression can tear you down. Thank you for all that you are, and all you are to me. You are so strong, so brave, so amazing, and I am so proud of you. I know that roller derby saved MY soul, it saved my body, and it brought me to you. I’m so happy to be a part of your after pictures, babe.

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