Last year, Denver-based nutritionist Aaron Mello and his nonprofit Rocky Mountain MRA enjoyed an “overwhelmingly positive” reception at the Denver GLBT Pride Fest. Mello and his team distributed hundreds of flyers on men’s issues, and talked to “dozens” of passersby.
“We even talked to several trans people who shared their experiences having lived as both genders. A few people were so grateful to have someone to talk to about men’s issues that they started crying in our booth,” Mello told PJ Media on Monday.
Despite the group’s positive impact at last year’s Denver GLBT PrideFest, however, the local Rocky Mountain MRA was banned from this year’s festival, much to the confusion of Mello since his nonprofit initially was invited back by organizers.
“We hope you will join us for Denver PrideFest’s 43rd anniversary, to take place June 16-17 in downtown Denver’s Civic Center Park,” wrote Carol Hiller, the operations manager of the Denver PrideFest, in a February 27 email directly to Mello.
But not long after Mello applied to return to PrideFest, festival organizers grew suspicious.
Carol Hiller, in an email to Mello, not only requested affirmation of his group’s commitment to “non-discrimination,” but also asked him to respond to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s characterization of the men’s rights movement as a “hate group.”
Hiller — citing the Southern Poverty Law Center — claimed to Mello that his group was, by association with the broader men’s rights movement, “in direct violation of Denver PrideFest’s nondiscrimination policy in regards to gender identity and expression.”
But, as Mello explained: “Misconceptions about the men’s rights movement are common and it is a cause that is often misrepresented. There is also a fair amount of differing views and opinions,” said Mello, according to emails reviewed by PJ Media.
“Rocky Mountain MRA is a love group, not a hate group,” he pleaded.
“I ask that you judge us on the merits of what we do and say — not what other MRAs do and say — or what an organization like the SPLC says the men’s rights movement is about,” Mello added.
Nevertheless, Mello’s pleading was in vain.
In a rejection email dated April 11, organizers officially exiled Rocky Mountain MRA from PrideFest, citing for example the group’s one-time screening of the film “The Red Pill,” as well as the fact that the group posted news from The Daily Caller on Facebook.
“While Rocky Mountain MRA may claim to support our non-discrimination work, association with this [the broader men’s movement] suggests otherwise,” wrote Rex Fuller, another PrideFest organizer, to Mello.
“We have decided that in good conscience we cannot accept [your] application,” he added.
Denver PrideFest organizers Rex Fuller and Carol Hiller, for their part, did not respond to multiple phone and email inquiries from PJ Media.
Mello founded Rocky Mountain MRA in 2016 after organizing a sold-out screening of “The Red Pill.” He maintains that his nonprofit was denied due to “guilt by association” with fringe members of the broader men’s movement.
“The decision definitely seems like guilt by association. We have an explicit focus of setting ourselves apart from more divisive and inflammatory MRAs and we take a positive, solution-focused approach,” explained Mello.
“It’s a surreal experience to start an organization in an effort to help men and experience such adversity and downright hostility,” added Mello.
According to local news, more than 100,000 people attended the Denver GLBT PrideFest this past weekend. Their mission is to “engage, empower, enrich, and advance the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community of Colorado.”
Mello notes that there are many members of the LGBTQ commmunity involved in his organization, both as event attendees and as board members.
Denver PrideFest did not respond to multiple inquiries from PJ Media for comment.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.