Who Are You? What Do You Stand For?
I was asked a question (rightfully so) about who I am and what I stand for. My goal is to be fully transparent and let everyone know. Hopefully this helps.
Who Are You?
My name is Ryan Alexander Starzyk, born November 25, 1982, on Thanksgiving day in Hartford, Connecticut. I grew up in a few places, none of which I really called home until now.
Naugatuck, CT, was where it all started. I lived in a light green-house on the top of a big hill. I remember this hill because one day running down it, I fell and split my leg open on a rock. I was trying to catch a bus to school that day but failed miserably. The local neighbors were all a bit stuck up, but I will never forget Mr. & Ms. Cone who lived around the corner. They were an older couple, very friendly, always welcoming and gave me a ride home from school a few times when they saw me walking down the road.
My parent’s house went into foreclosure, and we moved in with someone who was a total lunatic. He had significant anger management issues and would literally throw couches looking for a spoon. We lived in Oxford, CT, during this period with him before eventually moving again to North Carolina. My grandparents bought a house they claimed was for retirement. Sadly, they never retired there and we ended up living in it instead (until they both died and my aunt sold it out from under us).
North Carolina was an interesting place. I went to high school there, the same one Michael Jordan went to and was in Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). I loved being in ROTC. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere else, so this worked at the time.
After high school, I moved up to live with my uncle in Jersey City, NJ. He lived on the bottom of a hill with his very rude and mean spirited wife. She would SCREAM at the top of her lungs nearly every morning over something such as a tissue being in the trash. She also called me “Boy,” which drove me up a wall. But I dealt with it since it was where I was living at the time. She had this ardent mission of “outing” me as being gay. Eventually, she succeeded because I got fed up with being asked or pressured. Finally one day I just said it “Yes, I am gay, so what?” Years later, my uncle and aunt divorced (not much of a shock honestly).
I joined the military while living in Jersey City because frankly, I needed to get away from it all. I didn’t much care about the lifestyle challenges at the time, because I figured it would be “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL.” Unfortunately, I was wrong about this assumption. I didn’t tell, but a lot of people felt the need to ask, spread rumors and bully me nearly every day. During my time in the service, I was deployed to Iraq a few times. One thing I did learn is that I hated being yelled at and eventually moved on in 2007. The military was the best and worst experience of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Post-military life was nothing short of an adventure, one that I will never forget. I struggled with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), nightmares, waking up in cold sweats, and felt angry all of the time. I struggled with substance abuse during this period, and recognize the importance of having someone there to help you through such a tumultuous experience.
It took me several years and a lot of therapy to get back on my feet. The Veterans Affairs hospital was vital in making this happen. I am grateful for them and all the dedicated public servants who assisted me through this troubling time.
My partner of over 12 years, Ivan, was also there every step of the way, supporting, loving, and helping me through these challenges. Eventually, I managed to get to a better place, finishing my Bachelor’s degree in 2012. To me, this was a monumental achievement, and I wanted to keep going. So I did.
Ivan and I moved to Arizona in 2012, right after we both finished our Bachelor’s degrees. We built a family with two dogs (Zeus and Munchkin). We had a desire for a better life, more economic opportunity and to achieve our Master’s degrees. We did. Both of us graduated from Arizona State University (ASU) with a Masters (Ryan: Masters in Legal Studies & Ivan: Masters in Visual Communication Design). Arizona is our home, and we love it so much.
Nothing about this was smooth, and yes, we had our challenges from time to time (who doesn’t)?
In 2016, I started to feel as though something was missing. So I went back to school (again, glutton for punishment) for my Doctorate in Business. To say this was a challenge would be an understatement. But it was a selfish goal, motivated by a desire to learn more ways I can help our our community. One I am proud to have finished.
In 2017, I joined the Phoenix Pride Board of Directors and took over as the Chair, Education & Outreach Committee. Three years of managing our community grant and scholarship program opened my eyes to so much in life. Seeing the positive impact, hearing the stories, and seeing the change made me want to do more.
All of 2018 was a year of deep self-reflection, doubting myself, asking my partner and friends the big question of “What’s next for Ryan?”
This is where I started to realize running for office and serving the whole community is that next step. Because I want to do more, make a more significant impact, and help as many people as possible. Ivan and I also added a new member to our family and adopted a little kitten named Archie (he grew up so quick!).
What Do You Stand For?
I stand for authenticity, recognizing that I am an imperfect human being surrounded by imperfect human beings.
I stand for acknowledging my mistakes and doing better not to make them again.
I stand for integrity first, service before self, and always looking for ways to help my community.
I stand here as someone who is taking the biggest risk in my life by running for public office because I believe in my heart, we can, must, and will do better for our community.
My Commitment Is To You.
Nothing is more rewarding than meeting with people and listening. I have learned so much about the real struggles people continue going through, and this drives my heart to keep going.
Being an elected official means your accountable to voters only. Nothing else matters except the people you are representing. The authentic leadership we once saw is gone, but not lost. It is about time we bring it back.
I Will Promise This:
What you see is what you get. I will never put on an act or change who I am. I will always fight to help our community become stronger, more resilient and better than it is.
Believe In A Better Future:
I proudly and honorably fought for you in the military, I hope you will allow me the honor and privilege to continue doing so in public office as your next State Senator.