Denver Water is proud of its diverse workforce. June is known as Pride Month for the LGBTQ community, in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, considered a crucial event in the gay rights movement. In honor of Pride Month, we’re sharing the story of Chris Fikan, a member of Denver Water’s Administrative Services division. Read it, and go here, here and here for more stories about some of the other members of our diverse team who ensure the delivery of clean, safe water to 1.5 million people.
The summer of 1981 was a major turning point in Chris Fikan’s life.
That summer Fikan, who now works as a financial analyst at Denver Water, had just graduated from a Denver-area high school. He sat with his childhood friend as the friend came out to his mother.
And that was also the summer when Fikan decided he too would tell his own parents he was gay.
Fikan grew up in an average, American middle-class home in Englewood, Colorado.
“My parents had me when they were much older. My brother and sister were already grown and out of the house before I finished elementary school,” said Fikan, who joined Denver Water in August 2006. “I was what you would call an ‘accident.’ Some may say I was a ‘surprise.’”
His parents died years ago, and he looks back with fond memories of a happy upbringing. For most of his childhood, Fikan’s mother was a homemaker and his father worked in construction.
His mother was religious. She read the Bible and regularly watched church programming on television.
“My parents were good people. They were patient, supportive and understanding,” said Fikan.
When Fikan was in his early teens, he began noticing other boys.
His first thought: This isn’t right.
“I knew society said I should be attracted to girls. It felt like I was doing something wrong,” he said.
But, Fikan had a close group of friends who accepted him for who he was.
“Honestly, my friends and the people around me probably knew I was gay even before I knew myself,” he said.
The summer of ’81, after high school graduation, Fikan’s childhood friend came out to his own mother.
“I was with him in his living room when he told his mom, and that gave me the inspiration I needed to tell my parents,” he said.
Fikan’s parents were raised in a generation that was not typically accepting of homosexuality. And in the early ‘80s, the gay community faced significant stigma and discrimination.
Despite those circumstances, Fikan was not afraid to tell his parents.
“We were always honest with each other. I knew they would support and love me no matter what,” Fikan said.
And they did.
“My parents told me they really just wanted me to be happy and to be proud of who I was,” he said.
Fikan remembers his mother saying that she would pray for him.
And he remembers his father’s immediate reply: “Why do you need to pray for him? There is nothing wrong with him. He’s happy and that is all we’ve ever wanted for any of our children, isn’t it?”
“My dad wasn’t really an overly emotional or sentimental guy. His response showed me his heart. I felt so much more connected to him after that,” Fikan said.
His mother soon reconciled her religion with Fikan’s homosexuality, believing God loved all good people, no matter what.
Coming out to his parents brought Fikan closer to them and gave him the confidence he needed to be true to himself as he grew into adulthood.
More than a decade after that fateful summer, on an early summer day in 1994, Fikan met a man named Bob at Cheesman Park in Denver. The two chatted for a bit and then went their separate ways.
A year later, they ran into each other again, a chance encounter that sparked a new relationship.
After dating for about six months, Fikan was introduced to Sara, Bob’s 5-year-old daughter from his previous marriage.
“Growing up, Sara was with us every weekend when she wasn’t at her mom’s house. She’s 32 now and it’s been a joy to watch her grow up,” said Fikan.
After more than 20 years together, Fikan and Bob put an official stamp on their relationship in the summer of 2015, when they were married on June 12.
Pragmatic by nature, the couple’s union was understated and unceremonious.
“It’s funny because when you’re with someone for so long, and you’re committed to him, marriage doesn’t really seem necessary. But one evening Bob and I were talking about taxes and decided it made financial sense to make it official and get married. So that’s what we did.
“We went down to the courthouse and got married,” said Fikan.
These days the two spend their time working in their yard and are self-proclaimed “foodies.” They love traveling to Las Vegas and spending their free time checking out model homes and open houses.
For Fikan, the key to life is happiness.
“I know there are so many people out there who are not as lucky as I have been. When I hear the stories of other people who have been fearful of being gay, have experienced violence or who have been discriminated against, I almost feel guilty that my life has been so easy,” he said.
“I’ve always had a strong sense of identity and being true to myself has always come easily, but I realize that’s not the case for everyone. I know it’s easier said than done, but no matter what situation life puts you in, be proud of who you are. If you’re happy, then nothing else really matters.”