An Interview with Kat Mische Elle
Johnnie, where did your adventure begin?
I had planned on retiring from law enforcement on January 7th last year in 2021. I picked that specific day because it was the day I graduated from the academy, 21 years ago to the day. In 1994, that was also my wedding date. Even though we are now divorced, I have a lot of good memories of that day. So, for me, that day was symbolic. I was ready to move forward and pursue what I really wanted to do. I felt that my true purpose in life was to give back as much as I possibly could to support Chase, my son, and his community.
Twenty years ago, I was 35, and it was Christmas time. My wife and I were hanging out in the kitchen. She turned to me and said, “Hey, I want you to prepare yourself with something I need to tell you because I know who you are.” I was staring back at her, confused because I don’t even know what the conversation was going to be about. My wife continued, “I know who you are. I know how you were raised with your religion and being very conservative and all of that. I know your family!” I just stared at her, wondering where this was all going, and then she said, “Chase is gay.”
I said, “What?! Chase is five.”
This was pure mothers’ intuition. She just knew.
I wasn’t in denial; I just didn’t see it, I only saw my son who I loved. And my wife was spot on. She said, “Here’s the thing. Is he asking for sporting equipment? Asking to play football, baseball, basketball, whatever?”
I said, “No.”
She continued, “Does he want big trucks and tractors, or does he like playing in the dirt in the back yard?”
Again, I replied, “No,” and I began to smile as it all started to sink in.
“What did he ask for this year?” she asked.
“He wanted an Easy Bake Oven,” I said.
My wife looked me in the face and said, “Right!” with a glimmer in her eyes.
“Hold on… Emeril is huge right now,” I said. “Chase and I watch him every day on television. Maybe he wants to be a chef?”
My wife looked at me and said again, “Johnnie, Chase is gay.”
I said, “Okay, whatever, it doesn’t matter.” It was just that small of a conversation. And, to me, it was no big deal. The bottom line was he was my son. I loved him. End of subject.
I was raised to be an alpha male, growing up on a 3000-acre ranch in Nevada surrounded by other strong, hardworking Christian men like my father and my grandfather. And when I wasn’t working, I was playing sports.
I graduated with a master’s in sports medicine, and I worked in the NFL. I was the head athletic trainer at Grand Canyon University for three and a half years and worked at several physical therapy clinics. I began rehabbing several Scottsdale police officers, and one officer asked me if I ever thought of going into law enforcement.
My first response was, “Absolutely not. I’ve never thought of doing that.” Then I became curious because I needed to think about more than just myself. I needed to consider the benefits that the career could provide for me and my family.
The officer said, “We’re hiring.”
I said, “My number one question is: how good is your health care?”
He replied, “It’s actually really good.” Chase was born with a cleft lip and palate. So, my biggest concern was knowing how many surgeries he would need to have as he grew older.
So, I put my application in, and two and a half months later, I got hired. That career, that chapter of my life, shaped who I became over time and who I hung out with. The time I had to put into that career affected my family life and played a huge role in why I experienced the demise of my marriage which led to divorce.
I look back, and I’m at peace with everything because it all happened for very specific reasons. If I hadn’t gone through that divorce, I wouldn’t be where I am right now, here today, with so many doors that God has opened for me.
Chase was 17 when I was working at the PD, and one day, he visited his mom when she was at her work and told her that he was gay. I called him, and Chase told me that he wanted to talk to me in person. I told him that I would talk to him that night at home. However, he never came home; he spent the night with friends. My wife and I had a vacation planned the next day, and Chase was going to ride with us to the airport so he could take the car back home. I brought it up that I knew he wanted to talk to me while we were in the car. He told me he was gay, and the conversation went very well.
What was your response to him?
I made sure that Chase knew that—no matter what—I would always accept and support him. I told him that he is my son, and I love him unconditionally. I told him that he needed to be his own authentic, unique self, whatever that was. It did not matter who he loved. One of Chase’s main concerns was that I was a cop, and, in his opinion, I had friends who had big egos with macho, unaccepting personas. I informed him that I knew who those people were that I worked with. I told Chase that if those people could not accept my son for who he was, then they were no longer a friend of mine! Based on his reaction, as he sat in the back seat, I believe he was surprised by my response. From that moment, you could see Chase had a weight lifted away from him, and he was truly able to be who he is.
How was your relationship after that subject was out in the open?
Our relationship, I believe, became stronger just due to him knowing that he had my unconditional acceptance and support so he could be his authentic/unique self.
At what age were you and Chase when you began creating ‘Out is the new In’?
Chase was 21, and I was 51. Chase was living in Pasadena, California, and I was in Chandler, Arizona. This May 2022 will be 5 years since I had the conversation with Chase about making this idea a business to give back to the LGBTQIA+ nonprofit community. It was after going through the divorce. Months later, I was waking up with visions of logos in my head. I started drawing them out, contacted Chase, and told him there was a reason why this was happening. I sat down and googled, “How to start a business” and saw 12 steps that came up. I remember thinking that 12 was not bad at all, and I started at #1. I had no idea what I was doing since I had never had a business before or had ever started one. We came up with an original logo that Chase liked, and I proceeded to find a screener to make shirts and hats for us. That original logo is now called ‘vintage’ on our website.
How long did it take until it became an official organization?
The original LLC of OITNI LLC was established in May of 2017. It took my retirement in January of 2021 to go all in and get to where I am today. I decided in late 2020 that I wanted to retire and see where this idea could go. I wanted to truly pursue my purpose. I sold my house a week after retirement and told myself that I would use those proceeds to fund what my vision was for the future with ‘Out Is the New In.’ We rebranded the logos and developed a brand-new website with a store of apparel and other items. 10% of every sale on the website and vending booth events I attend will be going to local nonprofits that focus on suicide prevention, mental health, and homelessness within the LGBTQIA+ youth community. 100% of all donations will be donated back into the community. I have also hired a grant writing company and am waiting to have my very first grant awarded so funds can go to several different nonprofits in the community as well.
I was granted 501©3 status in July 2021 for ‘Out Is the New In Foundation.’ The newly rebranded website with store went live the same weekend of Phoenix Pride, (Nov. 6-7th, 2021) which you can visit at outisthenewin.org.
How did your relationship change with your friends/fellow officers you worked with when you began this organization?
I honestly did not notice a difference in my relationships with anyone. My personal friends and other officers I worked with would comment quite often about how they thought what I was doing as a father/son collaboration was awesome and how I was supporting Chase as an ally.
Growing together on that project, what did you discover about each other individually and together as father and son?
For me individually, especially after attending a one-day event in Flagstaff, Pride in the Pines, by myself, I knew my purpose was to be the best ally not only to Chase but to so many other people within the LGBTQIA+ community. Telling my story of why I was there and having people on the other side of the table completely break down crying and tell me that their parents had not accepted them the way I accepted Chase was very difficult for me to absorb. I thought, “How can a parent not accept their child based on who they love, how they identify, who they were as their authentic self?” I did a lot of talking to myself on my drive back to Phoenix, realizing there were so many other people who needed to be accepted and supported. I needed to figure out what that looked like moving forward in the future.
Chase has always told me that he loves the support that I have for him and the LGBTQIA+ community and what I am doing to show that support.
What is the mission for ‘Out Is the New In’?
About: ‘Out Is the New In’ was founded by the father and son team of Johnnie and Chase Ghiglia.
It all started with a conversation while sitting in a family room discussing the potential ideas of what we could do to give back and support Chase and the LGBTQIA+ community.
Years later, that conversation developed into what our true purpose in life is today. That purpose is focusing on being the best ally and advocate a parent can be supporting the LGBTQIA+ community through volunteering, donating, collaborating, sponsoring, mentoring, and organizing.
Vision: Promoting a world where inclusion, diversity, respect, support, and equal civil rights exist for all LGBTQIA+ people.
Mission: Allies and Advocates coming together to show respect, support, and recognition to all LGBTQIA+ people through community service, by being authentic, being present, and creating value.
How big is your support now with the LGBTQIA+ Community?
The support has been overwhelmingly positive, and the size of the community and welcoming I have received in the past year has been unbelievable. I have been truly blessed with the number of doors that have opened and the amazing people that I have had the opportunity to meet. I am absolutely doing what I was meant to do! It took me 50 years to find my purpose. I am hoping for even bigger and better things in the coming year. The way I look at the future is this: the bigger I become, the more I get to give back to the community.
How do you view your leadership role in this adventure and the responsibilities that have come with it?
As far as leadership, I view a leadership role as being a truly authentic ally. Let as many parents and family members know that the most important thing you can do if your child comes to you and tells you they identify as queer, is to tell them you love them unconditionally. So that they are allowed to be their own unique, authentic self unapologetically! In accepting and supporting your child, you are showing them your unconditional love. Be grateful for every door that opens for you and absorb everything it has to offer. Network and develop as many friendships, collaborations, and resources as possible that you can use when that need presents itself, so you can get that person the best assistance available.
Regarding responsibilities, I plan on continuing to be educating myself regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Listen, absorb what is said, learn daily and support the LGBTQIA+ community in so many ways. Talk less, listen more. Not only for Chase but for the entire LGBTQIA+ community. Advocate for all LGBTQIA+ people to be healthy, safe, and have equal civil rights. Confront homophobia and transphobia. And to always be a kind human!
Who would you thank for your inspirational influence?
First and foremost, I would thank Chase for feeling comfortable and knowing he was in a very safe place to come out when he did at 17.
I would like to thank two very good friends, specifically Nicole and Michelle, who I used to work with, for all their amazing advice, opinions, and support.
The amazing, authentic circle of friends I have met through this journey and have given me so much love, advice, and support to prove that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.
What can we expect from ‘Out is the New In’ for the rest of this year?
To continue to support the local community and give back in several different facets, by serving through volunteering, donating, collaborating, sponsoring, mentoring, and organizing. I have several booth events scheduled up to May 1st and then they start back up in October, just due to heat. They are usually on the weekends throughout the valley. I will also have a table at the Mental Health America of Arizona SEEDS conference in March. Being a part of these events is so fulfilling for me. Just to be able to meet so many new people and have amazingly authentic conversations, getting to know them, their stories, and being able to tell them what my cause and purpose is. Soon, I am hoping to produce and present a new podcast that focuses on many different areas of mental health awareness. It will consist of guest speakers that identify within the LGBTQIA+ community as well as speaking with licensed therapists who treat both the adult and youth of the LGBTQIA+ community. My hope is to deliver a message that will inspire a conversation for people to reach out to friends and resources, so they know they are not alone. To know that they have people out there who support them in what they are going through.
What is the best way for people to find and follow you?
The best way to find ‘Out Is the New In’ is through Instagram and Facebook for content, updates, and what is coming up next for us. Each one is under OUTISTHENEWIN.
I also have a LinkedIn page under OUTISTHENEWIN. The website is: outisthenewin.org
Once the podcast is up and running, you can subscribe to the YouTube channel: OUTISTHENEWIN, you have a purpose.