By DAVID CRAWFORD/Montana State News

Tate Chamberlin opened with four simple words, “I fell in love.”

At the 2014 TEDxBozeman, Chamberlin discussed his Colorado high school days and said: “I fell in love with my straight best friend, but I was socially forced into loveless relationships with a gender I had no attraction to.”

To find answers, he looked to the Internet and uncovered over 81 million search results for “gay and fell in love with my straight best friend.”

Society’s relationship norms forced Chamberlin’s high school self into an all-or-nothing state of mind. Ending his life was the only way he felt he could cope with this imposing stress of being gay.  Chamberlin said the suicide rate among gay teens is four times higher than that of straight teens.

After hitting many dead ends, Chamberlin discovered an unlikely way to cope with his depression. Bringing people together became a coping mechanism and an unknown catalyst to bring him closer to his future success. 

“It was therapy…I threw one of the biggest parties of the year; my street was completely blocked off with cars,” he said.

In 2001, Chamberlin traveled to Bozeman to pursue business management. His passion of uniting people followed him. According to Chamberlin, “At a party in college we had so many people there, we broke through the floor.”

After a few semesters studying business, Chamberlin decided he would better grasp business if he actually worked within one. He changed his major to graphic design in hopes to refine his branding skills.  In his last year of college, Chamberlin created a senior thesis for putting a band on tour. Investors gave him $100,000 to fund his idea. This was the start of Chamberlin Productions.

In 2008, Chamberlin took his passion for bringing people together one step further. He successfully started Rail Jams, a ski and snowboard competition inclusive of a night of live music.  After a few years and a couple hiccups, Rail Jams became a staple event in the Gallatin community and catapulted Chamberlin Productions into developing several other events in town, including Avalaunch Festival, Hush Hush Music Festival and Montana Beer Festival.

With each event Chamberlin’s goal is to educate people by building social adhesives that help loosen ideas surrounding societal taboos.  His intentions are to bring uncomfortable topics to the forefront, instead of sweeping them under the rug like most do, which has not been easy.

After the 2014 TED Talks, Chamberlin lost sponsors and received disapproval from both the gay and straight community. He even started receiving hate mail from local religious groups.  He claims, “Everyone struggles.…No one can control what they love, but when you love something you have to fight for it.”  His response to his Ted Talk was simple, “You can’t make an impact by pleasing everyone all the time.”

Through throwing himself into his work, Chamberlin has learned to cope with the societal pressures and found numerous outlets for expressing his true self.  On his journey, he has learned to embrace difficult times of his life and utilize them to his advantage.

He says us that, “on your way to the top there is a vision of what it may look like, but in the end it’s a series of chaos and imperfect moments that guide you.”

– Edited by Jordan Garceau

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