FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2014
It begins in our formative years as elementary school children on the playground. It grows as we enter middle and high school. It deepens as we move to college and beyond. Friendship is one of the first forms of human relationships that we learn. Interacting with others seems to be dictated by smiling, socializing and offering some form of genuine respect. In a real sense, being a friend is being an ally.
When LGBT adolescents experience their own coming out, they often are most afraid of what their friends will say or do. Maybe they will be disowned or even worse mocked or publicly embarrassed because of their new found identity. The immediate reaction received upon sharing their sexual orientation or gender identity is often crucial in determining their psychological and emotional health for years to come. The faces that friends make or words that are expressed after saying, “I’m gay,” can cause great strife or bountiful joy. That is why being an ally is so important.
The work we do at Athlete Ally is trailblazing in the venue of sports, but is rooted in the ideals of basic human dignity. We want to exhibit and encourage acceptance and inclusion for all people. Whether gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, living one’s truth takes courage, where being an ally just takes decency.
Standing up in the face of discrimination is one action that an ally can take. When LGBT athletes were singled out at the Russian Winter Olympics, Athlete Ally launched the Principle 6 campaign to ensure that the International Olympic Committee stood behind its charter and non-discrimination clause. When Jason Collins in the NBA, Brittney Griner in the WNBA and Michael Sam in the NFL publicly came out, our Ambassadors stood in solidarity with these brave pioneers. It does not take a yeoman’s amount of work to be an ally, or stand up for what is right. Rather, remaining rational, realistic and assertive is what counts.
As I travel across the country speaking to the leaders of the future, one constant remains true – when a LGBT friendly atmosphere is apparent: diversity is celebrated rather than discouraged. Being who we are and recognizing our differences is what makes sport so great, whether in a competitive or recreational setting. Unfortunately, still words of hate are splashed across newspapers and released with little regard from the mouths of many. Rather than fighting with discriminatory individuals, allies launch conversations that often end up in some form of LGBT respect and understanding.
Whether you do it verbally or with your actions, being an ally is critical to the survival of the human condition. Black, white, gay, straight, old or young, every person needs friends and allies. Athlete Ally is working to change the world of sports, and I sincerely hope that our message of inclusion is spread beyond the athletic community because allyship is about integrity.
Posted by Hudson Taylor | Athlete Ally Founder and Executive Director
Hudson Taylor is the founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, an organization dedicated to promoting inclusion in sports. As an All-American wrestler at the University of Maryland, Taylor began speaking out among his teammates in support of LGBT equality and providing a safe and welcoming environment for all athletes to participate. On February 25-26, 2014, Taylor was the keynote speaker at the Museum’s Student Leadership Days, sharing his message of acceptance with over 200 seventh and eighth graders. Visit Make a Difference: The Harvey L. Miller Family Youth Exhibition to learn more about Taylor’s story and to explore how you can be an upstander in your community.