By Francis Howitt, 17, Staff WriterOriginally Published: November 4, 2011Revised: January 2, 2013
I am a high school athlete, and I hear homophobic slurs all the time. Coaches use them to get you to try harder; kids use them on other players to make themselves feel stronger. This type of behavior has been a stain on the integrity of sports for a long time.
Hudson Taylor, a Division I three-time All-American wrestler and Division I wrestling coach at Columbia University is doing something about it.
“Having been involved with the sport of wrestling for over 20 years, I have heard some of my coaches and many of my teammates use homophobic language,” explains Hudson. “In many cases, my coaches and teammates were trying to promote ‘masculine’ behavior and deter ‘feminine’ behavior. This type of language created, and at many schools continues to create, an environment where LGBT athletes are marginalized and segregated for their lack of conformity to traditional gender roles.”
Hudson’s experience is not uncommon; many student athletes around the country, if not the world, experience the same type of offensive language from coaches and teammates. Homophobic language doesn’t support team building. It excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LBGTQ) athletes and those who have LGBTQ people in their lives from the majority of the sports community.
When I ask Hudson what gave him the motivation to speak up against homophobia in sports, he says, “The one thing that really motivated me to be an ally and speak out against homophobia in sports was that it was the right thing to do. Sports should be a place for everyone.”
Becoming an Athlete Ally
While a student at the University of Maryland, Hudson decided to take action. He began to donate monthly to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—an organization that lobbies for the equal rights of LGBTQ people. But Hudson wanted to do something that made a statement to his team and the greater sports community.
When Hudson was a senior captain on the University of Maryland wrestling team, he competed with an HRC sticker on his wrestling headgear. Hudson, who is a straight ally, wanted to make it clear that he supported LGBTQ equality.
After he graduated from college, Hudson founded Athlete Ally, a resource for anyone who wants to take a stand against homophobia and transphobia. According to the Athlete Ally website, Athlete Ally “encourages respect in the sports community of all people regardless of perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
What You Can Do
For any regular high school student-athlete who is in a situation where homophobic language is used, there is a lot you can do. Hudson says that creating an honor code that defines what language is and is not acceptable is a great way to start to make a difference. “If we make the conversation about overall respect for the individual, we can start to create safe and inclusive sports communities,” Hudson explains.
The only way we can see reform is if we agree to treat people with respect and decency regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a lofty goal, but an achievable one. Here are some things Hudson suggests you can do:
Have your coaches and teammates sign a pledge, committing to respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. (You can sign Hudson’s pledge at AthleteAlly.com.)
Make your Facebook page a place to spread the message of respect. Speak out against homophobia and transphobia on your Facebook wall.
Create an “It Gets Better” video. “One of the first things I did was create an It Gets Better video. It takes 30 seconds and can make a huge difference,” says Hudson.
Get some friends together and plan a day to wear “LGBTQ Ally” shirts.
These are some first steps we can take to eliminate trans-and homophobia from the locker room and the field and make sure all players feel respected.
When I ask Hudson what other advice he has for people who want to stand up to homophobia and create change, he say, “Whatever you do, just know that it will make a lasting difference in the lives of others. So find a friend, find your voice and make a difference!”
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