wrote about Hudson Taylor, the former collegiate wrestling star (and now coach) who has become an outspoken ally and advocate for LGBT rights. Now, via gay sports site Outsports, comes news of three high school athletes who have launched Walk the Road, a blog for young LGBTQ athletes and other LGBTQ youth. Their goal is "to change the way teenage gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning athletes are viewed in the sports world" and "to help others out in the world who also have had trouble accepting, questioning, or becoming comfortable with their sexuality because of sports or other activities that they feel force them to stay hidden from the world."
No small task, that. The most striking thing about the blog, however, Outsports notes, is that the young men do not keep themselves anonymous. They are runner Brad Usselman, 16, and soccer players Ben Newcomer, 16, and Robert, 17. Each has photos of himself on the site. (Robert keeps his last name private because he lives in a conservative area.)
The world of out athletes is so small that it should come as no surprise that Hudson Taylor has become a friend of theirs, and out professional rugby player Gareth Thomas has recorded a video to them. (See Mike Jones' earlier piece here at Change.org for more on Thomas.) Theirs is an inspiring story and a challenging mission. I urge you to go read Outsports' coverage and to check out Walk the Road itself.
Homophobia and transphobia anywhere are not good. There are several specific reasons, however, why we should be concerned with homophobia and transphobia in youth sports. First, it directly affects the safety of children and youth at school, as this lengthy study for the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School has shown.
Second, the athletic field has long been a recruiting ground for the battlefield. Now that the president has signed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and the military is working through the preparations needed to implement it, banishing homophobia and transphobia becomes even more important in order to protect openly LGBT servicemembers and maintain unit cohesion. If future servicemembers learn acceptance on the playing field, the more likely they will carry these attitudes with them into the military. It is this change in attitude, more than anything else, that will determine the success of the repeal.
Finally, even though most college and secondary school athletes (like myself) remained civilians, many of us likewise learned attitudes and habits through sports that we have carried throughout our lives. And many former athletes are now parents and/or coaches of young athletes. If these athletes learn an acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities as part of learning teamwork, loyalty, fair play, and respect, it will likely continue into their careers, community lives, and even perspectives towards LGBT friends and family members.
Kudos to Brad, Ben, and Robert for their work on the field and off.