During his time at the University of Maryland, three-time All-American Division I wrestler Hudson Taylor made a choice to stand against derogatory and hateful speech or actions toward members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
To fully commit himself to the cause, Columbia University Assistant Wrestling Coach Taylor created an organization entitled “Athlete Ally” to encourage athletes, students and community members to sign a pledge declaring their allyship.
Taylor was invited to speak to students on “Athlete Ally: Victory Through Unity” yesterday at 7 p.m. in the HUB Auditorium.
Taylor shared his family history and the struggles he had to overcome before stepping out of his comfort zone and taking a stand for equality.
Before confronting his teammates who used derogatory and homophobic language, Taylor said he felt more comfortable speaking out in the virtual world by means of Facebook. Through this tool he said he was able to share his beliefs and allow others to see where he stood.
“For a long time I was held hostage by the desire to fit in,” Taylor said. “We have a desire to conform, we want to fit in and for the majority of my life, that desire to fit in prevented me from speaking against homophobia in sports.”
Taylor said he started addressing his teammates and began to see that a seed had been planted, but during his senior year of wrestling, Taylor decided to wear a Human Rights Campaign sticker to show solidarity toward LGBT rights.
The reason for gearing his program toward athletes is because Taylor said there is a lot of potential talent not being seen because students may not feel safe to fully be themselves in athletics.
“The most successful athletic team is going to be the most united,” Taylor said. “I want to make sportsmanship synonymous with allyship.”
Associate Professor of Education Susan Rankin said she was the Penn State softball coach from 1980-1996 and since then she believes there has been improvements in students being able to be more open with their sexuality.
Rankin said she has personally signed the pledge for Athlete Ally because she wants to be supportive of all athletes that are part of the LGBT community.
“I think it would be great if we had athlete ally programs at every campus, where they would take the foundations that Hudson has already provided on his website and create their own program to show support for LGBT teammates.”
Lauren DeCarvalho (graduate-feminist media studies), who is also an instructor for comm/women’s studies 205, said in her class she teaches students how to apply a feminist cultural studies lens to access the media so they will learn to become more aware and be “critical leaders.”
“I’m extremely vocal about my feminist cultural studies beliefs that every person should be treated as individuals regardless of their race, gender, class and sexual orientation,” DeCarvalho said.
Taylor said it is not easy to try and make a difference and taking it slowly is a good way to begin making change.
“I think there is strength in numbers,” he said. “One person can feel like an island, two people can feel like an army.”