Photo by Jubilee Paige/Aravaipa Running
• TRANS ATHLETES OVERCOMING OBSTACLES
• MEET OUT SWIMMERS, WRESTLERS, FOOTBALL STARS
• AN UPDATE ON EQUINOX PROTESTS ... AND MUCH MORE! PAGE 13
A U G U S T 1 6 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 3 3 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M
02 • AUGUST 16, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Straight Pride organizers committed to Aug. 24 rally Modesto police planning for counter-protesters By KAREN OCAMB firstname.lastname@example.org Modesto city staff and Straight Pride organizers discussed another venue for the controversial Aug. 24 rally after their ﬁrst request was denied. Don Grundmann, founder of the National Straight Pride Coalition, and local California Republican Assembly chair Mylinda Mason tried to reserve the city park’s amphitheater but could not provide liability insurance. Additionally, staff concluded that the event didn’t mesh with other park green space usage, according to city spokesperson Thomas Reeves. The city suggested an alternative site— Centre Park Plaza at the convention center. When Grundmann failed to ﬁle an application and proof of insurance by Aug. 13, the city extended the deadline until Aug. 16. Straight Pride purports to protect traditional gender roles, Christianity, heterosexuality, Western Civilization, and the contributions of whites to Western Civilization from the “malevolence of the homosexual movement,”
Don Grundmann, founder of the National Straight Pride Coalition Screen grab from City Council meeting
according to its website. At a recent Modesto city council meeting where some residents supported the rally as free speech, Grundmann inadvertently called his organization a “totally peaceful racist group,” prompting an eruption of laughter. Mylinda Mason’s estranged gay son, Matthew Mason, was blunt. “I’m here to condemn the straight pride event and to unequivocally state that this white supremacist rhetoric is not speech
that deserves protection,” Mason said. “Whenever this rhetoric is given a platform, violence always follows.” The local white supremacist group Proud Boys declined Grundmann’s invitation to attend the rally but there is no assurance individual Proud Boys or other anti-LGBTQ extremists from the 83 California hate groups identiﬁed by the Southern Poverty Law Center might not attend. Meanwhile, Modesto police have heard
“chatter” about members of the militant anti-fascist movement antifa showing up, Reeves told the Los Angeles Blade. The possibility of a violent confrontation prompted the city council to consider an urgent ordinance Aug. 13 banning masks and any object not covered by the Second Amendment that police determine could be weaponized during public political events such as bats, clubs, and even water guns. California law allows someone with a concealed carry weapon permit to carry a loaded ﬁrearm in public. “In light of the Straight Pride event,” Reeves said, “we need better control over what we allow at these demonstrations.” If Grundmann again fails to comply with permit requirements, the city will still recognize his First Amendment right to free speech and assembly “if he chooses to set up shop on a street corner,” Reeves said, though without vendors or a sound system. “The city will have a plan in place” to protect public safety.” And the organizers are committed. “That’s the day we planned, bathed in prayer,” Mason told the Modesto Bee, “and we intend to exercise our First Amendment rights and give a hearing to the speakers we have invited.”
Boycott grows against Equinox owner $13 million fundraiser for Trump is costing Stephen Ross By TROY MASTERS & KAREN OCAMB “Steve Ross got into a little bit of trouble this week,” President Donald Trump joked at a glitzy Aug. 9 fundraiser thrown by Equinox, SoulCycle and Miami Dolphins football billionaire owner Stephen Ross, chair of the board of The Related Companies. “I said, ‘Steve, welcome to the world of politics.’” Trump addressed 500 people at the Bridgehampton mansion of Ross associate, developer Joe Farrell, raising more than $13 million for his 2020 reelection campaign. GOP fundraisers told the Washington Examiner
last July that Trump and the Republican National Committee “could rake in $2 billion to $2.5 billion” for his reelection campaign. News of Ross’ fundraiser sparked protests against Equinox and Soul Cycle facilities around the nation, including those on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. About 100 protesters gathered at about the same time Trump was ribbing Ross in the Hamptons. “Hey, hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go,” protesters yelled as passing motorists honked in agreement. “Boycott Equinox! Boycott Equinox!” Some signs read: “Still have an Equinox membership? You R part of the problem.” “Equinox made me do it.” “Your Spin Class Powers White Supremacy.” “Equi-Not.” “People have become complacent,” protest organizer Gonzalo Garcia told the
Los Angeles Blade. “When I saw the news, I couldn’t take it anymore. So we planned the protest. I didn’t want to just sit behind my computer sharing the story, wondering if someone was going to do something. I think it’s still good to protest and make your voices heard.” “We need people to know where their money is ending up,” he added. “I just emptied my locker and now seeing this, I’m glad I did,” a lesbian former Equinox member told the Los Angeles Blade, laughing at a MAGA hat-wearing man nearby. “I doubt there’s a single company that hasn’t donated to Republicans or Trump. But we don’t have to be blind anymore.” “We spent no money and had no organizational support and still had over 100 people show up,” co-organizer Adam
Bass told the Los Angeles Blade. “Clearly there’s a hunger in our community to actively oppose Trump and his enablers at every opportunity.” Boycotts and protests included fashion designer Gurung pulling his 10th Anniversary show from Hudson Yards, a new $25 billion project expected to host several shows during New York Fashion Week season. “I am not calling this out to be part of the cancel culture or start some tirade against people, but rather to question these individuals whose motivation seems to be nothing but $$ and to also challenge our own integrity and choices that we make everyday,” Gurung said in a series of tweets, Elle Magazine reported.
04 • AUGUST 16, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Duncan Hunter, Charlottesville and ubiquitous white supremacy 2020 will be ugly as Trump imitators run for office By KAREN OCAMB email@example.com White supremacy is becoming publicly more ubiquitous under the reign of Donald Trump, thanks in part to the permission he gave two years ago to consider violent white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and white nationalists the moral equivalent of civilized demonstrators advocating for peace, for equality and human rights at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. Now, like Trump, longtime LGBTQ-hater Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter also appears to be trying to appeal to both sides of the racist divide while leaning into xenophobia in California’s 50th congressional District. Around 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2017, white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into unaware counter-protesters on the second day of the infamous Unite the Right Rally, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Fields was subsequently convicted of ﬁrst-degree murder and other crimes in a Virginia state court and pleaded guilty to 29 federal crimes in a deal to avoid the death penalty. But while Fields may be gone, Trump’s amoral comments linger. Two hours after the murder, as much of America held its collective breath—aghast at the images of a car plowing full speed into a crowd, tossing bodies in the air before retreating, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke saying the rally would help “take our country back,” tiki torch-bearing white supremacists yelling “Jews will not replace us” and Neo-Nazis violently beating counter-demonstrators — Trump said “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” After intense criticism of his anointing victimhood status on Neo-Nazis, two days later, reportedly with reluctance, Trump called racism “evil’ and slammed white supremacy. After still more criticism, on Aug. 15, Trump said: “you had some very
Rep. Duncan Hunter, third from left, next to white supremacist signing ‘OK.’ Photo from Hunter’s Twitter
bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very ﬁne people, on both sides.” This was not the ﬁrst time Trump incorrectly and unabashedly espoused moral equivalency on “both sides.” Last June 18, April Ryan, White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks, asked Trump if he would apologize to the Central Park Five, whom he had publically blamed for the 1989 rape of a white jogger in a full-page pre-trial ad demanding the death penalty. Ryan’s question was tied to director Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed documentary “When They See Us” showing how police coerced confessions from one Latino and four black teenagers. Years later, a convicted rapist confessed to the crime, backed up by DNA evidence, resulting in the ﬁve being totally exonerated in 2002. “Why do you bring that question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up. You have people on both sides of that,” Trump told Ryan on the White House lawn. “They admitted their guilt. If you look at [prosecutor] Linda Fairstein and you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case, so
we’ll leave it at that.” Many have become numb to Trump’s racist hutzpah. But others are trying to emulate him. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who helped launch the ban against transgender people serving in the military, has the audacity to run for reelection despite facing federal felony charges for campaign ﬁnance violations. Now he’s been caught by CQ Roll Call changing answers on a white supremacist connection he ﬁrst tried to dodge. A Hunter staffer defended a photo of the Republican member of Congress posing with a man ﬂashing the “OK” sign symbolizing white power at a Fourth of July event, identiﬁed by The Times of San Diego as Kristopher Wyrick. “Congressman Hunter does not know this person, or what his views may be, but to ensure there is no confusion, we are in the process of taking that particular picture off his social media pages,” district office director Michael Harrison told Roll Call in an email. “Congressman Hunter has never supported or been accused of supporting white supremacy and if anyone were to espouse any such beliefs in a photo with
Congressman Hunter they did so without his knowledge or consent, particularly a stranger in the a parade who wanted to be in a picture with Congressman Hunter,” he added. The photo was deleted from Hunter’s official Facebook and Twitter pages. But Wyrick and his bigotry were not unknown to Hunter’s community after Wyrick appeared before the San Diego Uniﬁed School District wearing a Nazi Iron Cross tee shirt arguing against an initiative to protect Muslim students. Speciﬁcally, according to a San Diego Union Tribune article, he was blasting the renowned Council on American-Islamic Relations, which right wing extremists such as Frank Gaffney Jr. defame as “national security threats” who want to introduce Sharia law into public schools. Like Wyrick’s diatribe, Hunter’s 2018 campaign ads against his Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is a devout Christian of Palestinian-Mexican American heritage, also feature such ugly Continues on page 6
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06 • AUGUST 16, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Hunter adopts racist Trump tactics in campaign
Screen grab of Hunter attack ad on Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar
Continued from page 4 bigotry. “Given that Hunter has a history of Islamophobia, including the way he shared his deadly actions in Iraq that claimed civilian lives, I think it’s clear this individual is making a white supremacist hand sign in the presence of a congressman, who shared it proudly,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director, said of the July Fourth photo. But sharing an anti-Muslim ideology doesn’t mean the two men posing together knew each other – until a 2017 video surfaced indicating that they do. “I know him personally. And I know his family personally. And he’s a great man,” Wyrick says in the video. Wyrick also expresses pride in his white identity. “People can call me a white supremacist all they want, I wear that label as soon as I wake up in the morning,” he says in the video. Roll Call confronted Harrison with the video and Hunter’s deputy chief of staff backtracked, saying the Republican member
of Congress had seen Wyrick at some local community events. “Alpine is a small community. It’s not unusual for the congressman to frequent different places around his district,” Harrison told Roll Call in July. “Congressman Hunter is not friends with this individual and does not socialize with him.” However, “Harrison conceded that Hunter’s father and predecessor in Congress, former Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, ‘has mentioned [Wyrick] a couple of times,’” Roll Call reported. Before Campa Najjar, a young businessman and former Obama administration official, mounted a serious challenge in 2018, losing only by four points in the ruby red Orange County congressional district, Hunter expected an easy re-election in the seat he and his father have held the seat since 1981. However, Hunter now faces several primary challengers, including gay Republican Carl DeMaio, and the indicted congressman may need supporters like Wyrick as indicated by his resurrecting the ugly, inﬂammatory attacks on Campa-Najjar for the 2020 race. “At this point, it’s pretty clear that
Congressman Hunter has lost all ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. It’s one scandal after another, one embarrassing news story after another, one potential crime after another, one courtroom appearance after another,” Campa-Najjar said about the July Fourth photo. Carlos Algara, a political scientist at the University of California, Davis, thinks xenophobia and racism will play a “vital role” in the race for the 50th CD. “Our research suggests that Hunter is laying the groundwork in a campaign ﬁlled with blatant appeals at mobilizing whites with high degrees of racial resentment to rescue his bid,” Algara told Roll Call in an email. In a July 8 interview with CBS 8 San Diego, Wyrick creates his own “both sides” argument—conﬁrming he made the “OK” sign but calling it a “giant joke against the left.” “It is just the OK symbol,” Wyrick says, denying he’s a white supremacist. “It means nothing else.” But another photo posted to Facebook in 2018 shows Wyrick wearing the logo
of the American Guard, which the AntiDefamation League calls “hardcore white supremacists.” There are other photos suggesting Wyrick jokes around with that OK sign often. One provided by progressive activist William Johnson, shows Wyrick and several others posing with the “OK” salute in an undated photo on the United Patriot National Front Facebook page. Also in the photo is Antonio Foreman, who Johnson says participated in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Roll Call reports that he’s been captured in other photos “pummeling” protesters. In an interview with reporter Alexander Zaitchik for his 2016 book “The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump’s America,” Wyrick describes Hunter as a friend and a customer at his Alpine ATV and motorcycle repair shop. “It was clear it was more than just a handshake kind of thing,” says Zaitchik. Wyrick tells Zaitchik that his decision to move to Alpine was “because the majority of people out here are white people. … There wasn’t many of us in the neighborhoods where we grew up, around Santa Ana or Anaheim.” Wyrick echoes another old racist sentiment Trump recently revived when he told three US-born and one naturalized congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries. “Why don’t you go back to Mexico and make it great? Don’t bring a s---hole over here,” Zaitchik quotes Wyrick as saying, noting that the repairman also patrols the Mexican border as a civilian. Though Facebook deleted the United Patriot National Front page, there is no indication that the group—or any of the other hate groups with which Wyrick has apparently been associated—have dissipated. Between Hunter’s renewed inﬂammatory attacks on Campa-Najjar and Trump’s habit of stoking hatred, racism and lies—on August 12, the Washington Post calculated Trump has made 12,019 false or misleading claims over 928 days—the reelection races of these two white supremacist Republicans could get very, very ugly.
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08 • AUGUST 16, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
Gay military doctor now fights for trans troops, LGBT equity Ehrenfeld’s advocacy spans Obama, Trump administrations By CHRIS JOHNSON Six months ago, five service members made history on Capitol Hill by becoming the first openly transgender witnesses to testify before Congress. Alongside them was another witness who wasn’t transgender, but a member of the LGBT community who presented expert testimony affirming their capacity to serve as President Trump threatened to expel them from the military under his proposed ban. Jesse Ehrenfeld, an anesthesiologist and expert in LGBT medical issues, said otherwise qualified individuals shouldn’t be barred from military service simply because they’re transgender. “I would like to say unequivocally for the record that there is no medically valid reason, including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, to exclude transgender individuals from military service,” Ehrenfeld told the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. In an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade, Ehrenfeld acknowledged his personal experience helped influence his advocacy for transgender people in the military. After all, he’s a gay man who’s able to serve as a commander in the Navy and be open about his sexual orientation thanks to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” “Being an LGBTQ person, you know, I have faced discrimination at various points in my life,” he said. “Certainly the ability to stand up for what is right, I think, in part comes from those experiences growing up as a gay person, and certainly, as a physician, I have certain opportunities to try to stand up for the community.” Ehrenfeld, 41, has a long record prior to his congressional testimony of being on the forefront of advocating for transgender people in the military — both in the Obama and Trump administrations. A crucial moment came in 2015, when Ehrenfeld as a commander in the Navy, was deployed to Afghanistan where he provided care at the NATO Role III Multinational Medical Unit.
Then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, newly confirmed in his role as defense chief, took questions from service members at a military town hall in Kandahar about their concerns in the field. Ehrenfeld’s question: Do you support allowing otherwise qualified transgender people to serve openly in the armed forces? At the time, transgender people were barred from service as a result of a medical regulation instituted in the 1980s that was based on an outdated understanding of individuals with gender dysphoria. “I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them,” Carter replied, adding he hasn’t studied the issue a lot since he became secretary of defense, but was “openminded” about “what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us.” Days later during the White House news conference, the Washington Blade took the opportunity to ask whether President Obama shared Carter’s views on transgender service. Then-White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest affirmed that was the case. “I can tell you the president agrees with the sentiment that all Americans who are qualified to serve should be able to serve, and for that reason, we here at the White House welcome the comments of the secretary of defense,” Earnest said. Thinking back on that moment, Ehrenfeld said he was “frankly very nervous” to speak out but was “delighted” with Carter’s response. “His message that fitness for duty should be the primary driver of the ability to serve is one that I think serves our military well,” Ehrenfeld said. What motivated Ehrenfeld to ask the question? Ehrenfeld said it was based on his experience serving with Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland, a transgender service member who was deployed with him in Afghanistan. Since that time, Ireland has been at the forefront of advocacy for transgender people in the military. The two met, Ehrenfeld said, shortly after he arrived in Afghanistan and Ireland sought medical care at the facility where Ehrenfeld was working. “Frankly, I was a bit shocked to meet this person because I knew of the restrictions on transgender service and the last place I expected
to find a transgender person was deployed with me in Afghanistan,” he said. An estimated 14,700 transgender people are now serving in the military. Although the Obama administration would shortly after change the policy to allow transgender service, Trump would change that months after taking office and institute a ban. “There are mountains of transgender troops and even more transgender veterans who are able to and have done that job quite well,” Ehrenfeld said. “It’s unfortunate that we have discriminatory policies that are preventing them from doing their job.” After the exchanges at the military town hall and the White House, the wheels were in motion for a year-long study at the Defense Department on transgender military service. For the Obama administration study, Ehrenfeld said he provided input based on his medical expertise and had conservations with defense officials as the process was happening. On June 30, 2016, Carter announced at the Pentagon the ban would be lifted. Ehrenfeld said he was present at the Defense Department and it was among the “proudest moments” of his career. “I understand how we’ve taken a few steps backwards since but at the time it represented such progress with incredible ramifications for transgender people and LGBTQ people all across our nation, not just those serving,” Ehrenfeld said. Ehrenfeld, who earned his medical degree from the University of Chicago and his master’s in public health at Harvard University, bolsters his advocacy with his impressive credentials in medicine. Motivated to enter the field of medicine at an early age, Ehrenfeld said in his college days at Haverford College he sought to shadow physicians in their work. “I love taking care of patients in the operating room, getting them through complex surgeries, watching them walk out of the hospital is one of the most fulfilling things that I get to do on a weekly basis,” he said. A researcher in the field of biomedical informatics, Ehrenfeld is a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he serves as director for the Center for Evidence-Based Anesthesia. His LGBT work in the medical field goes beyond transgender military service. Nine years ago, he co-founded the Program for LGBTI
Health at Vanderbilt for work on health disparities facing LGBT people. The research, Ehrenfeld said, seeks to modify and improve electronic health records to serve the needs of LGBT patients and care protocols for transgender people. “A lot of that work is ongoing,” Ehrenfeld said. “We continue to partner with colleagues, not just at Vanderbilt but across the country to help advance the evidence base that can lead to the best practice for LGBTQ patients.” Sean Cahill, director of health policy research at the Boston-based Fenway Institute, said he worked with Ehrenfeld on LGBT data collection in health care. “Jesse Ehrenfeld has been an effective advocate for LGBT health equity within the American Medical Association and the broader health professional sector,” Cahill said. “Jesse has helped enlist broad, mainstream support for sexual orientation and gender identity data collection in Electronic Health Records, for SOGI nondiscrimination in health care and for coverage of transgender health care needs.” In 2018, Ehrenfeld was given the inaugural NIH Sexual & Gender Minority Research Award for that work. Now chair of the Board of Trustees for the American Medical Association, Ehrenfeld also works on behalf of U.S. physicians to conduct medical advocacy, which he said includes reducing HIV/AIDS stigma and working to ensure all Americans, including LGBT people, have access to affordable health care. “We’re committed to helping to achieve equity through health care, and that has to be done by raising awareness about the importance of health equity to patients and communities but also working at the system level to identify and eliminate those disparities,” he said. With all those hats, Ehrenfeld said a typical week consists of seeing patients in the operating room — mostly for anesthesia for non-surgical procedures — as well as being active in Vanderbilt’s LGBT health programs, where he researches information technology to reduce health care disparities. “I never know exactly what’s going to happen,” he said. “I have some vague idea of what might transpire, but it’s that variety that kind of keeps me going.” Continues at losangelesblade.com
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 16, 2019 • 09
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, speaks at a rally in front of the White House on May 29, against antitrans health measures. Blade file photo by Michael Key
Lawmakers, experts denounce anti-trans health proposal A coalition of 125 House Democrats and the American Medical Association submitted two of the hundreds of thousands of comments to the Trump administration in opposition to a proposed rule that would exclude transgender people from non-discrimination protections in health care. The comments were submitted Tuesday to the Department of Health & Human Services as part of the comment process for the proposed rule change for enforcement of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which was announced in May. The Trump administration proposal would roll back an Obama-era rule interpreting Obamacare, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in health care, to apply to cases of anti-trans discrimination, including the denial of transition-related care and gender reassignment surgery. The rule change also seeks to roll back the interpretation of the law as it pertains non-discrimination protections for women who have had abortions and individuals with limited English-speaking ability. The group of 125 House Democrats who submitted a formal letter in opposition to the rule were led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). “Let me be clear: Patient care should be determined by what’s best for the patient, not a provider’s personal beliefs,” Lee said in a statement. “This proposed rule would place even more barriers to care for groups who need it the most, especially LGBTQ+ people, people needing reproductive health care, those whose first language is not English, people of color and people with disabilities.” The American Medical Association, the nation’s largest association of physicians and medical students, also submitted a formal letter in opposition to the proposed change. “This proposal marks the rare occasion in which a federal agency seeks to remove civil rights protections,” the letter says. “It legitimizes unequal treatment of patients by not only providers, health care organizations and insurers, but also by the government itself — and it will harm patients. Such policy should not be permitted by the U.S. government, let alone proposed by it.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also led a coalition of 22 state attorneys general in submitting a comment in opposition to the rule. CHRIS JOHNSON
Gavin Grimm wins case against Va. school district A transgender man who challenged his Virginia school district’s bathroom policy has won his case. U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Aug. 9 ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, who in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against a Gloucester County School District policy that prohibited students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that did not correspond with their “biological gender.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Allen ruled the district discriminated against Grimm when it enacted the policy. Grimm was a sophomore at Gloucester County High School when he filed his lawsuit. He said in a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented him, that it is “such a relief to achieve this closure and vindication from the court after four years of fighting not just for myself, but for trans youth across America.” “I promise to continue to advocate for as long as it takes for everyone to be able to live their authentic lives freely, in public, and without harassment and discrimination,” said Grimm. The U.S. Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case in March 2017. The justices remanded it to the 4th Circuit after President Trump rescinded guidance to public schools that said Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires them to allow trans students to use restrooms based on their gender identity. Media reports indicate the Gloucester County School Board is expected to appeal Allen’s ruling. “Every student should feel safe at school, regardless of gender identity,” said Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Council Cathryn Oakley in a statement. “Transgender students are covered by Title IX and the United States Constitution and are entitled to the same rights and protections as every other student.” “With the Trump-Pence administration’s barrage of attacks on LGBTQ people in this country, including against students, we are pleased that yet another federal court decision has reaffirmed legal rights and dignity of transgender people,” added Oakley. “Congratulations to Gavin Grimm and the American Civil Liberties Union on this milestone victory.” MICHAEL K. LAVERS
LGBT advocates raise alarm over ‘facial recognition’ technology LGBT people, especially transgender people, could be subjected to discrimination, harassment, and identity theft if careful government controls are not placed on rapidly developing and widely used facial recognition technology, according to the group LGBT Tech. The Staunton, Va.-based group has joined six other LGBT organizations in signing on to a June 3, 2019 letter written by the ACLU calling on Congress to place a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology for law enforcement and immigration enforcement purposes until privacy related restrictions can be developed for the technology. “The well documented potential for abuse and misuse of these tools built by giant and influential companies as well as government and law enforcement agencies should give serious pause to anyone who values their privacy – especially members of communities that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against,” said LGBT Tech deputy director and general counsel Carlos Gutierrez in a July 18 op-ed column. “Without proper privacy protections in place, data breaches that target facial recognition data may become far more likely,” Gutierrez said. “In the wrong hands, a person’s previously undisclosed sexual orientation or gender identity can become a tool for discrimination, harassment, or harm to their life or livelihood,” he said. “The risks to transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming individuals are even more acute,” he continued. Gutierrez and other experts familiar with software already in use that uses facial recognition technology say the software has been programmed to divide the people it recognizes as male and female based on their biological or physiological gender. “The extent of the misgendering problem was highlighted in a recent report that found that over the last three decades of facial recognition, researchers used a binary construct to gender over 90 percent of the time and understood gender to be solely a physiological construct over 80 percent of the time,” Gutierrez said. He and other experts monitoring the technology say the inability of most of the software now in use, including the software expected to be used for security screening at all airports by 2020, could have a devastating impact on transgender people attempting to board a plane. LOU CHIBBARO JR.
10 • AUGUST 16, 2019 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
VOLUME 03 ISSUE 33
Acid-colored Woodstock memories Romanticizing a mud-caked spiritual moment
Karen Ocamb is news editor of the Los Angeles Blade.
Someone once said: “If you remember Woodstock, you probably weren’t there.” I still look for myself in the 1970 documentary, trying to remember exactly where I was in that peaceful, drenched mass of humanity. Most of my memories are colored by purple haze and sunshine acid, though some moments leap out like Richie Havens wailing about “Freedom” and Grace Slick yelling “Mornin’ people” at some godawful hour before launching into “Look what’s happening out in the streets/ Got a revolution/Got a revolution….We’re volunteers of America.” That’s why I was there: to protest the war in Vietnam through peace, love and music. Yes, there was the lure of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. But it was the feeling of camaraderie, of living the idealistic spiritual presumption of brotherhood and sisterhood, of making love, not war, and bearing witness to the real life dawning of the Age of Aquarius one year after “Hair” opened with its historic nude scene on Broadway, after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the Tet Offensive and the My Lai massacre that proved Lyndon B. Johnson lied about “winning” in Vietnam. We really believed we could change the world. Two months before Woodstock, John Lennon composed the anti-war anthem “Give Peace a Chance.” One month before Woodstock, Astronaut Neil Armstrong
stepped on the moon, proving anything is possible. And on Aug. 15, 16, and 17, half a million long-haired hippies came together for a mass love-in where rain and mud became a primordial ooze—the “garden” Joni Mitchell later wrote about. This is a romanticized memory, of course. But true for me, nonetheless, 50 years later, as if a drizzle of rain ran the pointillism of reality into a lovely impressionistic landscape. I don’t know if Denene Jensen felt the same way. Denene was my college friend who supplied the car, food, water and red wine while I supplied the tickets. We had to abandon the car to hike up to the site. I inadvertently gave away our water, meaning we drank red wine or the rainwater we captured. And a stage announcement indicated Woodstock was now a free concert as we rolled out our sleeping bags under a tree, ignoring the possibility of a lightening strike, and smoked pot until we dozed off to Joan Baez on acoustic guitar. She seduced us with a song about this murdered labor leader named Joe Hill who she insisted had not died. It was comforting. I had been aware of the war in Vietnam since 1964 when, at age 14, I was torn between my very liberal Westport, Connecticut neighbors who said the attack on a U.S. warship in the Gulf of Tonkin was a lie, U.S. propaganda – and my father, a “lifer” in the Air Force who supported Sen. Barry Goldwater for president. Goldwater wanted to nuke North Vietnam. By August 1969, I had become a student anti-war protester, a “women’s libber” and a weekend hippie. Some of my male friends fled to Canada to avoid going to war; those who went came back maimed in body and mind. But by Woodstock, none had died. I was keenly aware that I was among the fortunate ones. Woodstock proved there was a better way than constant war, that love, peace and understanding really could work if given a chance. It wasn’t just some ethereal vibe—it was a real idealistic virtue we took to heart, implanted in our souls and fused into our
marrowbones. It created a core humanistic value that informs my principles today. But even with pot-hunger pains distracted by incredible music, sharing whatever with whomever and streams of refracted light imagined through the prism of Sunshine acid—at some point Denene and I just got too cold, too hungry and thirsty and had to leave. We caught a ride with a guy named Guy, which I thought was just hilarious as I tripped on a pane of acid. Two months later, I was back protesting the war at the Oct. 15 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, which, I learned later, was co-organized by David Mixner, who I later met and covered for years as an amazing LGBT leader. It was during that protest that I first encountered real gay people—Gay Liberationists freed by Stonewall who’d also come to protest the Vietnam War. I wasn’t out to myself then—I thought I was a hippie who loved loving. But I was intrigued by these protesters who wore tutus during Sunday dinner and were as hard as any fighter in the streets the next day. I later found out that Woodstock was essentially a miracle—so much went wrong from the beginning. But we didn’t know that. And we turned the abysmal weather into a collaborator for mud-slides and an excuse to skinny-dip in front of grinning cops who cut us slack since we were so nice, polite and fun. We forgave each other our foibles, accepting help finding an unmarked patch of ground when the portable toilets overflowed. Helping each other was done without a thought or motive. Sometimes the drugs just broke the dam on years of pent up sadness and we were there. I didn’t experience that again until decades later when I broke down at a 12th Step meeting. Some people say the murder at the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway on Dec. 6, 1969 killed the dream of Woodstock. It didn’t, not for me. I will forever carry that felt-memory of a mud-marred Utopia where peace, love and understanding really did rule the day.
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LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • AUGUST 16, 2019 • 11
Gentriﬁcation sucks New rent control initiative on 2020 ballot
Michael Weinstein is president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Our cities are in a state of shock. The streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, West Hollywood, etc. are teeming with homeless people. Tiny studio apartments are renting for astronomical sums. Formerly poor and working-class neighborhoods are being gentriﬁed at lightning speed. Taquerias are being replaced by pricey vegan ice cream places. We are tearing down tens of thousands of affordable apartments to make room for soulless luxury buildings that turn their backs on our streets. The net result is that formerly vibrant cities are being turned into richer, whiter and far less interesting places while we look away — or step over our
neighbors sleeping on the sidewalks. How did it get so bad? Is it because of California’s sunny weather? Has our collective mental health drastically deteriorated in the last few years? Or is it a self-inﬂicted wound resulting from trickledown government policies that have added jet fuel to gentriﬁcation? There is no more basic human right than shelter. It is shameful that 981 people died on the streets of Los Angeles County in 2018. And, it is a clear indication that the system has failed. We cannot depend on the private marketplace to ensure that every person has healthcare, education or housing. Yet City Hall keeps approving luxury buildings with few, if any, affordable units while giving massive exemptions and giveaways to corporate developers. The problem has reached epic levels; 59,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles County and millions of California’s renters are paying more than 50% of their income on rent. If no action is taken, these numbers will continue to skyrocket. Meanwhile, every renter protection bill has been killed by a legislature that is wholly owned by big real estate. Few politicians have the courage or conviction to stand up to this corporate greed. AIDS Healthcare Foundation was born of moral outrage over the mistreatment of people with AIDS. We began as a hospice provider when people were dying
in the hallways of the county hospital. Today’s housing crisis is a similar crisis of indifference to suffering. Our patients and employees are feeling the devastating impact of skyrocketing rents. AHF has jumped into the breach with advocacy and by directly creating affordable housing units. Our program is called the Three Ps: Prevent, Preserve and Produce. Prevent homelessness through rent control; preserve communities by ﬁghting gentriﬁcation; and produce housing by rehabilitating existing buildings. AHF is also making another run at a statewide ballot initiative in 2020 to expand rent control; we are ﬁghting against statewide legislation to open up more neighborhoods to luxury development; and in the last two years, we have brought 680 affordable housing units on-line through our Healthy Housing Foundation. In addition, as part of our stepped-up advocacy efforts to address homelessness and housing affordability, AHF also recently launched one of its provocative billboard campaigns in greater Los Angeles, this one, intended to shine a harsh, but necessary spotlight on the burgeoning homeless and affordable housing crisis here. The campaign, running now on over 30 billboards and 100 bus bench and transit shelter ads throughout greater Los Angeles, includes two different messages: The ﬁrst has a banner headline reading ‘Homelessness Kills’ superimposed
over an image of a toe-tagged cadaver. The second reads ‘Gentriﬁcation Sucks’ with the headline lettering over a cityscape of L.A. The only additional text on both these billboards is the web address URL for ‘LAScandal.org’ where people can get information on the homeless crisis, learn about the misguided response from our government and elected officials and ﬁnd links to directly contact their L.A. City Council Member or L.A. County Supervisor to urge them to act decisively and more quickly to address the crisis. Recently, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders accompanied me to AHF’s 204unit Madison Hotel on Skid Row where he laid out his platform for addressing housing affordability. Bernie is the ﬁrst presidential candidate to visit Skid Row and he has a holistic analysis of how corporate greed and political corruption have led to where we are today as well as positive solutions to creating new affordable apartments. The centerpiece of Sanders’ campaign is controlling corporate greed and giving a fair shake to the 99% instead of the 1%, which makes him uniquely qualiﬁed to address the housing crisis. We are at a crossroads: the cities we hold dear and the diversity we cherish are under threat. Gentriﬁcation sucks and there is something we can do about it.
MAPS & GUIDES I EVENTS I BARS & RESTAURANTS
A league of their own? Trans women athletes face stigma, bias, evolving eligibility policies and more in their quest to compete By JOEY DiGUGLIELMO
LGBT issues have never been easy — marriage, military service, AIDS, you name it, no gain came without a ﬁght. But if, as is commonly posited, trans rights lag a good 10 or more years behind gay and lesbian advances, perhaps the thorniest issue of all is fair competition for trans women and their cis women opponents, in both recreational and elite sport. Imagine that women’s sports had never become “a thing” and all adults competed against each other. In ﬁgure skating, for example, only three women have landed quad jumps in competition, yet no male singles skater today can be remotely competitive without multiple quads in his arsenal (Nathan Chen landed six at the 2018 Olympics yet failed to medal). Yes, Billie Jean King (a lesbian) famously beat Bobby Riggs in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” in tennis, but she was 29 and he was 55. What would happen if Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky (swimming) or Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams (tennis) were to face oﬀ in the pool or on the court? Perhaps more realistically, what would happen if Chen, Phelps or Djokovic came out as trans, opted out of hormone replacement therapy and competed as women? Some LGBT advocates say even suggesting such a scenario is transphobic or, at best, displays a gross misunderstanding of the issue. But it’s a question being asked by many. The International Olympic Committee changed its policy in early 2016 to allow trans women to compete provided they demonstrate their testosterone level has been below a certain level for at least one year prior to their ﬁrst competition. It supplants the previous 2003 policy that required both gender reassignment surgery and two years of hormone therapy (trans men are allowed to compete without restriction). Chris Mosier, a trans male athlete and creator of transathlete.com, a resource site for trans sports advocacy at all levels, says the debate has been unfair and overheated.
Grace Fisher at the Western States ultramarathon ﬁnish line. Fisher says event organizers went out of their way to make sure, as a trans athlete, felt safe and welcome in the event. Photo by Jubilee Paige/Aravaipa Running; used with permission
“We’ve had several Olympic games since the policy has been in place for trans athletes,” says the 38-year-old Mosier, who in 2015 became the ﬁrst openly trans man to make a Men’s U.S. National Team when he qualiﬁed for the Spring Duathlon team. “We’re talking something like 50,000 Olympians have passed through and not a single trans athlete or single trans woman has participated. The fears people have and the stereotypes and misconceptions they’re putting out there about trans women dominating sports just simply haven’t happened.” That’s also the argument of trans activist/ author Brynn Tannehill whose book “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Trans” came out in 2018. She points out that there has not been a single trans athlete dominator since the Olympic policy change or since the NCAA changed its policy to allow trans people to compete sans surgery in 2011. She claims a year of testosterone removal is “suﬃcient to remove competitive advantage.”
But some cis athletes have balked at getting beaten by trans women competitors. And they’re not just complaining — some are taking legal action. Elsewhere, governing bodies in various sports at all levels are either facing or have faced challenges in how to keep their eligibility policies current and trans-inclusive. That collides with the widely held trans argument that what a trans person has done or not done by way of hormone replacement therapy or gender reassignment surgery is a personal matter that doesn’t make them more or less a woman or man than those at other stages of transition. Others say trans bias is something impossible to ignore or downplay because it’s so rampant. “There will always be people who will say a trans female athlete is cheating when she wins or when she doesn’t win, say, ‘She just didn’t try hard enough,’” says gay sports ﬁlmmaker David McFarland (“Alone in the Game”). “People are looking for a reason to discriminate against trans people in sport, that’s a given.”
Connecticut controversy Selina Soule, a 16-year-old runner at Glastonbury High School in Glastonbury, Conn., is frustrated. She says she’s suﬀered because trans competitors in her conference — Terry Miller of Bloomﬁeld High and Andraya Yearwood of Cromwell High — have been allowed to compete no questions asked against she and her fellow cis women runners. Miller won the State Open 200-meter title for the second straight year in 2019 and won the Class S titles in the 100 and 200, as well as the New England 200-meter championship. Yearwood, who is also transgender, ﬁnished third in the 100 meters in Class S and fourth in the 100 in the State Open. Subsequently Soule wasn’t able to compete in the New England regional Championships where she would have been seen by college scouts. Miller and Yearwood have won Continues on Page 14
A U G U S T 1 6 2 0 1 9 • V O LU M E 0 3 • I S S U E 3 3 • A M E R I C A’ S LG B TQ N E W S S O U R C E • LO S A N G E L E S B L A D E . C O M • 1 3
Challenges more complicated on high school level for trans athletes Continued from Page 13
15 women’s state championships since the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CFAC) changed its policy to allow them to compete as women. Conference leaders say they’re simply following state law. “The CIAC is committed to providing transgender student athletes with equal opportunities to participate in CIAC athletic programs consistent with their gender identity,” its guidebook reads. Connecticut is one of 19 states that has similar laws. “I am very happy for these athletes and I fully support them for being true to themselves and having the courage to do what they believe in,” Soule said in a Fox News interview. “But in athletics, it’s an entirely diﬀerent situation. It’s scientiﬁcally proven that males are built to be physically stronger than females. It’s unfair to put someone who is biologically a male who has not undergone anything in terms of hormone therapy against cisgender girls.” Miller and Yearwood have declined to state publicly what, if any, hormone therapy or testosterone suppression — more on that later — they have undergone. Soule told the Wall Street Journal the experience has been demoralizing. “It’s just really frustrating and heartbreaking because we all train extremely hard to shave oﬀ just fractions of a second oﬀ of our time and these athletes can do half the amount of work that we do and it doesn’t matter,” she said. “We have no chance of winning.” “It’s deﬁnitely a complicated issue,” Soule’s mother Bianca, told the Blade in a brief phone interview. “You have to compete based on the physical abilities you were born with, if you want to call it that. That’s why we separate the two genders. If there were no diﬀerences, there would never have been a women’s sports. Unfortunately our trans girls are caught in the middle. The rule is the problem. I tried to contact our Connecticut association to try to look into it, even meet with one of the trans girls’ fathers to try to understand and come up with a solution but we were met
with only shut doors. The frustrating part has been the refusal of the athletic bodies to even consider and listen to our side of it.” Yearwood’s mother directed an interview request for Yearwood and Miller to the ACLU, which did not immediately respond. A legal group called Alliance Defending Freedom (it calls itself a “conservative Christian nonproﬁt”) ﬁled a complaint in June with the U.S. Department of Education Oﬃce of Civil Rights on behalf of Soule and two of her teammates claiming they have “been negatively impacted by the policy.” “One of these male athletes now holds 10 records inside the state of Connecticut that were once held by 10 individual girls established over the course of about a 20year period so it’s fundamentally unfair to allow biological males to step into women’s sports and frankly dominate them and take away opportunities not just to medal, but to be on the podium and advance to the next level of competition and even compete for scholarships for young women like Selena,” Christiana Holcomb, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney, told Tucker Carlson on Fox News. “It’s grotesque and insane and it hurts women and girls,” Carlson said on the broadcast. The issue is especially acute among high school athletes because students are often
just ﬁguring out whom they are, how they identify and are less likely to have time logged living fully transitioned lives. “I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent,” Miller told the Hartford Courant in a June 20 article. “I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, ﬁnd community and meaning in my life. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored.” Dawn Stacey Ennis, managing editor of OutSports and a trans woman, says the trans-girls-bumping-cis-girls-off-the-medalstand argument is misleading because college coaches recruiting look at time, not placement. “They don’t care who placed ﬁrst, second or third — all colleges look at and what every coach has told me is that the time is what matters because time is immutable, you can’t change that. It doesn’t matter if you ran against a trans person or not,” Ennis says. She also says Soule and her representatives aren’t being totally forthcoming. “I talked to her mother and watched the video and when she said (Selina) didn’t get to qualify for the event in Boston, she sort of ﬁbbed a little bit. She didn’t qualify in that event, but she did qualify in another event. But, of course, that’s not a good headline. It’s much better to say, ‘I didn’t get to go because
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Transitioning for performance edge is unfair argument: activists
Andraya Yearwood (left) and Terry Miller are trans high school runners at the center of a current CIAC/ U.S. Board of Education controversy. screen capture via Today/NBC
of these girls.’ … They have to make the trans girls out to be the boogyemen because somebody else has to be responsible for her losing. It has to be someone else’s fault, but that’s not what sports is about.” Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, a lesbian, was heavily criticized for a Sunday Times op-ed she wrote in February arguing trans women should not be allowed to compete against cis women. “It’s insane and it’s cheating,” she wrote. “I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair. … To put the argument at its most basic: a man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organization is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires,” she wrote. She was heavily criticized for her comments, removed from the advisory board of Athlete Ally (an LGBT athlete advocacy group) and called out by trans activists such as cyclist Rachel McKinnon (the ﬁrst trans woman to win a world track cycling title in Oct., 2018), who called Navratilova’s concern a “wild fantasy worry that is an irrational fear of something that doesn’t happen … transphobia.” Navratilova wrote of being frustrated with “what seems to be a growing tendency among
transgender activists to denounce anyone who argues against them and to label them all as transphobes.” She backpedaled somewhat, apologizing for using the word “cheating,” but called for a debate on the issue based “not on feeling or emotion but science,” BBC News reported. How are other sports organizing bodies handling the issue?
Western states solution One group that’s done about as well as anyone it appears is the Western States 100Mile Endurance Run whose board members this year adopted a trans-inclusive policy that accepts “a runner’s self-declared gender at registration … at face value,” the New York Times reports. “If, however, a ﬁnisher in the top 10 or among the top three in their age group is challenged, race management may ask the runner for documentation that they have undergone medically supervised hormone treatment for gender transition for at least a year before the race,” the Times reports. The issue arose last December when Grace Fisher, a trans runner who favors ultradistance competition, was selected through the race’s traditional lottery system for the 100-mile ultramarathon that takes place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California every June.
If a trans runner is challenged and it’s upheld by race management, their placement may be bumped but they would be allowed to keep their ﬁnisher’s buckle. It ended up not being an issue for Fisher (she came in 20th) but she says she appreciates the care organizers put into their policy. “They were so concerned about me and wanted to ensure my safety,” says the 38-year-old Hancock, Md., resident, a federal employee with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. “They went out of their way to welcome me and wish me good luck. … It was quite amazing, but I don’t think the other runners really picked up on it. They just saw me as another female.” Fisher acknowledges the issue is dicier on the high school level. “I think we do need more research, but there are so few of us, it’s hard to get more,” she says. “I think personally, and this may not be popular in the trans community, but yeah, the high school situation needs to be looked at more. That’s such a tricky situation because one, they’re teenagers so their hormones are raging whether they’re cis or if they’ve started to transition, they may still have an advantage. I just haven’t seen any science on it so I’m hesitant to state any opinion at this point.” There’s a bounty of information on the topic available from all kinds of sources, from thorough, balanced studies in popular magazines such as Men’s Health’s March piece “The Truth About Trans Athletes;” to folksy, readable blogs such as “On Transgender Athletes and Performance Advantages” earlier this year at sportsscientists.com; to scholarly research in medical journals such as “Sport and Transgender People: a Systematic Review of the Literature Relating to Sport Participation and Competitive Sport Policies,” published online two years ago on the National Institute of Health website, which studied eight other articles and reviewed 31 sport policies. Continues at losangelesblade.com
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Gay college football player Scott Cooper comes full circle Applies life lessons to new role in alumni relations at Augsburg By KEVIN MAJOROS
As a linebacker on the Augsburg University football team, Scott Cooper found a place where he could be himself – a gay man who loves sports. It was a journey that had previously included being condemned to hell by his pastor and church elders because of his sexual identity. Cooper was born and raised in St. Charles, Mich., and was the youngest of six children. He was a farm kid who gravitated toward sports including baseball, ice hockey and soccer. His family was, and remains, members of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod – a theologically conservative sect of the Lutheran church. WELS doesn’t believe that you are allowed to pray with people from diﬀerent churches, women are not allowed to have leadership over men, and marriage is only allowed between a man and a woman. They believe that gay people who don’t repent will burn in the ﬁres of hell. After attending a Lutheran grade school, he was sent to a Lutheran private prep school where he earned All State honors while playing football, basketball and baseball. The high school he was attending was a prep school for the ministry college he would be attending next – Martin Luther College - where he played NCAA Division III football. Cooper knew he was gay and began questioning faith, God and the Bible. He was also driving 90 minutes to Minneapolis to explore his sexuality. He experienced a tipping point one afternoon in his adolescent psychology class at Martin Luther. “The professor had a Ph.D. in gender and sexuality studies, and he told us to cross out in our book where it said that it is not a choice to be gay, and replace it with that it is a choice,” says Cooper. “I argued with him and there was a scene. My time at that school was the same culture that I grew up in – a bubble.” Cooper left the college behind and moved to Minneapolis. He worked as a nanny, trained horses and worked at a ﬁtness center. “I was trying to ﬁnd myself and I also started dating a guy,” Cooper says. “My friends weren’t having it and my family wasn’t having it. Everything in my life up to that point had been church related
Scott Cooper received national attention as an openly gay college football player in the spring of 2014 when he was asked by his coach to speak on National Coming Out Day. Photo courtesy Cooper
and it was time for me to start over.” In the summer of 2011, Cooper discovered Augsburg University and it seemed like a good ﬁt. “It turned out to be an amazing ﬁt because I could talk about being gay there,” says Cooper. “For the ﬁrst time, I felt like I could be myself.” In his second semester as an Auggie, he joined its NCAA Division III football team and played as a linebacker. He dragged out his NCAA eligibility by taking half the semester course loads. “I never hid that I was gay and the team kind of knew. I ﬁnally broke down crying in the spring of 2013 and announced it to all of them,” Cooper says. “The following fall was ‘big out Scott’ and my teammates had my back.” Cooper received national attention as an openly
gay college football player in the spring of 2014 when he was asked by his coach to speak on National Coming Out Day and by introducing his partner at the time at Augsburg University Senior Day. “I had no intention or notion to make a social statement, though I did speak at a couple campuses and professional organizations,” says Cooper. After graduating with a bachelor’s in communications, Cooper remained in Minneapolis and began working as a high school special education teacher. Self-described as super competitive, Cooper has run marathons and played in softball tournaments with the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA). He also began coaching and competing in CrossFit. His relationship with religion and his family remains fragile. “We went through a rough couple of years and there have been a lot of baby steps. Religion is a huge part of their lives and it is uncomfortable for me,” Cooper says. “I don’t go home for the holidays because of the religion aspect – it’s a super ﬁne line.” These days, Cooper has come full circle back to the place where he ﬁrst found acceptance. He is working in alumni relations at Augsburg University. He says a recent training at the university opened his eyes on diversity and inclusion. “I thought I was a woke gay man, but I learned so much in that training,” says Cooper. “I can be a better advocate and ally and I am prouder than ever to be back at Augsburg.” As for his love of sports, it is still in full swing. He is playing ice hockey, basketball, golf, softball, cycling, snow skiing, water skiing and showing horses. Nothing is oﬀ the table. Over the years, he has reﬂected on the national attention to his journey as a gay athlete and the thought changes that come from being an adult. “I love sports and I am still sassy and bitchy as ever. I knew it was important to share my story as a gay athlete, but I don’t think my story was amazing at all,” Cooper says. “I am more interested now in the other marginalized parts of our community. There are still big ﬁsh to fry.”
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Trans swimmer: ‘Why ﬁght them when you can lead them’ Natalie Fahey on thriving in the NCAA By KEVIN MAJOROS
Two weeks before the start of the 2018 MidAmerican Conference Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships, Natalie Fahey began taking hormones. It was her junior year at Southern Illinois University, and she was cutting it close to the championships so it wouldn’t aﬀect her performance on the men’s swim team. “Overall I was pretty happy with the way I swam, but I had a moment at the end of the conference meet. I knew I would never swim that fast again. It was bittersweet,” says Fahey. “I began to feel trepidation because I didn’t know what was coming next.” What ended up coming next was Fahey’s transition and her becoming the ﬁrst male to female swimmer to compete on an NCAA Division 1 team. It was a process that was supported by her teammates and her coach, Rick Walker. Growing up in Waukesha, Wisc., Fahey was active in football, soccer, baseball and swimming. In her freshman year of high school, she was a starting right guard on the football team and ended up joining the cross-country team to compliment her swimming. She made the varsity swim team her sophomore year and podiumed every year at the state swimming championships. She also went to the state championships in cross country. “I really thought I was hot shit in high school,” Fahey says. In the middle of her sports accomplishments, little things were popping up – indicators that would evolve over the next few years. “I identiﬁed as a cis guy and my outlook was that I was going to question it, but not explore. I didn’t know what was happening,” says Fahey. “There was ongoing depression, but swimming kept me busy. It was my coping mechanism.” Fahey ﬂourished in the men’s swimming program under Coach Walker in her freshman year and dropped eight seconds in her 500 freestyle. “It is a fantastic program and I started to see the fruits of my labor,” Fahey says. “I was working on every aspect of swimming and I was totally in love with all of it.” One constant that accompanied her achievements in the pool were thoughts of
‘I had a lot of self-pride in the fact that I stuck through all the adversity and didn’t quit the sport that I love,’ said Natalie Fahey. Photo courtesy Fahey
transitioning. By her sophomore year, she began researching the NCAA rules on transgender athletes. “There were so many variables to think about. I wanted to keep swimming, but I struggled to accept that I would get slower if I started taking hormones. It was also going to be very public,” says Fahey. “My swimming career was incongruent with transitioning. I kept wondering where I could squeeze in a year.” The summer before her junior year, she painted her toenails for the ﬁrst time and began asking friends to use she/her/hers pronouns. That fall, she spent a weekend with her parents in St. Louis before college move-in day and had a big announcement for them after a few beers at a local
brewery. “The words just came out - I’m trans, I’m a girl,” Fahey says. “They didn’t disown me, but it was uncomfortable. I did not go about it in a healthy way.” Back in the pool for her junior year, Fahey tweaked her shoulder at a home meet before Thanksgiving. The injury only allowed for kicking during her swim training. For the ﬁrst time, she had serious thoughts of quitting so she could begin transitioning. “I pushed those thoughts back to the dark recesses of my mind,” says Fahey. “By Christmas break I decided to tell my coach; I want to transition, and I want to keep swimming.” Coach Rick Walker assured Fahey that she wasn’t recruited for her times but for who she is as a person. Her spot on the men’s team was conﬁrmed for her senior year. That summer before her ﬁnal year of NCAA eligibility, she started an internship in Indianapolis as an RV technician at a dealership and began experimenting with presenting as female. “An RV dealership in Indiana isn’t the most comfortable place to present as a trans woman. There were shouts from cars – ‘You’re still a dude’,” Fahey says. “I am pretty thick-skinned and didn’t let it hit me hard.” Fahey showed up for her senior year on the men’s team after six months of estrogen. She was out of shape, overweight and had lost a lot of strength from the hormones. She was competing on the men’s team in a women’s suit because of breast development. “I swam slow at our ﬁrst swim meet and went home and cried. I battled all season with not comparing myself to my previous self,” says Fahey. “It was a tough pill to swallow knowing I was never going to improve again.” Fahey began focusing on other small victories – that feeling after a great workout, the team atmosphere, community events with her teammates and mentoring the incoming class of swimmers. She was able to rediscover her love for the sport of swimming. Continues at losangelesblade.com
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Education Dept. to take up anti-trans complaint ADF claims Conn. policy unfairly requires girls to compete against boys By CHRIS JOHNSON
The Trump administration has agreed to investigate a complaint from an anti-LGBT legal group contending a Connecticut school’s trans-inclusive policy has “denied equal athletic beneﬁts and opportunities to girls.” The complaint was ﬁled by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of three teen athletes and accepted by the Department of Education last week at a time when opponents of LGBT non-discrimination measures are stoking fears over men playing in women’s sports to derail those eﬀorts. In the complaint, ADF contends the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s trans-inclusive policy of nondiscrimination unfairly requires girl athletes in the Glastonbury School District to compete against “boys who are male in every biological and physiological respect,” who are presumably transgender girls. Unlike major sports leagues the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the policy as laid out in the CIAC handbook doesn’t require transgender athletes to take testosteronesuppressing hormones and relies solely on the student and her school for gender identiﬁcation. As such, the complaint argues the transinclusive policy violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in public schools. (Transgender advocates have relied on that law to assert protections for transgender kids in schools — an argument ADF now turns on its head.) Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for ADF, said in a statement upon the Department of Education accepting the complaint “female athletes deserve to compete on a level playing ﬁeld.” “Forcing them to compete against boys makes them spectators in their own sports, which is grossly unfair and destroys their athletic opportunities,” Holcomb added. One of the girl athletes, Selina Soule, is named in the complaint, but the other two are identiﬁed anonymously as second and third complainant. According to the complaint, two students — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood —
The Education Department under Betsy DeVos has taken up an anti-trans complaint ﬁled by girl athletes. Blade photo by Michael Key
presumably transgender, but identiﬁed as “biological males” in the complaint, placed in top places in the women’s outdoor track events. If not for their placement, the complaint contends, Soule and the other girl athletes would have been able to qualify for the ﬁnals. “Nor are these isolated examples,” the complaint says. “The presence of boys competing in CIAC girls’ track and ﬁeld events in Connecticut has now deprived many girls of opportunities to achieve public recognition, a sense of reward for hard work, opportunities to participate in higher level competition and the visibility necessary to attract the attention of college recruiters and resulting scholarships.” In addition to contesting the policy itself, the complaint asserts the Connecticut
Interscholastic Athletic Conference and Glastonbury High School retaliated against the students and their parents for complaining about the trans-inclusive policy. The Department of Education says its Oﬃce of Civil Rights has “determined that it has jurisdiction and that the allegations were timely ﬁled” in the case, therefore will open up three issues for investigation: • Whether the CIAC and the district have “denied equal athletic beneﬁts and opportunities to girls,” including the students in the complaint through its trans-inclusive policy. • Whether the CIAC retaliated against a student’s mother for speaking out against the trans-inclusive policy by informing her CIAC’s executive director would no longer accept communications from her. • Whether the district retaliated against a student for advocacy against the transinclusive policy when the track coach replaced her on the sprint medley relay team, told her he could not give a good report to college coaches about her, denied her a position as a team captain and suggested she should leave the outdoor track team due to her schedule. Schools found in violation of Title IX, as ADF contends, risk losing federal funds, although the Department of Education would more likely institute an agreement to bring such a school into compliance with the law. The Blade has placed a request in with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference seeking comment on the Department of Education taking up an investigation in the case. The Glastonbury Board of Education declined to comment. Meanwhile, the Trump administration under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has drastically cut back on accepting complaints from students of anti-LGBT harassment and discrimination at school. After rescinding Obama-era guidance requiring schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity, the Department of Education has indicated it won’t take up complaints of transgender students denied access to the bathroom of their choice.
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Former NFL player preps memoir Ryan O’Callaghan says pressure to conform drove him to drugs, suicidal thoughts By PHILIP VAN SLOOTEN
These days gay former football player Ryan O’Callaghan prepares halibut in white wine sauce instead of preparing to end his life. “I enjoy cooking,” he says. “I have some very real injuries that keep me from long hikes and things, but I’ve been able to work with what I have and make the most out of life.” O’Callaghan is one of only a few openly gay former NFL players. His football career began in 2005 when he won the Morris Trophy while a defensive lineman at the University of California. He later was drafted as a right tackle for the New England Patriots in 2006 where he started seven games. After missing the entire 2008 season due to a shoulder injury, he was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs where he played 11 games with one start. His career ended in 2011 when his addictions, injuries and the stress of being closeted overwhelmed him. In his upcoming memoir, “My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me, and Ended Up Saving My Life,” (slated for release Sept. 3 by Edge of Sports) O’Callahan candidly discusses his addictions, mental health and struggles with his sexuality. Growing up in conservative Redding, Calif., O’Callaghan believed early on, “I could never exist as a gay man” and be accepted fully by his family and friends. He states in his book, “I needed a beard to live,” and in high school football became that beard. Finding early success on the ﬁeld as well as a measure of conﬁdence, he realized, “I could be a star.” However, winning awards, college scholarships and a starting position on an undefeated NFL team did nothing to ease his crippling fear of being outed and losing everything. “As I’ve heard over and over from gay athletes,” says Cyd Zeigler, Outsports.com editor, former gay athlete and O’Callaghan’s co-author, “the biggest hurdle they have to face is their own fear. Ryan never heard a lot of homophobia in the locker room in college and in the NFL, yet he had been instilled at such a young age to be afraid of being gay.” While the NFL did invite gay former player Esera Tuaolo to speak during O’Callaghan’s rookie year, he felt the message “missed the mark a bit.” “Hearing ‘fag’ in the locker room wasn’t what made me feel like an outcast in my own sport,”
Ryan O’Callaghan during his Patriots years. Photo by Keith Nordstrom; courtesy New England Patriots via Akashic Books
he writes in the book. “Instead, what was a daily reminder that I was diﬀerent from the rest of the guys was the constant conversation in the locker room about women.” O’Callaghan says this oppression by assumption kept him closeted and still has not been addressed by the NFL. “They haven’t had anyone else come out (and talk to rookies) since (Tuaolo),” he says. “I met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and he’s asked me what he can do to help. And it’s tough because he has to answer to 32 owners and the NFL has a huge inﬂuence on American society as a whole. He has to be careful not to be seen as an activist and alienate fans.” O’Callaghan did point out the NFL’s partnerships with various charities to help LGBT homeless youth, but he felt more could be done. He hopes his foundation can help as well. “I started my foundation to give solace and support to LGBT college athletes, support meaning mentorship, events and creating a sense of community with other out athletes,” he says. He feels support and community are important and what is missing in the NFL. “So, I’ve reached out to other LGBT athletes to be a mentor for the next generation.” For O’Callaghan, the burden of constantly trying to pass and ﬁt in was a feeling of, “Man, this is
exhausting,” and a feeling that addiction or suicide was his only way out. “The important conversation for us to be having now isn’t just about how to change language in the locker room, but how we help people like Ryan see through all of that and realize they will be accepted,” Zeigler says. “I think this book tells that story in a powerful way with some of the most powerful people in sports like Roger Goodell, Robert Kraft and Aaron Rodgers.” Zeigler also points out the “other part of this conversation” is “drug use is higher among gay men than in the general population” as a reaction to homophobia, discrimination or violence. He says O’Callaghan’s addictions nearly killed him and unfortunately his is not an isolated case. Fortunately, O’Callaghan found help and the support of family and friends, and working with his foundation helps him remain hopeful for the future. “What I’ve learned from speaking with collegeage players is there’s a big change on how this younger generation views LGBT rights,” O’Callaghan says. “There wasn’t one guy who said, ‘I wouldn’t want a gay teammate,’ or ‘I wouldn’t want him in the shower with me.’ I’m constantly surprised by the openness of these younger guys and they’re making their way into the NFL.” Today O’Callaghan is looking forward to a future with his family that he didn’t think was possible when he was closeted and ready to take his life if discovered. “They’re very supportive,” he says of his parents. “They are always asking what I’m doing, am I dating anyone. They are just as proud of me now as when I was playing football.” O’Callaghan comes from a “very old-school, Catholic-Irish family,” so he considers getting married and raising a family of his own one day. “I would absolutely love to meet someone and settle down,” he says with a shy laugh. Though he’s single now, he’s open to a relationship if it happens. “I’d say Ryan is an awesome guy with a big heart,” Zeigler says. “He ﬁrst came to me about writing this book a couple of years ago because he thinks his story can help other people. The reaction so far has told me it may do just that.” For now, O’Callaghan’s enjoying the opportunity to relax by the pool and listen to Hall and Oates on Pandora while accepting himself as he is.
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Gay Jamaican swimmer says coming out has not aﬀected career Michael Gunning hopes to compete in 2020 Summer Olympics By MICHAEL K. LAVERS
A gay swimmer of Jamaican descent says concerns that his decision to come out would adversely impact his career have not come to pass. “Everyone has a diﬀerent story, but for me personally I was worried that ‘coming out’ would take away from my sporting achievements/ performances that I’ve worked and decided my whole life to,” Michael Gunning told the Blade on Aug. 8 in an email. “Most sports are quite masculine dominated and I think it’s a worry for many athletes that it will take away the fear element from their performance — their opponents might see it as a weakness,” he added. “But for me, when I stand up to race I have to be happy — I normally wave to the crowd and listen to upbeat music, so it hasn’t really aﬀected my ‘role’ as an athlete.” Gunning, 25, lives in London. He began to swim when he was 4 after his parents made him and his brother take swimming lessons. Gunning said he “hated it at ﬁrst, but once I started getting conﬁdent in the water I was always getting in trouble for diving under the water and not listening to my teachers.” He joined a swimming club when he was 7. “I’ve stayed in a competitive swimming club swimming ever since,” said Gunning. Gunning, whose father was born in Jamaica, spoke with the Blade after he competed in the PanAmerican Games in Lima, Peru. Gunning said he hopes to represent Jamaica in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. “The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is the ultimate goal for just now,” said Gunning. “It’s always an honor to represent my county at any competition but the Olympics is so special and it’s something I’ve been working towards all my life so it would be the icing on the cake of my professional career.” Gunning in 2018 decided to participate in “The Bi Life,” a British dating show that takes place in Barcelona. “For the past 20 years swimming has taken up the majority of my life as I never dated or been in a relationship before as I never really found the time,” he said. “Despite walking around poolside with ﬁt half naked people, I just learnt to switch oﬀ the attraction to anyone and it wasn’t until last year
Michael Gunning came out on ‘The Bi Life,’ a British dating show.
that I felt it was time to put myself out there and ﬁnd myself a little more and I decided to do the show. I liked the concept of living with like-minded people in a villa for a few weeks — without the competition element — and ﬁnd out what I was missing out on. “I’ve met so many people who struggle to come to terms with their sexuality so a part of me wanted to take part in the show to inspire as many people as I possibly could to show them that it’s ok to be new and inexperienced to dating and allow them share the journey with me,” added Gunning. Gunning told the Blade he was a “real person going into the villa and just acted on real feeling.” He described his ﬁrst date as “so nice.” “After I went on a few more dates and a rollercoaster of emotions ... I knew automatically that my feelings towards men overpowered the feelings towards women and it was so nice to be able to share those feelings with my villa mates as they were so supportive and were part of the journey with me,” said Gunning. “I had so many wonderful comments towards my coming out scene and it was so comforting to know that many people had been through the same thing too.” Gunning told the Blade that some people thought “I already knew I was gay.” “But I felt like I owed it to myself to explore and ﬁnd out for myself in my own way and it just
happened that for me it was on TV,” he added. “The girls I dated on the show were so understanding and it’s wonderful that we live in a society where people are so loving and supporting others ﬁnding them self, and I’m still really good friends with them now.” Gunning met Tom Daley, a British Olympic diver who is married to director Dustin Lance Black, at the London Aquatics Performance Center in 2014. Gunning described Daley as a “great role model” who has “always been a dear friend of mine.” “I’m also constantly inspired by the current people out in the LGBTQ world making a diﬀerence as everyone’s story is so unique and personal to them and it’s great they feel they should share it,” said Gunning. Jamaica is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Violence and discrimination against Jamaicans based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity also continues to make headlines, even though the island’s LGBTI rights movement has become more visible in recent years. “There is a harsh reality out in many Caribbean countries that any same-sex aﬀection and/or activity is illegal and publishable of up to 10 years imprisonment,” acknowledged Gunning. “It breaks my heart that I would have to keep such aﬀection to myself should I ever go and visit Jamaica.” Gunning nevertheless told he Blade he regularly receives messages from LGBTI Jamaicans who share their stories with him. “I do my best to oﬀer them support and guidance,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to live out there with those legislations put in place, but they come to me because they don’t have anyone else and I try so hard to tell them everything is going to be ok. I hope within time and with the help of more black LGBT representatives, diﬀerent Caribbean countries will be more willing to accept the developments of same sex couples.” Amini Fonua, an openly gay Olympic swimmer from Tonga, applauded Gunning for his decision to come out. “I think him coming out in a country as homophobic is super brave,” Fonua told the Blade.
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Childhood dreams come true for pro wrestler Dave Marshall ‘Dave is gay, but it’s not like he can’t beat the fuck out of you’ By KEVIN MAJOROS
At age 25, Dave Marshall made some life changes and took steps to fulﬁll a lifelong dream. Four years later, he is living out that dream as an openly gay professional wrestler. One thing that has become important to him is giving back and he has found multiple outlets, including an OnlyFans page, to raise awareness for causes that are special to him. Marshal was born and raised in Perth, Australia and had a history of starting things without ﬁnishing them. He dabbled in Australian rules football and rugby, but the dream began for professional wrestling when he ﬁrst started watching it on television as a child. As a young adult he tackled weightlifting, which evolved into bodybuilding with his female exﬁancé. After three years together, the couple split, and he came out of the closet. “The manager at the gym where I was training was a pro wrestler and he asked me to come down for wrestler training,” says Marshall. “I had already built some big thighs from bodybuilding, so I felt like I had the body for it.” His training was all about grappling and the technical aspects of the sport – learning to move with the other wrestler, studying the holds and throws, and knowing how to take the bumps from an opponent. He launched his career with All Action Wrestling in Perth and stayed with them for a year-and-ahalf. Marshall found he was more interested in character-based wrestling and telling stories, so he moved over to the Southern Hemisphere Wrestling Alliance where he became part of a tag team called Harms Way. “I started oﬀ as just a face – the good guy. People didn’t like it because I was a big dude. They thought I was a wanker,” Marshall says. “As a tag team, we turned into bad guys and the audience loved it. That transitioned into good guys who work as bad guys.” With his wrestling career moving along, Marshall also began working with Western Pro Wrestling and appears in monthly WPW Uncensored matches. “They are uncensored meaning that the audience is over 18 and there is swearing,” says Marshall. “I get to tell the crowd to go fuck
Dave Marshall raises money for charity on OnlyFans, a subscription-based platform that hosts X-rated imagery.
themselves. It’s entertaining and being creative with something is fun.” Wrestling for Marshall is a side gig and he says he would never want to take it to the next level. His profession in Perth is working as a personal trainer and he likes his routine – walking his dog Ronnie, cardio most mornings, resistance training every day and then training clients. His sexuality has been a non-issue with ﬁtness clients and if the topic comes up, he prefers that people hear it from him directly. As for his wrestling fans, being gay isn’t part of his persona in the ring but he wouldn’t be opposed if it was introduced in a tasteful way. “My wrestling character is just me and he isn’t ﬂamboyant,” says Marshall with a smile. “Dave the wrestler is gay, but it’s not like he can’t beat the fuck out of you.”
During his youth in Perth, there were no negative conﬂicts for him regarding his sexuality and he feels grateful to have escaped any bullying. “When I was young I was seeing both boys and girls and I was lucky there were no rumors or bad experiences. I was able to grow up without incident,” Marshall says. “As an adult I needed to ﬁnd out why I felt a disconnect. I didn’t feel whole until I came out.” As his social media base started to grow in the wrestling community and the LGBT community, Marshall discovered a few of his friends had OnlyFans pages. OnlyFans is a subscription-based platform that allows users to access X-rated content from someone for a monthly fee. His boyfriend at the time suggested that Marshall start his own page. “I managed to be out for three years without my nudes being leaked. I had a partner, so I really didn’t need to send them out,” says Marshall. “People were asking me to start an OnlyFans page, but I wanted it to be diﬀerent. My dad committed suicide the year before, so I decided to create the page and donate part of the proceeds to raising awareness for mental health. The day before he died was a normal day. It’s important to talk about mental health.” The 6’3”, 240-pound wrestler has raised over $15,000 for mental health awareness since starting his OnlyFans page in March of 2018. His charity of choice is the Black Dog Institute, which is dedicated to understanding, preventing and treating mental illness. There was controversy over his initial choice, Beyond Blue. The organization picked up on the fact that Marshall’s contributions were raised through work in pornography. They rejected the money and issued a refund. His OnlyFans page has also raised $5,000, which sits in a slush fund for fans of the wrestling community. The money is earmarked to help fans with medical issues or other problems. When he ﬁrst started the OnlyFans page, he wasn’t sure what to expect or how far he would go with it. Continues at losangelesblade.com
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Building inclusion from day one Find ways to create permission for people to be themselves By HUDSON TAYLOR
As college freshmen across the country begin a new chapter of their lives and returning students are reunited with their classmates this fall, we have an opportunity to cultivate campuses where all students are safe, welcome and included from day one. From dorm rooms to boardrooms, every person in every sector of society has the opportunity to set the stage for newcomers and ensure that their initial experience is positive and aﬃrming. I’ve seen ﬁrsthand the power of creating inclusive spaces. My story begins at the University of Maryland, where I was a threetime All American wrestler and a theatre major. I’ll never forget the day my friend stood up in theatre class and told us all that he was gay. Within seconds, everyone in the room burst into applause in a powerful show of unconditional support. I asked myself, “If someone on the wrestling team stood up in the locker room and made the same announcement, would he be met with the same acceptance?” I knew the answer was no. And I also knew that as a cisgender, heterosexual man, I had a responsibility to use my platform to challenge my peers to think diﬀerently about what it means to be a teammate, a classmate and a friend. I decided to be as public as possible about my support for the LGBTQ community by adding a marriage equality sticker to my wrestling headgear. After a reporter interviewed me about this decision, I received thousands of emails from closeted athletes from across the country and was absolutely blown away. If I had this impact as a college wrestler, what would happen if an NFL, WNBA or another professional athlete with a global platform were to speak out in support of the LGBTQ community? That’s what inspired me to start Athlete Ally, and why I’ve spent the last eight years working to make sports a space in which everyone is accepted and respected, regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. While there has been tremendous progress toward LGBTQ equality in the last eight years, there are still many sport spaces, business and
Hudson Taylor is founder and executive director of Athlete Ally.
family environments that are not welcoming. This begs the question: What can we be doing diﬀerently upon our ﬁrst interactions with new people in new places to engender greater acceptance and respect for people who hold diﬀerent backgrounds, identities and experiences than our own? As an athlete, I can remember so many moments when all I wanted was to belong. Whether it was my ﬁrst practice as a 6 year old or how I felt meeting my college teammates for the ﬁrst time, each initial interaction was ﬁlled with verbal and non-verbal cues as to how I was supposed to behave to be liked and accepted. Unfortunately, these cues lead to various forms of othering, of which homophobic, transphobic, sexist and
heterosexist behavior is a part. If I could do it over, I would have told myself and my teammates that there are better, more inclusive ways for us to build belonging and create community. Create permission to be diﬀerent. We should all be able to be ourselves without insult or injury. Whether or not I feel comfortable being myself is shaped by the questions I am asked, how my responses are received and how I see others around me embracing or excluding one another. On your ﬁrst interaction with a new peer, give permission for them to be themselves by asking inclusive questions, listen to and aﬃrm their responses and set clear standards as to what is not acceptable behavior. Become a ﬁrst follower. It is a lot easier to conform to what you think your group norms of behavior are, even if those norms are harmful toward others. To build belonging and create an inclusive community, commit to being the ﬁrst person to stand up for that teammate who is being excluded or othered. Share big dreams. Although many team cultures can be potentially hostile environments, I have found that the ones that allowed for the most divergence from the “norm” were those teams that clearly and unapologetically shared big dreams with one another. Those teams bought into their big dreams, intentionally or unintentionally expanded the scope of the “norm” and gave greater permission for people to be themselves. Make aligning on big dreams an important part of your initial team building, and you will set the stage for an inclusive culture from day one. If you are a coach, captain or anyone who is a part of a team, my ask for you is this: From day one, ﬁnd ways to create permission for people to be themselves regardless of how they identify or who they love, make outsider insiders by being the ﬁrst person to reinforce welcoming and aﬃrming behavior, and make your team share a bold but common purpose. As we head back to school and into fall, make your ﬁrst impressions and day one actions reﬂective of the kind of team you would be proud to call your own.
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