One theater student changed former NCAA All-American wrestler Hudson Taylor’s life and doesn’t even know it.
Hudson Taylor, wrestling coach at Columbia University and founder of Athlete Ally, spoke as an activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusion in athletics last Tuesday.
“It seems as though the athletic area is an incredibly challenging environment to live an authentic life and discourages sexual identity,” said Merry Jo Brandimore, dean of students.
To help alleviate problems Taylor has seen in athletics, such as derogatory phrases such as “That’s so gay,” he created a four-principle system for creating an environment safe for LGBT individuals.
The first principle, treat others as they want to be treated, is something not lived up to by many, according to Taylor.
“When it comes to the LGBT community, it is pretty clear they are not being treated the way they want to be treated,” Taylor said.
The Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender Advisory Committee, composed of faculty and students, started planning for Taylor’s appearance at the University in October.
To contribute to a spirit of inclusion, the committee selected the speaker to bridge some gaps.
Since becoming an advocate for inclusive environments, Taylor has received thousands of emails of young closeted athletes who are uncomfortable coming out to their teams.
None of this advocation for allyhood would have been possible if not for one of his theater classes at Columbia University.
A student had shared with that class that he identified himself as gay, and he said he didn’t know how to react and didn’t know what was going to happen.
Since then, he began taking notice of the exclusive language used by others in life and developed a strong allyhood for the LGBT community.
At first, he took his beliefs to the viral worlds of Facebook and Twitter.
“It let people know what I believe in without having those awkward conversations,” Taylor said.
He soon began wearing his beliefs on his sleeve, literally.
He started wearing ally-related shirts, had Safe Space stickers with him and began to wear a Human Rights Campaign sticker on his wrestling headgear.
According to Taylor, being an athlete on a team and wearing a T-shirt or pin that encourages an inclusive environment can really make a difference in someone’s life.
To date, the gay student in his class does not know how much his coming out in the theater class impacted Taylor.
After performing much passive activism, Taylor found himself with more confidence where he began challenging the choice of language his teammates used.
“Taking 30 seconds in correcting your language can change a life down the road,” Taylor said.
Some students applied his presentation in other issues of inclusion.
“For dodgeball, we see more sexism than homophobic comments,” said marketing and management senior Lindsay Maynard. “When they say that I throw like a girl, I take offense.”
Taylor encourages football players, coaches and colleges to speak out against derogatory language.
Society will be most successful when everyone is united, according to Taylor.
“Each and every one of us is a leader,” Taylor said. “You can affect other’s lives with the way they feel and speak about others.”