During his final season as a NCAA All-American and team wrestling captain at The University of Maryland, Hudson Taylor decided that his closest-held values as a leader and student-athlete required that he stand up and say something about the homophobia and transphobia he experienced in locker rooms and on playing fields across the nation.
Like many college students, he had seen close friends struggle with the coming out process, often inhibited by the fear they had about disclosing their sexual orientation.
“I could no longer watch from the sidelines as this culture isolated and segregated LGBT athletes and fans and betrayed the integrity and diversity at the heart of athletics,” he said.
To show his solidarity as a straight ally, he wore an LGBT rights sticker on his wrestling headgear. That single act turned a lot of heads. Spectators, opponents, coaches and others wondered if Hudson was making a statement about his sexuality.
It never seemed odd to him that an All-American college wrestler couldn’t also be a very effective LGBT rights advocate. It only seemed odd to him that more people couldn’t stand up for the rights of others.
“Athletics should be a safe space for everybody,” Hudson said. “It’s really just that simple. I believe athletic communities are ready to deal honestly with this issue.”
Thousands of appreciative emails from closeted athletes, parents and other members of the LGBT community began pouring in. Hudson came to realize a much deeper reality—that allies willing to stick their necks out are an integral part of eliminating hate and prejudice. He thought about how much empowerment could come if more people stood up as allies for their friends and peers who are LGBT.
Hudson went on to form Athlete Ally, a nonprofit sports organization that calls on athletes, coaches, school administrators, parents and fans to champion respect and inclusion at every level of athletics. He has spoken at dozens of high schools and colleges—to faculty, students, coaches, and administrators. The organization’s website at athleteally.org has become an actual resource not only for LGBT athletes but also for athletic departments of all levels looking to combat homophobia. More than 4,000 student-athletes have signed the pledge at the site to be allies.
Hudson recently received the PFLAG (Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays) Straight for Equality Award and was named “Greatest Person of the Day” in 2011 by the Huffington Post. Also in 2011, he was honored by Buick and the NCAA with a film short highlighting his educational efforts.
Allyship: Becoming a Champion for Inclusion on Your Campus
One of the greatest tools in the ongoing battle for inclusion and respect for LGBT members of our campus community is the courage and willingness of their straight allies to stand up and play a role in combating ignorance and prejudice. Most straight people have gay friends, but too few of us stand up and say that fair treatment of every member of our community is personally important to us. Hudson shares his journey of becoming a straight ally for the LGBT community and helps others learn how they can be an integral part of the solution. This program is about friendship, and standing up for our friends. It’s about making our campuses a safe space for everyone and celebrating the things we have in common, as people, as students and as citizens caring about fair treatment for everyone. (This program is suitable for general student audiences. A version of this program can be made specifically applicable for student-athlete audiences upon request. Hudson is happy to do the main keynote for general students and a separate program for members of your campus’ athletic community on the same visit at no additional cost.)
As a result of attending this program, students will learn:
- how to overcome insecurities and fears, and to stand up for the rights of minorities,
- how to manage obstacles in the face of fairness and integrity,
- how small changes in words and behavior can impact others, and
- greater appreciation of how mobilizing and organizing their campus community can make a lasting impact.
Building a Movement: The Journey of Athlete Ally
Sometimes you are the right person, in the right place, at the right time, with the right issue. That’s the way it might seem with Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally. Only a few years ago, he was making a public statement about gay rights by wearing a sticker on the side of his college wrestling headgear. Today, he appears on CNN, MSNBC, and in other national media outlets promoting acceptance of gay and lesbian players in professional and college athletics. Tens of thousands of individuals are signing online pledges to be allies to their LGBT teammates, and Hudson is collaborating with many of the most influential people in the nation to catalyze critical social change. If you’ve ever wanted to know how a person goes from a passionate stance on an issue to large-scale mobilization, consider this hour with Hudson as he discusses the journey of Athlete Ally.
In this hour-long program, Hudson will focus on the strategies, the connections, the mentors, the lucky breaks, and the outreach that brought him and the organization to the epicenter of a growing national dialogue. He will also discuss how his organization modeled on other successful social justice movements, models of community organizing, and other principles and strategies that helped move Athlete Ally’s message forward.
This program is perfect for student activism groups, business schools, media studies programs, and any other group interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the remarkable growth of an organization from idea to influence.
As a result of attending this program, students will learn:
- ways to apply social justice theory of change to their work as leaders and community organizers,
- how to identify a problem they wish to address or solve, and how to implement time-tested social justice strategies to build a movement of their own to affect positive social change that helps turn their ideas into action, and
- how to understand their audience, frame their message, develop their narrative, find the most impactful messengers, and build a movement arc consisting of action, moments, and campaigns to create change.
“Hudson’s talk in front of 400 Marist College student-athletes helped break down stereotypes and powerfully taught that homophobia has no place in sports or life. How effective was his presentation? Ask the many students who chatted with him or the football players who joined Hudson afterward for lunch. His message hit home and was deeply appreciated.”
– Timmian Massie, Marist College
“We highly recommend Hudson Taylor for your campus! He is motivational, inspirational, compassionate and has a story every campus and athletic department would benefit from hearing. It is not always easy to talk about homophobia in sports and how to create an atmosphere where learning to be a supportive ally is accepted. Hudson set the stage to open minds and hearts on our campus and truly made a difference with our students.”
– Allison Subasic, Penn State University
“The students at University of Pennsylvania were blown away and inspired by Hudson Taylor’s presentation on being an Athlete Ally. He spoke to the audience about his personal difficulties with confronting homophobia, and his candid story was both inspiring and honest. After Hudson’s speech, the audience left believing that we all have the ability to change ourselves and we also have the ability and the duty to make a difference in the lives of others.”
– Anna Aagenes, University of Pennsylvania
Hudson Taylor is a three-time NCAA All-American wrestler, marked by his is ranking among the top five pinners in NCAA wrestling history, who serves as the founder and executive director of Athlete Ally. During his final season as a NCAA All-American and team wrestling captain at The University of Maryland, Hudson decided that his closest-held values as a leader and student-athlete required that he stand up and say something about the homophobia and transphobia he witnessed in locker rooms and on playing fields across the nation. To show his solidarity with the LGBT community as a straight ally, he wore an HRC sticker on his wrestling headgear. That single act drew thousands of appreciative emails from closeted athletes, parents and other members of the LGBT community.
Since founding Athlete Ally, Hudson has received numerous recognition awards including the PFLAG Straight for Equality Award and the Huffington Post’s “Greatest Person of the Day” recognition. Hudson was also honored by Buick and the NCAA alongside Eunice Kennedy Shriver and other advocates in sports as a feature story of the Buick Human Highlight Reel. Hudson’s work is featured in the permanent Miller Family Youth Exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which aims to empower young persons to stand as leaders against discrimination. He has worked tirelessly to build a strong contingent of professional athlete ambassadors for his cause that includes Brendon Ayanbadejo (Baltimore Ravens), Chris Kluwe (Minnesota Vikings), Andy Roddick (Tennis), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), and scores more.
In April 2012, Hudson was named University of Maryland Alumnus of the Year for the school of Undergraduate Studies for his work as an LGBT rights activist. Hudson lives with his wife Lia in New York City and currently serves as a wrestling coach at Columbia University.