PrideWorks 2015

prideworks_logoEarlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend PrideWorks at Pace University. I attended last year and was thrilled to be asked back by Anthony Nicodemo, who puts together a panel discussion for this conference annually. Over 600 LGBTQ and ally youth attended this year’s conference. What an awesome opportunity to let young people know they can be queer and be successful in sports!prideworks_2015

This year, Anthony, Derek Schell, and I spoke with high school students about our experiences as LGBTQ athletes and coaches. We talked about making the team atmosphere more inclusive, interrupting biased comments and actions, being a good ally, and how to navigate the coming out experience on a team.

A few athletes asked for help with deciding on a college – would their identity hurt them in the recruiting process? Would they be able to be out on a team, or would they have to be closeted? Derek’s story was helpful for the students to hear and weight the options. Derek attended a very conservative college and struggled for a long time with trying to hide his identity from his team and those around him. We discussed how students could determine if a college was LGBTQ friendly, and how to assess the athletic department and team cultures as well.

After the presentations, a few students told me they attended last year and returned to hear me again – which was very nice. There were plenty of new faces in the audience as well, and the most valuable part of the session for me was our Q&A, where the students shared their own experiences as an LGB person or as an ally. Hearing them talk about their experiences gave all of us on the panel an inside look as to what it’s like in high schools for athletes today.

We shared our resources, listed below for you as well:

GO! Athletes for support and community – GO! Athletes is the largest network of current and former LGBTQ student athletes

Trans*Athlete for trans*-inclusive policies – Trans*Athlete is a resource for athletes, coaches, and administrators on trans*-inclusive policies at various levels of play

Campus Pride for college assessment – Campus Pride’s annual index and sport’s index can help students make informed decisions about their education

You Can Play for visible signs of support – many athletes have made You Can Play videos

Big thank you to Anthony for having me be a part of this awesome event again!

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#StandUpDay G+ Chat

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On November 12, I took part in a panel with Campus Pride and The StandUp Foundation to talk about #StandUpDay, being an LGBTQ athlete, and how others can stand up to bullying.

Campus Pride explains StandUp Day: “StandUp Day, held annually on November 14th, is a day of remembrance, a time to StandUp against bullying, and a time to celebrate the True Champions in our lives. Ben Cohen is known as one of the world’s best athletes and founder of the StandUp Foundation. November 14 marks the day when Ben’s father died as a result of violence inflicted upon him when he stood up for an employee who was being attacked. This day serves to promote the vision of the StandUp Foundation as a memorial for Ben’s father and all who have been lost to violence and hate.”

The panelists were amazing:IMG_0501

Anna Aagenes is a community organizer, LGBTQ activist, athlete, and speaker. Anna is one of the Co-Founders and currently, the Executive Director of GO! Athletes
Chris Mosier is an American transgender advocate, triathlete, and speaker (I love that this was taken directly from my Wikipedia page!)
Lauren Neidigh is an NCAA Swimmer at the University of Arizona
Julie Shaw is the Women’s Basketball Head Coach at the University of La Verne
Monica Rochon is a community organizer, race and gender justice advocate, Tampa Bay Inferno Tackle Football Player.

We had a great conversation about how we and others stand up to LGBTQ bias in athletics, our personal experiences, and how others can stand up. Watch the Google Hangout (which was archived in its entirety on YouTube) HERE and see me make funny faces when I talk.

Resources listed during the end of the panel are below:

My website: www.transathlete.com
GO! Athletes, info@goathletes.org
Outsports: www.outsports.com
SPACE: http://spacestudentalliance.blogspot.com/
NCAA Champions of Respect document:http://www.transathlete.com/#!documents/cqh1
Breache the Silence: http://freedomsounds.org/
The National Center for Lesbian Rights: http://www.nclrights.org/
Campus Pride: www.campuspride.org
Campus Pride Sports Index: http://www.campuspride.org/tag/sports-index/
LGBT Sports Coalition https://www.facebook.com/lgbtsportscoalition
Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation: http://www.standupfoundation.com/

Download the StandUp Day action kit here.

How do I StandUp? I think one way is by intervening in situations and being an ally for other people. It’s often easier for others to stand up when something is happening than it is for the person it’s happening to – at least that has been my experience. I was so grateful for the times my partner or my friends stepped in to correct pronouns or ideas during the early phases of taking testosterone; it was embarrassing for me to make those corrections myself because I felt hurt. Now, any time I can do that for others, I do.

Other great ways to StandUp are mentioned in the G+ Hangout. Check it out!

How do YOU StandUp?

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Rally for Homeless Youth

IMG_6297I was going to head to the Empire Monday night ride in Central Park to catch up with my team and enjoy a recovery ride to celebrate all of the racers this weekend, but the Rally for Homeless Youth was at 6 pm in Washington Square Park. I have a long standing allegiance to the Ali Forney Center’s projects, and to helping homeless LGBTQ youth, so I knew I had to go. Ignoring this opportunity to show support would be similar to the way the needs of homeless youth are being ignored every day – and perhaps more importantly, every night.

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Edie Windsor

Tonight’s rally served as the launch of a new campaign to fight homelessness among young people in the LGBTQ community, called the National Campaign for Youth Shelter. The campaign is powered by the Ali Forney Center and the National Coalition for the Homeless (with many other backers) and wants visible and drastic changes for the sheltering of LGBT homeless youth.

Not familiar with this crisis?

Here’s a quick snapshot of how important this is:

– National statistic: about 500,000 youth are homeless.
– About half are LGBTQ, but only about 5% of of the overall youth population is LGBT.
– Nationally, there are only about 4,000 shelter beds for homeless youth.
– Funding for youth shelter beds has been cut drastically.
– Homeless LGBTQ teens are more likely than straight homeless teens to be subjected to violence on the streets and in the homeless shelter system.
– Homeless LGBTQ youth suffer from higher rates of mental illness, trauma, HIV infection and substance abuse.IMG_6296
– About 1 in 4 new cases of HIV infection is among youth ages 13-24.
– Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men account for most new infections in the 13-24 age group.
– Homeless youth are at a higher risk of HIV infection if they trade sex for drugs, money, or shelter.

The campaign goals include:

1. A federal commitment to provide all youths age 24 and under with immediate access to safe shelter
2. An immediate commitment to add 22,000 beds and services for homeless youth
3. A more accurate and comprehensive effort to count the number of homeless youth in the nation in order to determine the number of beds that are needed over the next decade.”

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Former NFL player and You Can Play Project executive director Wade Davis

This is a true crisis and an issue that the LGBTQ community needs to take on, because if we don’t stand up for our most vulnerable youth, who will? Many of these teens are kicked out of their homes because of their identities. They are harassed on the streets, shelter beds for them are not available, and the adult shelter system is not safe for them. Something must be done, and it’s our responsibility to demand it be done.

A second rally is scheduled to take place in Washington D.C. on December 8. For more information, click here.

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