Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hudson Taylor

It's rare that I feature a straight man on this blog, but today I make such an exception. Hudson Taylor (b. 1987) is a Columbia University wrestling coach, LGBT activist, and Founding Director of Athlete Ally. Although he is straight  (married to Lia Alexandra Mandaglio), his actions have had an enormous influence on LGBT persons, particularly athletes.

Taylor was an NCAA All-American wrestler before graduating and becoming a coach at Columbia University (NYC). He also secured the most pins and the most wins in the history of collegiate wrestling at the University of Maryland, and is ranked among the top five pinners in NCAA wrestling history. As well, he holds several hall-of-fame records.

Taylor is descended from a long line of Christian missionaries, including James Hudson Taylor, one of the first Christians to attempt to evangelize China. The Christianity of Taylor's family instilled in him a "strong sense of inclusion over exclusion," unlike many other Christian families who advocate homophobic policies and intolerance.

An athlete all his life, Taylor experienced denigration in high school and college sports, but befriended many gay people while majoring in Interactive Performance Art at the University of Maryland. When he wore an equality sticker from the Human Rights Campaign on his wrestling headgear, he faced backlash from his peers, but gained media attention. When he blogged about experiencing homophobia in collegiate sports, he received hundreds of emails from closeted athletes.

This experience inspired him to found the non-profit organization Athlete Ally, with the mission of "educating, encouraging and empowering straight athlete allies to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports." Athlete Ally provides social advocacy campaigns, on-campus training and practical tools, including resources to locate and learn about allied athletes, coaches, teams, athletic clubs and sports-based advocacy projects around the country.

Since January, 2011 (founding date of Athlete Ally), more than 13,000 people have signed the Athlete Ally Pledge. Ambassadors for this organization include Chris Kluwe (Minnesota Vikings), Brendon Ayanbadejo (Baltimore Ravens), Connor Barwin (Philadelphia Eagles), D’Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton (both of the Cleveland Browns), Donte Stallworth (New England Patriots) and Scott Fujita (New Orleans Saints). 23-year-old Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), raised by a lesbian couple in Newark, NJ, was the first NBA player to join. Just a month ago, high profile tennis player Andy Roddick added his endorsement. Board members include former New York Rangers hockey player Sean Avery (!), former NFL player Dave Kopay (see blog entry in sidebar), sportscaster Dave Haber and Minnesota United Football Club president Nick Rogers.

Details at

"For me and my generation, LGBT rights is a pressing issue," says Taylor. "I believe that whatever history I'm a part of, I'm responsible for it. If I feel something is unjust or unequal, I feel a responsibility to do something about it."

As Executive Director of Athlete Ally, a public speaker and recurring blogger for the Huffington Post, he continues to spread his message of equality and inclusion. In 2010, Taylor was named by The Advocate as one of the “Top 150 Reasons to Have Gay Pride". In 2011 he received the PFLAG Straight for Equality Award and was named "Greatest Person of the Day" on April 8 by the Huffington Post. He was later honored by Buick and the NCAA alongside as a feature story of the Buick Human Highlight Reel.

His work is now 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. In April 2012, Hudson Taylor was named University of Maryland Alumnus of the Year for the school of Undergraduate Studies for his work as an LGBT rights activist.

Hats off to one of our most significant advocates, gentlemen.

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