Duke Athlete Ally Ambassador Dylan Ryan on Activism and Inspiration to be an Ally

To highlight the voices of Athlete Ally Ambassadors across the country, Kyle James of Ithaca College is leading an interview series to expand upon why these young LGBTQ activists feel passionate about inclusion in sports and beyond, and what the climate is like at their institution for student-athletes who identify as LGBTQ.

This week, wrestler Dylan Ryan from Duke is featured.

KJ: As a junior and in the middle of your athletic career at Duke, what made you start Athlete Ally at your school?

DR: I learned about Athlete Ally through a visit from Hudson Taylor during my freshman year. A little later on, I got into an argument on Facebook in a discussion about sports. The other person started using homosexual slurs and it really sent me over the edge. That’s what got me interested in doing work with Athlete Ally.

KJ: So as a whole, how is the athletic environment at Duke in terms of accepting LGBTQ students?

DR: Duke does a pretty good job. A lot of that is due to our great LGBT center on campus.

KJ: Do you see a difference between men’s and women’s sports?

DR: In some ways, yes. A lot of the women’s sports are very accepting and women’s rowing especially has led the way on LGBT issues within sport. On the men’s side we’re seeing growing acceptance. I can speak personally that the wrestling team is doing a pretty good job. It’s hard to really know about the other teams because I’m not in the practices and seeing the environment there.

KJ: I hear you there. One of the big problems on our campus as well is that, right now, we’re not in every locker room or on every practice field. So we’re trying to find a way to reach all teams to make sure that everyone is safe for LGBTQ athletes.

DR: That’s definitely one of our goals as well.

KJ: Have you done any events at your school so far?

DR: We’ve done two meetings with athletes and discussed different topics within those meetings.

KJ: What were some of the topics?

DR: We made sure to talk about Principle 6 and the Olympics, recruitment, and about National Coming Out Day. We got about 50-60 signees on the Athlete Ally pledge and have been taking down emails for future meeting and event reminders.

KJ: That’s awesome! Do you have any events planned for the future?

DR: We have some plans for next semester under way. We’re looking into making pins that can be put on the athlete’s backpacks to show that they’re accepting of LGBT teammates. Different groups on campus have shown interest in collaborating with us as well.

KJ: That sounds like an easy way for athletes to show their support!

DR: Yeah! Hopefully we’ll be seeing them around campus in the spring!

KJ: If you could meet any of the Athlete Ally Pro Ambassadors, who would you meet?

DR: I would have to say Dante Stallworth. As a Patriots fan, I think it would be cool to sit down with him and talk about the NFL and how he got involved with Athlete Ally.

KJ: So as you may know, Athlete Ally is supporting the “Principle 6” campaign. What are your opinions on the campaign and what’s going on in Russia right now?

DR: Personally, I don’t think it (what Russia’s doing) makes sense. You’re supposed to follow the principles of the Olympic charter and be welcoming and accepting of all athletes. Russia is going against what the Olympics stand for. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone makes a stand at the Olympics. In some of our meetings, we talked about Russia and how they’ve had some of their own athletes come out and are still competing.

KJ: I totally understand what you’re saying. They Olympics are a place where everyone can come together and practice sport.

DR: Right. Russia is definitely not allowing that to happen right now.

KJ: Is your Athlete Ally chapter doing anything to bring awareness to this issue?

DR: In our meetings we’ve talking about the Principle 6 clothing campaign and we’ve let other people within the meetings suggest topics related to the Olympics and kind of lead the discussions.

KJ: What Olympic event are you looking forward to most this year?

DR: I’d have to say downhill skiing. I really like seeing the underdogs win, and downhill skiing is a good sport for that. I’m also originally from New Hampshire and I’m really familiar with the skiing community, so it’s cool to see that sport in the Olympics.

KJ: Awesome! Is there anything else that you’d like me to know about Duke Athlete Ally or yourself?

DR: Getting involved in Athlete Ally has been great and really changed who I am as a person. It’s also strengthened our team and we’ve gotten closer by discussing LGBT issues. It’s really made me realize that it only takes one person to get something started and I can already see that it’s had a big impact.