Alex Deddeh is a student at The Francis Parker School in San Diego, California, and had this to say after Athlete Ally founder Hudson Taylor spoke at the school in late 2013.
I slid down the hard plastic bleachers, crammed next to my fellow seniors, and looked at the guy who I thought was going to tell an unrelatable story and then preach about making the world a better place. All the assemblies I had been to before had left me aware but not interested, put me back into that state of “yeah I guess I could do that.” But then came Hudson Taylor, a big jock with a big personality. To some Parker kids, he was a shock. Since the fliers around campus said our assembly would be about fighting homophobia in sports, many of them assumed he was gay. Because why would a successful, straight athlete care about gay rights?
After a few minutes of joking with the crowd, Hudson began telling us about his life. I quickly realized how similar his story was to my own. For thirteen years I went to Catholic school, sat in Mass every other Friday, and was taught that homosexuality was wrong. Memories of relatives saying I shouldn’t play basketball because the girls look like lesbians, or boys describing kids as either “cool” or “fag” resurfaced as Hudson spoke of his own family and friend’s opinions. He described his experience as an elite wrestler, and the pressures to maintain a masculine image. I thought of those days when boys would tell me they only watched volleyball games to see the team in spandex, or when girls would pile on eyeshadow and lip gloss in the bathrooms before a tournament. Hudson then talked about the stresses on high school kids, especially athletes, to conform. My brother, a football player, refused to participate in drama until his senior year because he was worried about how his friends would react to him doing a “gay activity”. All the situations Hudson brought up I had experienced in one way or another. The most important one he mentioned, however, was if we had heard “that’s gay” recently. Almost everyone in the gym raised their hands. The next question was “How many of you spoke up about it?” Only three hands tentatively went up. I felt pretty embarrassed during those few minutes. Sure I thought gay marriage should be legal, and supported friends and teachers who were gay, but how could I have overlooked that phrase? I realized that even though it didn’t affect me, I still should have said something about it. People expect a gay person to stand up for themselves, but to have a straight person stand with them goes an even longer way. That’s what being an Ally is about, uniting against homophobia.
In every sport, every season, some kids get lost in the allure of championship banners, and forget about what it means to be a team, a cohesive, supportive group. Essentially, that’s what Hudson was telling us, to accept all players regardless of their backgrounds. A Division I, nationally ranked wrestler spoke to me. Now here I am, a three year Varsity starter, and back to back State Champion speaking to you. You are not alone. I grew up learning that being gay was wrong , but today I am proud to say I am an Ally. A team will always have opponents, and whether it be sexism, racism, or homophobia know that you have the power to battle against it. And you are not alone.