Hudson Taylor is a three-time NCAA All-American wrestler, a wrestling coach at Columbia University, and a prominent straight ally of LGBT rights. His organization, Athlete Ally, “is a sports resource encouraging all individuals involved in sports to respect every member of their communities, regardless of perceived or actual sexual-orientation or gender identity or expression, and to lead others in doing the same.” As part of the Brizendine Visiting Scholar Program, Hudson and UMass Professor Emerita Pat Griffin worked with MA coaches on LGBTQ education and combating homophobia in athletics. MA is the first high school in the country to participate in the GLSEN Sports Project. Hudson also spoke at MA’s first special assembly of the year, and was generous enough to sit down and answer some additional questions.
1. You told our students that although you had been bothered by “that’s so gay”–type jokes in the locker room, you realized you were a straight ally when one of your University of Maryland classmates came out during class. I’m compelled by the fact that it was one experience in college that started all of this—the Human Rights Campaign sticker on your wrestling headgear, your media interviews, Athlete Ally. What were the other events that led to your becoming an ally?
To be honest, I consider myself a feminist more than anything else. A lot of the language in the locker room and in other places was homophobic AND sexist, so I was speaking against both of those things. The HRC sticker made sense—it was liberal, political, and really made a statement about what I believed in. It was the OutSports interview that made me an LGBT advocate because of the response I got. I realized the need for a straight ally—there aren’t a lot of us in sports.
Beyond that, because I went to boarding school, I was out of the house from the age of 14. That experience had a lot to do with becoming an independently-minded person. In addition, wrestling wasn’t a popular sport in my hometown, which was a big soccer town. Because of my involvement in the sport, I constantly had to identify myself as someone who didn’t care about what everyone else thought. I carried that attitude with me—when I am interested in something, I’m going to do it, and not let anyone stop me.
2. What was the best student question you heard at MA?
One of the students asked how they could be conscientious, but still be boys. There is so much missing knowledge when it comes to male conduct in the locker room, and how guys can be friends without being homophobic. I liked getting that question and having that conversation because that’s where we need to make the most ground. The “no homo” slang, which gets thrown around because male affection is looked down upon, needs to be addressed and corrected whenever possible.
3. You ended on Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You’ve committed yourself to bringing change. How has that change changed you?
My biggest change has been my perception of the possible. I have found that anything you set your mind to is pretty much possible if you have the courage to go towards the fear. This journey has taught me that progress cannot occur if no one is willing to take a risk. So because of it, I am now more able and willing to challenge my assumptions, confront my fears, and speak out in ways that I had previously not thought possible.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Gandhi has a saying about this time in people’s life: it’s the wilderness years. It’s the only time in people’s lives where you have so many paths in front of you that can lead you in so many directions. Later in life, though you can change jobs and make other changes, your path is somewhat chosen.
I will continue with Athlete Ally. I recently deferred law school, but am considering that path. I’m looking into a Master’s in Public Policy. I like affecting change, so however I can do that and continue to do that, that’s where I’ll be in five years.
5. You’ve come and already helped us so much. How can we help you?
Tell other schools about this movement. I’m now at a place where I can coach for a few days a week and then travel on the other days. It’s amazing because I really haven’t reached out for anyone for any speaking events, but I’ve had such a constant flow of people who have said, “Hey, no one has talked to us about this. Will you come to our school?” But a good recommendation can go a long way.
Outside of that, be vocal, and do what you’re doing. This is about empowering people to speak out more than anything else. My nonprofit has been designed to be minimalist—I have a website for resources, and not a lot of staff. It’s all about giving people tools and helping to spread them around.