Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, spent Wednesday afternoon and evening with students and athletes on WVU Tech’s Montgomery campus.
Taylor, a three-time NCAA All-American wrestler, made headlines in his final year of college at the University of Maryland for his promotion of the Human Rights Campaign during his matches. In 2011, he founded Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that “provides public awareness campaigns, educational programming and tools and resources to foster inclusive sports communities.” That program now maintains ambassadors at 80 colleges and universities in addition to the support of more than 100 professional athletes.
As part of the organization’s outreach, Taylor visits with K-12 schools, colleges and corporate campuses throughout the United States to help students and athletes foster more inclusive communities where they live and work.
He said seeing people realize that they have the power to impact change drives his work.
“I think that sport has the power to change the world. Athletes are influencers. Sport speaks every language and it connects cultures and communities in a way that little else does. Those athletes who use their platform with a purpose are the ones who make the most difference in the world. When athletes stand up and speak out, that’s what really inspires me,” he said.
Taylor kicked off his visit with the Golden Bear wrestling team, where he shared some tips and techniques he had picked up in his years at Maryland. A few hours later, he attended a regular meeting with Tech Alliance, a student-run LGBTQ+ and ally organization that promotes awareness and inclusivity on campus.
That evening, Taylor presented his seminar, “Allyship: Becoming a Champion for Inclusion of Your Campus.” Taylor shared the story of how he became a straight ally for the LGBTQ+ community after his college experience exposed him to both the LGBTQ+ student community and homophobia in the locker room. He also shared issues still prevalent in the sports world and action steps students and other members of the campus community to address issues of homophobia and transphobia in the collegiate environment.
“There’s never been a successful social justice movement for a minority group that didn’t have support from the majority,” Taylor said. “We need allies to stand out and speak up and be a part of the solution. That starts with people getting better educated and being more intentional with how they speak to and about other people.”
Scott Robertson, Assistant Dean of Students of TRIO Programs at WVU Tech, said that the visit was a successful opportunity for students to engage in open dialogue on LGBTQ issues in a safe environment.
“We wanted to explore more ways that our students can create a culture of inclusivity on campus,” said Robertson.
“We wanted to do this in a way that was thought-provoking, but in a fun and comfortable environment. It’s a topic that can be difficult for students to have real discussions about. You’re fighting preconceived notions or concerns that you’re going to be judged for how you view the world. This breaks things down in a way that lets people feel comfortable expressing their opinions and asking questions,” he said.
The event was sponsored by the WVU Tech Convocation Committee, WVU Tech Student Government Association, WVU Tech Golden Bear Athletics, WVU Tech Dean of Student Life, WVU Tech TRIO Student Support Services and Tech Alliance.
Robertson said that members of the campus community who are interested in helping out on campus can participate in safe zone training next week. Cris Mayo, director of the LGBTQ+ Center at WVU in Morgantown will conduct sessions on Wednesday, February 22 at 12:30 and 2:00 p.m. in the Student Activities Room.