May 25, 2011 | by Michael Key
Ben Cohen comes to Town

Ben Cohen (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

British rugby star Ben Cohen made an appearance at Town Danceboutique on Tuesday. Many members of the Washington Renegades rugby football club were joined by scores of fans to meet the world-class athlete. Cohen stopped in D.C. as a part of his “Acceptance Tour” for his new anti-bullying organization, the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, Inc. The rugby World Cup champion met with each of his fans and then auctioned off various items, including his shirt. To the disappointment of many in the audience, he did not take his shirt off on stage, but the shirt still sold for several hundred dollars. Proceeds from the auction were to be donated to the HRC, the Trevor Project and other LGBT groups through Cohen’s foundation.

Cohen is straight, but has dedicated his philanthropic efforts to combat homophobia and bullying. As he states on his website, “In my view, rugby is a very inclusive sport. Everyone can get involved in one way or another, so I will be using it as a vehicle to drive my message of acceptance out to people from all walks of life, everywhere. There is a lot of work to be done. Attitudes need to change. Young people should not be bullied into taking their own lives. That is what is happening and it needs to stop.”

Michael Key has worked as a photojournalist for the Washington Blade since 2009 and is currently serving as the photo editor. He has worked on Capitol Hill, in the White House, on the campaign trail and in cities along the East Coast taking iconic photos documenting the extension of marriage benefits to same-sex couples, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and other events of interest to the LGBT community. Follow Michael

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