With the LGBT sports movement reaching new highs over the past three years, there has been some crossover in the advocacy groups in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish.
One of the many things discussed at the LGBT Sports Summit in Portland last June was the need for collaboration among the various groups and establishing niche targets for their advocacy.
One group that has found its niche is GO! (Generation Out) Athletes. The group was formed in 2008 by seven current and former LGBT athletes who came together to discuss the different issues and challenges that are common among LGBT athletes. The result has been to create a national network of current and former LGBT student-athletes and allies at the high school, collegiate and post-graduate levels that serves to educate and empower.
Their services include confidential peer support, consultation and workshops for coaches, staff and athletes, leadership meetings, providing education materials and speaking at school and community events.
They are currently in the midst of two international Twitter campaigns utilizing their LGBT sports network to respond to negative blog posts and commentary about two hot button topics — Fallon Fox and the Sochi Olympics. The underlying goals of the campaigns are to educate and raise awareness for specific events or causes.
The #fight4fallon campaign was launched to combat transphobic commentary and disrespectful treatment towards Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Fallon Fox. UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighter Matt Mitrione, who was suspended and fined for his transphobic rant against Fox, recently made a public apology, due in part to the backlash from the GO! Athletes campaign.
“We had several people reach out from the MMA community,” says Anna Aagenes, executive director of GO! Athletes. “The #fight4fallon campaign has served to build unexpected connections.”
The second campaign, #out4olympics was launched to support the LGBT Olympic athletes who will soon be competing on the world stage despite the severe anti-LGBT laws currently in place in Russia. The campaign will be retooled in the coming months as the Sochi Games will begin onFeb. 7, 2014.
Once a month, GO! Athletes representatives hold conference/network calls with their national network of student-athletes. The calls, which sometimes include as many as 35 athletes, are a way for people to check in about their lives. The student-athletes can either speak or just listen.
“We have begun to reach out to K-12 student-athletes,” Aagenes says. “The network is comprised of closeted and out athletes and the conversations vary from empowerment to choosing an LGBT-friendly college.”
Based in Philadelphia, GO! Athletes have recently taken the steps to establish national chapters with Washington being the pilot city. The group is hoping to develop a mentorship program in D.C. aligning former athletes with current athletes to help them through the coming out process.
“We are lucky to have positive momentum with athletes and administrators,” says Brian Goldthorpe, a D.C. resident and director of communications. “We are looking to fill critical needs and delivering for folks at the highest level. In 2014, we will begin establishing connections with the LGBT sports teams of Washington D.C.”
Another facet of the GO! Athletes organization is their Collegiate Ambassadors, who serve the critical role of representing the voices of the LGBT student-athlete community and connecting universities with the national GO! network.
One of the athletes in D.C. is Craig Cassey, a Georgetown University student and former track athlete.
“One of my roles is to reach out to athletes and administrators on campus,” Cassey says. “I help them to understand so they can make better decisions in the future. It has been inspirational for me to help shape our own culture.”
As the organization continues to grow, they will be trying to create sustainable national chapters and student groups in multiple cities across the United States. More information on their outreach is available at goathletes.org.
Fallon Fox will fight in a Championship Fighting Alliance (CFA) match on Oct. 12 in Coral Gables, Fla., against Ashlee Evans-Smith.