August 20, 2014 at 5:33 pm EDT | by guest columnist
Athletes and Allies in action
Athlete Ally, gay news, Washington Blade

Laura Clise, on left, with Megan Rapinoe (Photo courtesy of Clise)


My LGBT activism and advocacy date back to high school, when as a Latin-studying nerd, I started a gay-straight alliance with a lengthy acronym – CHIASMUS (Creating Heightened Interest in Advocating for Sexual Minority Understanding and Support). However, beyond playing soccer and tennis in college, it’s only over the course of the past couple of years that I have had the opportunity to become increasingly involved in support of the LGBT sports movement.

I recently joined the board of Athlete Ally, an organization focused on ending homophobia and transphobia in sport. I was initially drawn to the organization’s recognition that as members of the LGBT community are the forefront of a broader societal shift toward greater acceptance and inclusion, straight allies also play a critical role in effecting change. Leading up to, and during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Athlete Ally, All Out, American Apparel, ESPN and a variety of athletes in support of the Principle 6 campaign that mobilized Olympic and professional athletes to stand in support of LGBT equality.

In the spirit of celebrating all of those working to advance equality and the forthcoming Athlete Ally Action Awards, I would like to acknowledge a sampling of the athletes and allies, whose courage and advocacy serve as an inspirational example and represent an important contribution to furthering LGBT equality.

My work with Megan Rapinoe dates back to her support of the 2012 Maryland Marriage Equality campaign that culminated in a successful voter referendum that legalized same-sex marriage in the state of Maryland. Throughout the Principle 6 campaign, Megan, Lori Lindsey, and Australian Olympian, Sally Shipard stood up for equality, engaging their fans around the world. A longtime advocate, Lori led her teammates from Australia’s Canberra United in support of the campaign, modeling the Principle 6 apparel.

In an interview earlier this year, Sally spoke of her evolution regarding LGBT activism as a shift from being an LGBT athlete to an out, LGBT athlete and an active ally to the LGBT sports movement. Most recently, Megan, Lori and Sally participated in YouTube’s Pride Month Proud to Play campaign, which used sport as the platform to deliver messages in support of LGBT equality.

I am a beginning snowboarder, with one lesson under my belt. The only explanation for this newfound hobby is the time I was able to spend getting to know and work with Olympic snowboarders, Belle Brockoff, Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, Simona Meiler and Seth Wescott. From Belle’s coming out ahead of the Sochi Games, to her and Simona’s participation in the upcoming documentary, “To Russia With Love,” to Callan and Seth’s ESPN Outside the Lines feature, these snowboarders were and are incredible and authentic athletes and advocates.

Caryn Davies and Esther Lofgren are members of the U.S. Olympic women’s rowing team that won gold at the 2012 Olympics. In addition to lending their support to the Principle 6 Campaign, Esther authored an article articulating passion for sport as a platform for inclusion and the importance of allies.

Finally, there are the non-athlete, allies – Susan McPherson, Alice Korngold, Neil Hawkins, Andrea Learned and Tim Mohin. As leaders in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) field, Susan, Alice, Neil, Andrea and Tim have supported the evolving dialogue regarding LGBT equality from the domain of human resources to a broader conversation about the business case for greater inclusion.

It’s important to recognize that progress takes all of us. It means that we each must not only consider what we can do as individuals, but also engage those around us, increasing the number of athletes and allies in action, and scaling support for LGBT equality in and beyond our immediate communities.

Laura Clise is a board member of Athlete Ally. Reach her @lauraclise.

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