May 26 2011

 

 

 

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Anyway you examine Hudson Taylor, he is special. He is a direct descendent of his name sake the famous missionary to China - Hudson Taylor. When visiting with this charismatic and principled young man you can sense the spirituality in every aspect of his life. Taylor is intelligent, engaging and has a deep personal devotion to helping others.

Perhaps best known for his advocacy for LGBT full equality while being a University of Maryland wrestling star, he was a three time All American wrestler in Division One of the NCAA and was ranked number three in the entire nation. He created a stir when he put a Human Rights Campaign equal sticker on his helmet. In addition to his athletic prowess he is was also an All American Scholar.

He has formed Athlete Ally for the sports community to join and assist in the fight for full equality for the LGBT community. Currently he has well over 1,600 names from the sports community signing his pledge.

He is engaged to be married to Lia Alexandra Mandaglio and they will be married in DC in the Fall because it is place that allows the LGBT community to get married.

1. As an athlete what were the influences that made you such a powerful advocate for LGBT full equality?

I have always had trouble pinpointing the specific influences that have led me to becoming an advocate for full LGBT equality. Upon further reflection, I was raised in a family that emphasized a deep respect for the differences in others. Also, there were times in my life when I felt isolated and segregated because of my own differences. Combining that upbringing with my own life experiences has given me the perspective necessary to be the advocate I am today.

2. What was the biggest challenge for you in 'coming out' as a straight ally in the struggle for full equality?

There were two major obstacles to overcome in order to fully ‘come out’ as a straight ally. The first was becoming educated about the ways in which the LGBT community is being discriminated against. The second was how well I knew myself. For a long time I would have liked to speak out as an ally but wasn't comfortable doing so because I sought acceptance and affirmation from my peers. It was that desire to fit in that kept me from doing the right thing for most of my life.

3. You coach wrestling at Columbia and it is one of the most 'masculine sports'. Can you share with us your concept of gender identity?

My concept of gender identity is based around the assumption that gender is performative. As a wrestler and coach I grew up being taught that as a heterosexual athlete I had to act, dress, and live according to a very strict masculine gender script. It wasn't until my interest in the arts that I began to understand that gender didn't have to be so binary after all. It has been that realization that has allowed me to be truer to myself and remains a major reason why I try to challenge heterosexism and homophobia.

4. What is "Athlete Ally" and what do you hope to accomplish?

Athlete Ally is a non-profit organization I started this past year to encourage athletes, coaches, parents, fans and other members of the sports community to respect all individuals involved in sports, regardless of perceived or actual sexual-orientation, gender identity or gender expression. My hope is to help create a new standard of athletic integrity that makes it completely unacceptable for athletes to use homophobic and transphobic language. I believe in the power of sport to unite and am confident that with some patience and persistence we will see a major shift in the consciousness of the American athlete.

5. Who are your heroes and why?

One of my biggest heroes is Gandhi. At an early age I fell in love with his outlook and approach to life. Subsequently, he shaped my thoughts, words, and actions in the spirit of non-violence. For me this means that there must be no enemy - only an adversary or opponent who has not yet been convinced of the truth. It remains a constant struggle to be true to this philosophy, but having learned about the life he led and the people he affected, I can’t think of a better hero to model my life after.

Enjoy the interview of Hudson Taylor by MSNBC's anchor Thomas Roberts.