August 9, 2012
Breaking News: Respect Goes For Gold
Today is a day of huge moments at the Olympics for several friends of GLSEN on Team USA. Right now, the women’s basketball team is on the court for a semi-final match up with rival Australia. At 2:30 ET, the US women’s soccer will face Japan for the gold in one of the most highly anticipated rematches in the history of the women’s game.
These Olympic high points feature great role models who have openly stated their support for a K-12 sports world free of anti-LGBT bias and violence, as well as some world-class athletes who are out as lesbian, gay or bi. Basketball standouts Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, among other Olympians, appear on GLSEN’s Changing the Game website as WNBA players who have taken our “Team Respect Challenge.” Same for Seimone Augustus, WNBA league MVP in 2011, who happens to be out. And breakout Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who came out just before the London games, has spoken in support of GLSEN and Changing the Game, citing the “freedom to be herself” as one of the sources of her game-changing creativity on the pitch.
All of these great athletes are tremendous role models for young people everywhere but there are athletes who serve as role models in local schools and communities as well and GLSEN’s Changing the Game Advisory Board Member Jeff Sheng is helping to share their stories in image and word. Over the last nine years, Jeff has been photographing “out” high school athletes as part of his “Fearless” Project. This powerful work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and this year the project has been a feature at the London Olympics Pride House. You can see the presentation here and you can support Jeff’s efforts create a print edition of this important work here.
“I am proud to be part of GLSEN’s Changing the Game initiative because together we are focusing on making our schools safer for our LGBT high school student athletes.” Jeff describes the students he has photographed as some of “the bravest individuals” he has ever met – students who even though they face the prospect of being bullied, harassed or beaten up by their fellow teammates, have had the courage to instead say, “I’m going to be who I am.’ Changing the Game is helping to create climates in K-12 sports and athletics where students do not have to face the kind of anti-lgbt bias that sidelines so many and where all LGBT students can participate as fully as possible in an environment of respect and inclusiveness.
You can get in the spirit of these games by promoting GLSEN’s Team Respect Challenge to high schools in your area. Share the challenge on Facebook and Twitter to remind students and educators about the importance of respect, inclusion and sportsmanship among teammates, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or religion. Simply click the links above to share!