GO! has the distinct honor of partnering with AmuseMe event services for an awesome multi-city fundraiser—Just for the Fit of it. It is a fitness themed fashion showcase to raise awareness about different health issues in 7 U.S. cities across the country. Men and women will be competing as contestants to show off their athletic physiques while competing for $1000 cash prize! A portion of the proceeds will be donated to local and national health related charities. Our 2013 San Francisco health concern is in regards to the disparities in LGBT healthcare and sports.
What: A red carpet, fitness themed fashion competition that benefits charities
When: December 21st from 7pm-10pm
Where: Temple Nightclub 540 Howard St SF 94105
For ticket purchase visit amuseme.co and get your red carpet outfit ready!
John Gevers Photography
The hardest part wasn’t understanding internally, and accepting, that I was different, that I was gay. That was the somewhat easy part. I realized early on who I was, what my attraction was, the way I was created. The difficult part was comprehending how I was ever going to tell who I was with those I loved: family, friends, and teammates. That was the part I dreaded — physically, emotionally, mentally — for more than eight years.
My name is Ryan Dafforn. I’m originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and am currently a graduate assistant coach for the swim and dive teams at Defiance College, an NCAA Division 3 School in Defiance, Ohio. From 2007-2011, I was a swimmer and four-year-varsity-letter-winner for the Purdue University Boilermakers men’s swim and dive team. It was during my senior year that I came out to my team.
Before I get to that part, though, I don’t want to give the wrong impression: the realization and understanding that occurred on my road to self acceptance was difficult. I struggled heavily with understanding and accepting who I was. Everything I was told by society, surroundings, and friends up to that point said that being gay was wrong, unnatural, and weird. Non-straight people were killed, shamed, disowned; I didn’t want that for myself. Fortunately, one thing that I never questioned was that my parents and my sisters would never stop loving me, no matter what I told them or confessed to them. This was in large part to the relationship I knew I shared with each of them and the love I knew they had for me. I was very fortunate. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared. I was terrified and nervous at the thought of coming out to my family despite our bond.
My friends and teammates at Purdue were another story. I wasn’t sure how the ones I had spent the majority of my time with the previous three years — practicing, socializing, going to class, even living with — would react to my news. I had a few openly gay teammates at Purdue but always kept my distance from them in fear of being guilty by association. Spending all that time pretending I was something I was not, hiding who I was, and constantly monitoring my actions and words was taxing but successful to a degree. Friends and teammates continued to ask me about girls and I continued to lie, hoping they wouldn’t know my secret.
Throughout high school and most of college, it was relatively easy to avoid being gay. I kept myself so busy with swimming, schoolwork and extracurricular activities that I was focused, occupied, and no one really questioned much why I never dated girls. I was committed to doing well as a student-athlete and people understood.
Looking back, my teams at Purdue were very accepting and open for the most part to having gay teammates. However, that doesn’t change the power of one’s fear and willingness to be comfortable with who he or she is — first. It was during my junior year at Purdue that I finally worked up the courage to confide in one of my openly gay teammates. Opening up to that teammate is undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. The help and knowledge he provided in helping me to understand myself and come out was some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
My teammate told me it was important for me to come out to my parents and family before I graduated college. Originally, I thought, Ok, I’ll graduate from Purdue, find a job, and before I move away and start my career I’ll come out to them. And then leave. It was a cop out. It was what I thought would make it easiest on them, but more importantly on me, because then I wouldn’t have to deal with fallout from telling them I was gay.
My teammate was right. I took his advice and I came out to my parents and sisters the month before I returned for my final year at Purdue. I was really anxious, but it went well. After I came out, there were many talks and discussions, helping them understand, answering questions, and listening. It was a process. And fortunately for me, they never once withheld their love for me throughout the entire process; I am so grateful for them and for their unconditional love and support. I know not everyone has a family like I do.
By choosing to come out to my parents before my final season at college, as my teammate encouraged me to do, my parents had the opportunity to continue to visit Purdue for tailgating, football games, and my swim meets and see me in my favorite place in the world doing what I loved. They saw that nothing changed. I was the same Ryan: their son who loved Purdue, loved swimming, and loved being part of the greatest university and team I could have ever imagined. It showed them being gay didn’t define who I am, it was just another aspect of all that I am.
After coming out to my parents and being more open, I grew more comfortable and felt it was time to come out to my entire team. I approached this much differently than with my family. By December of my senior year I had begun dating someone, and in doing so and being comfortable about it, the coming out process with my team and friends just naturally happened. I didn’t have to have a talk with each one individually, although I did speak with a few individually, especially if someone had a question. It was this really awesome, cool and open dialogue between my teammates and me. Believe it or not, most were mad at me for not coming out sooner and telling them. I thought that was the coolest reaction.
My teammates and friends expressed that nothing changed in how they viewed me or in our individual friendships. They had so many questions and I enjoyed answering them. It showed me they cared by wanting to be more informed and wanting to understand. A surreal feeling took over. For eight-plus- years I had dreaded this moment and thought it would never happen. In reality, coming out to my team and friends was a complete relief and moment of pure happiness.
Working as a graduate assistant coach now, I want to help create an environment, especially in athletics, where people don’t have to live in fear. Where bullying, harassment and language isn’t continuously pushing people further and further away from being comfortable with who they are.
People, perhaps particularly LGBTQ people, need to hear more stories of love and acceptance and welcoming. Growing up, I didn’t know this type of reaction and acceptance was possible, especially on a sports team. I didn’t know people like me existed: athletes who were talented at what they did and also happened to be gay. Since coming out and meeting new people — all the while being comfortable now with who I am — one thing I know to be most true is that I am not alone.
And you are not alone. There are people out there in this world who understand what you’re going through, how you feel, what scares you — people out there who fully realize the struggles you deal with internally and externally.
Not everyone’s coming out experience is the same, but understand and know that the fear, unknown, anxiety and other emotions associated with this process are shared by many. The road to self-acceptance and the timing for coming out are different for all of us. Just please remember: you are not alone.
by Avery Stone
As the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi draw nearer, debate is heating up about Russia’s anti-LGBT policies. Former Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey player Caitlin Cahow was kind enough to speak with GO! Athletes, sharing her take on boycotting Sochi, the tension LGBT athletes face today, and why she loves sports.
Cahow, a two-time Olympian, sits on the board of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CHWL). Recently, she has spoken with USA Today and AfterEllen.com, and at Boston Pride with Patrick Burke of the You Can Play Project. Additionally, she helped create the You Can Play Project video for the CWHL. Cahow is currently enrolled at Boston College Law School, and is a graduate of Harvard University and The Hotchkiss School.
As a two-time Olympian, why do sports matter so much to you?
Sports – and along with that, the philosophy of the Olympics – inspire people to be the best versions of themselves. Through sport, we have to put ourselves out there and make ourselves vulnerable to failure in order to succeed. And it’s impossible to talk about how important sports are to me without emphasizing the female athlete role models who came before me – starting with my mother, who was an elite figure skater. My early impressions of women were of strong, athletic, powerful, and intelligent women. This made me focus my life on becoming one of them.
Let’s move to a different and more complex topic: Sochi. Obviously, there has been a lot of media attention around Russia’s anti-LGBT policies and a lot of debate about whether or not American athletes should boycott the Olympics. Do you think American athletes should compete?
My argument is simple. Did you see Jesse Owens saying, “I don’t think I’m going to participate in the Olympics in Germany because it’s an affront to my race?” No. He went. He competed. He won. He did it silently and peacefully. He demonstrated the greatness of who he was as an African-American athlete. It’s precisely the same philosophy we should be taking to Russia. I don’t think any athletes are going to go over there just to protest Russian policy. That makes no sense. They’re going to go over there because they want to compete. Some of these events are decided in 30 seconds. Thirty seconds can win or lose an Olympic medal, and that’s the only 30 seconds in your life you’re going to get the opportunity to do it. There’s absolutely no reason in my mind to boycott an Olympics based upon ideology – not when the whole purpose of the Olympics is to create a free market exchange of ideas to bring out the best in all of us.
In addition to their sports, though, elite athletes must also deal with being in the media spotlight. Do you think athletes feel pressure to appear a certain way?
I think one of the problems you run into is as an athlete is that you’re in the limelight, and you have a very short amount of time to be there. Your focus is on your performance. You want to succeed for your team and our country. That said, I know that many athletes feel restricted in the ways in which they can express themselves in order to be seen as mainstream or appealing; the all-American branding that is put onto international-level athletes is pretty strict. There isn’t a whole lot of room yet for LGBT athletes. It’s still a huge risk in the minds of many athletes to step outside that definition of this All-American athlete. All elite athletes struggle with the public versus private tension, but I think LGBT athletes may have a little more to think about in Sochi.
GO! Athletes was fortunate enough to have our Collegiate Ambassador, Eliana Yankelev, present at a panel discussion about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. The event was held last Thursday at the University of Pennsylvania.
The event focused on the Olympics as not only a spotlight of world athletic culture, but as one of the only times the world can be focused on sociopolitical and civil rights issues at the same time.
On Friday, October 25th, Go! Athletes had the pleasure of joining forces with other social justice minded organizations in speaking at Drexel University’s Sport for Social Change Conference. Craig Cassey and Eliana Yankelev joined me in sharing stories, prompting conversations, and addressing questions about LGBTQ issues in sport with students and administrators from the greater Philadelphia area.
Craig and I started by sharing our stories and experiences as LGBTQ athletes. Craig shared his story as a track athlete who ran for Penncrest High School and Georgetown University. He discussed some of the fears surrounding being an out athlete such as facing stereotypes, getting hurt, and losing scholarships. I discussed the differences between my experiences as a closeted athlete in high school, and as an out athlete in college. Being able to feel safe and welcomed on the Smith College Ice Hockey team helped me grow both on and off the ice. We talked about the need for education on the meanings behind homophobic slurs and raising awareness about LGBTQ athletes. This lead to discussing our #Out4Olympics initiative and how Go! Athletes is raising awareness and support for LGBTQ athletes leading up to the Sochi Olympics this winter.
After sharing our experiences and work, we turned the questions to the audience, challenging them to come up with ways in which they can go back to their schools and organizations and raise awareness and support for LGBTQ Olympians. The responses we received were fantastic. One student organization brought up the idea of working with their campus’s LGBT center and GSA, while others discussed using social media to raise awareness. A professor even mentioned bringing this topic into her classroom, and challenging her students to discuss the impact that the anti-LGBT laws will have on the LGBTQ athletes and their experiences.
It was an amazing afternoon of speaking and discussion, and we were so proud to have been a part of it. A big thanks goes out to the Drexel Sports Management Student Union for organizing this conference and for having us on board.