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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Standing up with Ben (and Gareth)


I have been a fan of Ben Cohen for some time now, even before he came out as an ally to the LGBT community. What’s not to love? He’s a rugby player, drop dead handsome, and he’s on our side, I can’t think of anything else to add to the equation. Ben has been posting videos against homophobia and bullying, and has recently kicked off a Beers with Ben tour stopping at a variety of venues to support those efforts. As much as I would like to go and hang out with this great man and have some brew with him, I will have to settle for following his blog and doing what I can here in Jackson (alas, not on his itinerary).

As our kids get older, we are noticing that they are adopting who they follow and emulate on a regular basis. After a few episodes of “ ICarly” it became apparent that Sam was Anna’s hero, much to Eli’s dismay. Eli will copy anything that screams or makes noise on the TV and loves books that have that vibe. Even though he’s not real verbal yet, those things stick out for him and he readily copies. We worried early on in the adoption process about being matched with a boy, as we have gone on record as saying that it’s easier (and cooler) for a girl to have two dads than a boy. Just look at Rachel on “Glee” and how is she very vocal and sometimes very adamant about her parents and their sexuality. The slur “fag” is still the default taunt for playground harassment, and for a boy with two dads it’s open season, so naturally, we’re going to have to be aware of that as Eli gets older.

So how does Ben fit into all this? The culture of sports in the USA isn’t exactly ready for their close up on “Glee” quite yet. There is still much homophobia and taunts on and off the field. Watch a few hours of programing on ESPN and report back to me on the commercials you see. They may not be overtly homophobic, but they border on it on a regular basis. From NASCAR and the innuendos about Jeff Gordon to the lesbian slurs regarding female athletes, it’s not a pretty scene on or off the pitch.

But travel over the pond, and we have people like Ben and Gareth Thomas ( an amazing Welshman who came out) who are standing up to that kind of nonsense and making the world a better place for LGBT and questioning youth all over Europe, the Americas, and beyond. We hope that Ben and Gareth are still playing when Eli gets older and can begin to get behind a sports figure. I know Tod will do his best to indoctrinate Eli to the culture of the Big House at the University of Michigan, and I know my family will do their best to pull him south to the Buckeyes. Add in his grandpa and foster dad and their love of Michigan State and the boy will have much to cheer for regardless of the school. But I want them to know about Ben and Gareth as well. I want them to know that superstars don’t have to be on the pitch to make a difference in the world.

For more on Ben and his efforts please go to his great website:
http://ben-cohen.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=2&Itemid=106

For more on Gareth and his journey:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/gareth-thomas-how-the-truth-has-set-me-free-2046501.html