"Despite the increased visibility of the LGBTQ sports equality movement, many athletes, especially young athletes, still struggle to come out on their teams and feel supported by the broader athletic culture."
GO! Athletes has launched a national Mentorship Program to connect current and former student athletes who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, or queer (LGBTQ). The program is free and open to the public, and is currently accepting applications for both mentors and mentees at www.goathletes.org/mentorship
How It Works:
The GO! Athletes Mentorship Program will connect LGBTQ athlete mentees and mentors to provide a safe space and open dialogue, support, and empowerment. Mentors and mentees represent a wide variety of athletic experiences and personal backgrounds. Mentors will help mentees explore their personal interests, navigate being out or not out in particular spaces, share their stories if so desired, learn leadership skills for working within the LGBTQ sports movement, and establish a sense of community.
Mentors in the program will be trained in peer counseling and provided a support network to assist in their mentorship. Applications for both mentors and mentees are accepted on a rolling basis, and matches are made when there is a good fit.
GO! Athletes believe the key to meaningful, sustainable change within organized sports is making sure that all athletes at all levels are equally supported – regardless of their sexuality, gender identity, ability level, or the popularity of their chosen sport. GO! Athletes is unwavering in their commitment to this principle. In order to accomplish the aforementioned objective, the GO! Athletes mentorship program will provide one-on-one peer support for openly LGBTQ and closeted athletes to assure they are supported throughout their competitive and recreational sports careers.
“I often think about what it would have been like to have a mentor or someone to look to when I was struggling with my identity,” said Chris Mosier, Executive Director of GO! Athletes and the first openly transgender man on a Men's US National Team. “It would have been a game changer. This program will provide that one-on-one connection so many LGBTQ athletes wish we had.”
Why It Matters:
Research indicates that LGBTQ youth, athletes included, will benefit from having a mentor. Unfortunately, however, many of those LGBTQ youth in need do not have access to a mentorship program: According to a January 2014 report by MENTOR, about 89% of at-risk LGBTQ youth have never had a formal mentor and 37% have never had any mentor. The report also found that those 18-21 year olds that did have mentors were more likely to enroll in post-secondary education, join sports teams, volunteer, and hold leadership positions. Thus, LGBTQ mentoring programs for athletes are an untapped resource to keep more young people involved in sports beyond grade school.
Young LGBTQ athletes face a critical need for mentoring services specific to their dual identities as both athletes and LGBTQ. A 2012 report by Campus Pride found that 1 in 4 LGBQ student athletes in college “are pressured to be silent about their sexual identity among teammates, coaches, and other athletes.” They are three times more likely to experience harassment compared to non-LGBQ student athletes, and the report found they are also unlikely to believe their administration or athletic department would support them. Unfortunately, out of the nearly 400 athletes surveyed, only a few identified as trans, meaning that these student athletes were not included in quantitative analyses.
Despite the increased visibility of the LGBTQ sports equality movement, many athletes, especially young athletes, still struggle to come out on their teams and feel supported by the broader athletic culture. As more and more attention throughout the sports equality movement has been dedicated to high-profile stories of just a few out athletes, a disproportionately small amount of time, energy, and resources have been dedicated to creating the infrastructure that will support athletes at a local level throughout the United States. These are athletes who struggle every day in their local communities to reconcile their sexual orientation and gender identity with their desire to openly and honestly participate in competitive or recreational sports. Our goal is to correct this imbalance as we support LGBTQ athletes ages 18 and older at all levels and geographic locations.
GO! Athletes is a support network of current and former LGBTQ collegiate and high school athletes which creates safer spaces in the athletic community through visibility, education, and advocacy. GO! Athletes is a 501c3; donations to support GO! Athletes and the Mentorship Program can be made online. The GO! Athletes Mentorship Program has been made possible with generous support of Delaware Valley Legacy Fund and the LGBT Sports Coalition, in partnership with GLAAD and Jeff Sheng.
For more information or to apply to be a mentor or a mentee, visit www.goathletes.org/mentorship
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The LGBT pride flag was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. It was originally called the Freedom Flag and was comprised of 8 colored stripes, each denoting a different meaning.