by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
Hudson Taylor, a 23-year-old University of Maryland wrestling star and academic All American, is the kind of person the LGBT community is referring to when we say 'straight ally.'
In the world of athletics - from junior and high school sports teams through college and the professionals - homophobia is commonplace. No one could argue that few sports are Gay-tolerant. We all heard it in gym class; when one teammate wanted to downgrade another, he would almost always use the word "fag." So when athletes like Taylor, a straight boy who wore a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) sticker on his headgear in competition, come out against homophobia and bigotry in sports, we should take notice.
"The rights of LGBT persons are important to me for so many reasons," Hudson, a wrestler ranked in the top three in the country for the 197-pound NCAA wrestling weight class, told SGN. "Equal rights for the Gay community are important to me as an American, as a member of a larger society, as a person brought up with a strong social ethic and sense of moral responsibility, and as a regular person in a loving open relationship with my life partner."
Hudson is engaged to be married to Lia Alexandra Mandaglio. Hudson proposed to Mandaglio after the two saw the movie Milk. According to Hudson, the story meant a lot to the couple. That night, he presented her with a signed edition of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s book, Why We Can't Wait. She accepted, and the two plan to wed in September of next year.
Hudson said the book was fitting for the engagement because both he and Mandaglio are "very progressive and very outspoken in LGBT and feminist issues. The book symbolized how we felt and how we would act."
"I love the United States. I honor this country and respect its ideals, institutions, and laws. And, because of that profound respect, I question our legal system when I feel that it is acting unjustly," he told SGN. "This country is strong and inspiring because it develops; it acknowledges its errors and it rectifies them. I believe that our integrity as a people, as a country, demands that we acknowledge the equality of LGBT persons and afford them the same legal protections that we afford the heterosexual and non-Transgender community. Furthermore, as a member of our larger society, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for our country's history. When there is an injustice, I have to try my best to rectify it. LGBT equal rights are morally and legally sound. I cannot think of one argument against LGBT equality that does not include undertones of spiteful prejudice. That kind of tenor will never be a part of my life or my narrative as a member of society."
"As a man who wants to enter the institution of marriage and raise a family, I cannot imagine how I would feel if my country disrespected me so much as to prohibit me from legitimizing my romantic love with a consenting adult and parental relationship with my child through bigoted marriage and adoption laws," he continued. "Family, sex, and romance are fundamental parts of the human experience. The discourse and institutional labels and categories we assign to those parts of our lives can affect the quality of those experiences. LGBT equality should be at the forefront of all American's minds - Gay, straight, young, old, religious, or not. This is not a 'special interest'; this is an American interest and a moral interest."
Obviously Hudson has felt some pushback from teammates, or other students in general, for wearing the HRC sticker during competition and being an outspoken advocate for Gay rights. Still, the athlete has emerged unscathed and motivated to continue to fight for equality for all Americans.
"I chose to wear the HRC logo on my headgear because I felt that the symbol was a fairly well-known image of LGBT equality," Taylor told SGN. "I wanted my peers to notice the equality symbol and immediately understand the LGBT equal rights movement's message of freedom and fairness."
"I encountered some opposition from teammates regarding my LGBT advocacy and feminism - especially the decision to choose a new last name with my fiancée," Taylor explained. "I think that my candor makes some peers feel uncomfortable. Perhaps they worry that my stances could reflect on them in an undesirable way."
Taylor says he has also encountered opposition off the mat. "For example," he said, "a family member warned my mother that I could be jeopardizing my professional career by taking a public stance on Gay rights."
"I am stunned when I see people go to great lengths to preserve bigotry against the LGBT community," Taylor continued. "While I try to understand these individuals' viewpoints and create a healthy dialogue with them, I also don't dwell on that negativity. I've received so much support and encouragement from teammates, family, friends, and the public. This positive feedback completely overcomes any unconstructive or disapproving feedback. I focus on the positive, stay true to myself, and move forward with the support of those who love me."
Taylor told SGN that because of his pro-LGBT equality views, he has been accused of being Gay. "The accusations are pretty rare, because I have a very active and present fiancée in my life," he explained. "The accusations don't bother me at all. The only thing that bothers me is that some people think that Gay rights advocacy exists only among the Gay community, and thus any LGBT activist you meet must be Gay."
Taylor says he worries that "these illogical accusations actually reflect a silence and inaction among heterosexual community regarding LGBT rights."
Taylor promises that his LGBT activist energy will not dissipate upon graduation. Not only does he plan to continue his work with HRC, he has bigger plans in mind - which still include his love of wrestling.
"I have been blessed with opportunities to publicly support LGBT equal rights," Taylor told SGN. "I will continue to be an adamant supporter of equality in my private life and I will pursue any and all opportunities to continue advocating in the public domain."
Taylor says he hopes to stay as active and as educated as possible. "I also plan to attend law school in the fall of 2011," he said. "I'm hoping to focus on legislation and public policy and potentially pursue a career in politics. I plan to remain active in the wrestling community as a coach and perhaps an international athlete, especially with the Olympics and other international competitions approaching."
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