GO! Athletes, the largest network of LGBT current and former high school and college athletes, has announced the formation of a new mentorship program. The organization will connect younger LGBT athletes with more experienced people in sports to help navigate school, work, personal life or other areas the mentees may need insights.
The program has a lot of potential. At Outsports we get requests all the time from LGBT athletes struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. Having a formalized system where athletes can connect with other people like them in their sport or their area of the country will be a powerful tool to encourage more and more people in sports to find the inner strength to come out in their personal lives and publicly.
Plus, if the athlete wants to keep his or her identity anonymous, that's no problem, according to GO! Athletes executive director Chris Mosier:
"The program is free and confidential. Confidentiality will be discussed between the mentor and the mentee; as a pair, they can determine what to share and how open to be about their involvement in social media and other spaces. The only person at GO! Athletes who knows a person has applied is the mentorship coordinator, and this information will be kept private."
If you're an LGBT athlete who would like a mentor, head over to GO! Athletes. Here is all the information from GO! Athletes:
NEW YORK, NY, November 18, 2015 - 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.
At GO! Athletes, we 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. We are unwavering in our 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 have asked us for in the past."
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.
For more information or to apply to be a mentor or a mentee, visit www.goathletes.org/mentorship.