I am not personally acquainted with Ben Cohen, but I think I should be.
Cohen turns 34 years old today. He is a straight, married father of twin girls. He's also a retired British rugby player & England World Cup winner. Since leaving sports, Cohen devotes his energies full-time to the Ben Cohen Standup Foundation.
The goal of his Foundation is to combat bullying, especially to the GLBT community, & against homophobia in general.
Cohen: "I believe that every person on this planet has a right to be true to themselves, to love, be loved & to be happy. That's what we all want. I am in a privileged position to be able to spread some important messages across the globe & that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm passionate about standing up against homophobia & feel compelled to take action. It is time we stand up for what is right & support young people who are being harmed."
With his good looks, Cohen gets attention, & he knows it, making it work for him. He ia willing to pose shirtless for pictures & be a calendar boy if people listen to his message. The fact that he is a well-known, world-class athlete puts him in a unique position, particularly with the sporting community, including players & spectators. Remember how closeted athletes are in general, usually not coming out until after they've retired.
The public seems willing to pay attention to straight people talking about the intolerances toward & injustices against gay people, more than we lament our own plight. We need to be out to the world, stand up & be brave in the face of hatred, but having compassionate & influential people like Ben Cohen doesn't hurt. It feels good to have him on our side.
For me, Ben Cohen is a hero. He made the choice to shift his priorities from playing professional sports & earning a handsome salery, to adopting a cause not normally supported by someone who is straight. I don't doubt his efforts, through his Standup Foundation, will increase awareness, raise funds, & make a difference in the lives of young people, who are particularly vulnerable to the hate.
The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, Inc. is the world’s first foundation dedicated to raising awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying, & funding those doing real work to stop it. The foundation stands up against bullying regardless of to whom it happens, but because LGBT people are frequently targeted by bullies, Cohen & Co gives particular attention to our community. The foundation has removing homophobia from sports as central part of their mission.
Cohen: “We’re on a very simple mission, to create awareness & support organizations & to affect & educate that next generation. We need to teach people to understand that homophobic & racial slurs & bullying is not right. & to be part of the impact is fantastic. I think that the most important thing about it is that I’m straight & promoting a foundation that’s anti-homophobia. I’m bridging the gap between gay & straight. I think straight people are more likely to listen when they see me breaking down stereotypes.”
Besides being a Gay Hero & Icon, Cohen enjoys motorcycling, & spends most of his time with his family looking after the twins. His farm in Northamptonshire keeps him busy with a variety of animals including horses, sheep & chickens.
This spring, Cohen participated in our own Portland Pride celebrations, making personal appearances & raising funds. I was unable to secure a visit from him, although I had invited him to the Boys’ Fort to demonstrate how to handle his balls. I give Ben Cohen an A+ on the Steve Report Card.