Three-time NCAA all-American wrestler, Hudson Taylor, will speak at the University of Colorado Wednesday. Courtesy photo.
Three-time NCAA all-American wrestler, Hudson Taylor, will speak at the University of Colorado Wednesday. Courtesy photo. (Dakota Fine/HRC Equality magazine)
If you go

What: NCAA wrestler, LGBT ally Hudson Taylor

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Eaton humanities, room 1B50

For more: athleteally.com

T hree-time NCAA all-American wrestler Hudson Taylor is hoping to spark some "ah-ha" moments for athletes at the University of Colorado Wednesday.

Since having his own "ah-ha" moment in 2010, Taylor has tried to bridge the gaps between athletes and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities across the country, he said

"My senior year, I wore a human rights campaign sticker on my headgear because I thought it would look cool," said Taylor, who is now a wrestling coach at Columbia University. "I had no intention of turning it into anything... but in response, I got thousands of emails from closeted kids across country, and that was my 'ah-ha' moment."

For the past two years, Taylor has dedicated his life to being an LGBT ally, focusing his attention on athletics.

Taylor will speak to a group of about 250 CU students, including athletes, on Wednesday in Eaton Humanities, room 1B50 at 7:00 p.m.

The event takes place the day before National Coming Out Day and the CU versus Arizona State University "Blackout" football game -- the home game with the highest attendance of the season, according to the university.

Taylor will describe his journey into activism, including talking with his religious family about being an LGBT ally and fearing his teammates would think he was gay.

"If I can remove or flush out some of the obstacles and explain how I overcame them, then maybe they'll also take a stand," he said.

Last year, Taylor launched Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that encourages the athletic community to respect all individuals

A hostile attitude toward the LGBT community is not unique to athletes, Taylor said, but the competitive nature of sports fuels discrimination through phrases like "don't be a fag" and "you throw like a girl."

"There's a combination of homophobia and sexism in sports," Taylor said.

Sean Espinoza, a CU senior and member of the co-ed cheer team, said as an openly gay athlete, he relates to both sides of the issue.

During Saturday's football game, Espinoza said he was cheering to the student section when he heard a student yell, "tackle that faggot." Espinoza pointed to the student and told him to "watch his mouth" through his megaphone.

While the student did not apologize, he seemed embarrassed, and Espinoza said he didn't hear another slur that day.

"I've experienced homophobia and jerks everywhere, but one thing I've appreciated is that people seem to take responsibility for themselves when it's pointed out," Espinoza said. "Overall, my experience as an openly gay athlete at CU has been pretty positive.

Espinoza said he holds the LGBT students partially responsible for the disconnect between the gay community and athletes.

"It's up to LGBT students and allies to stand up to athletes and correct the language that's being used," Espinoza said. "They're just as wrong for staying away from sporting events rather than going and making a statement."

Taylor said he won't be happy unless he inspires at least one student to take action.

"I'll encourage the athletes to reach out to me and help them become allies too, but at the end of day if there's no next step, my visit's a failure," Taylor said.