pride month Archives - Athletes for Hope

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Pride Month Athlete Spotlight

Pride Month Athlete Spotlight

Erin McLeod on Pride & Athlete Ally

Erin McLeod is a goalkeeper for the NWSL’s Orlando Pride and Canadian national team. She is a 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist. Along with many of her teammates, Erin joined athletes all over the country by supporting Playing for Pride throughout the month of June (and beyond!) to benefit Athlete Ally.

Why did you decide to support Athlete Ally’s Playing for Pride campaign this year?

This year – more than any year, for sure – there has been an attack on trans youth. It’s a scary time in the U.S for a lot of reasons, but I think it’s really important for young people to see people who are like them, whether that’s on TV or [elsewhere]. Representation is huge and visibility is massive and I think as professional athletes, especially female professional athletes or trans athletes, we have this opportunity to be visible to be relatable, to be reachable. At a lot of professional sports games you get to actually meet the players and that’s kind of a unique situation. So I always think that it is important for people to see someone who is like them. It means that anything is possible, that they can be authentically themselves. [Things like sexual orientation and gender] can be challenging and fragile, and there’s a lot of pressures from society, so I think as professional athletes we have this opportunity to stand up for what we believe in and for young people to see that they are not alone is incredibly important. 

Erin McLeod faces the camera cheering with her arms open and Olympic gold medal around her neck.

Representation is huge and visibility is massive and I think as professional athletes, especially female professional athletes or trans athletes, we have this opportunity to be visible to be relatable, to be reachable.

Erin McLeod

Why is it important to celebrate Pride?

Kind of along those same lines! For me, the first time I went to a Pride parade was in Toronto a million years ago. When I was first struggling with my sexual orientation I was worried because I had pictured having this family and children and I thought that if I didn’t end up with a man that I would have to sacrifice all of that. I remember watching that Pride parade and there was a section of families. Two moms, two dads and for the first time I felt this sense of relief that I could live an authentic life, be true to who I am and also have a family. So that was a huge moment. That visibility I think is incredibly powerful. More than anything, I think in life sometimes the hardest thing is to be who you are. So if you can just be that and love who you want I think that is powerful and something to really celebrate. 

Why is it important to support the LGBTQ+ community?

As I mentioned before, trans youth is getting hammered. There are so many politicians that are trying to create a lot of laws and limitations on trans youth, and trans people in general. It’s hard enough to be who you are even if you’re straight! So to be who you are and to figure out how you identify, your gender expression, your gender identity, to find out your sexual orientation, all of these things, it is a process. Straight people are still not coming out to their parents and until that happens, it is still not the norm of society so I think it’s important to help those people feel loved for being who they are. Love is really the most important thing in the world. And the way I see love is it’s unconditional and it doesn’t discriminate. So why should we?

Erin McLeod standing in front of a gay pride flag and smiling

Love is really the most important thing in the world. And the way I see love is it’s unconditional and it doesn’t discriminate. So why should we?

Erin McLeod

Why is it important to use your platform to support and uplift LGBTQ+ rights?

As someone who identifies as a gay cisgender woman, I think it’s important to be who I am and not have to hide any part of me because in life we can choose to live a life of love and abundance or fear and scarcity and I think a lot of times, right now anyways, society is making people feel afraid to be who they are and I feel like real happiness is only reached when you are authentic. So it’s important to speak for those who don’t feel comfortable speaking and I also think it’s important for people to understand that all of these labels are labels and at the end of the day we are just dealing with human beings. The end of ignorance is education and for people like myself to use our platform to educate.

Erin McLeod wearing her Team Canada warm up gear, kneeling on a soccer fie.d

The end of ignorance is education and for people like myself to use our platform to educate.

Erin McLeod

About Athlete Ally

Athlete Ally is a nonprofit organization that uses the power of sport to uplift and end discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community. The organization believes that everyone should have equal access, opportunity, and experience in sports — regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Their mission is to end the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sport and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQI+ equality. Learn more about Athlete Ally and how to support their incredible work here.

AFH Spotlight

Local Community Organization Spotlight: CASA League

Recognizing the Community Leaders Who Celebrate Pride All Year Round

by Rachel Chao, AFH Graduate Social Work & Public Health Intern

At 7pm on a Thursday, a soccer field in South Philadelphia begins to come alive with people lugging in equipment. They say hello with hugs, fist bumps, or high fives, and joke around between putting on either cleats and shin guards. They talk about how fast the season’s gone by, talk about the last game and strategies for the next one. Occasionally, people greet each other with “Happy Pride Month!”, and talk about the upcoming Pride Parade in Philadelphia. This community and these teams are part of the CASA League in Philadelphia, a non-profit organization with competitive and recreational games. They are one of the few leagues to recognize and welcome players who are non-binary, transgender, or identify as a gender other than the one assigned at birth. Their league is inclusive and was created to be accepting and advocate for folx in the LGBTQ+ community. 

a hand holding a rainbow pride pin over a pile of soccer gear like cleats and shin guards

“I came out as non-binary last June, and was looking for a team to play with. I found CASA,” said Ally, who plays on in the Women’s & Non-Binary league. “I really like how inclusive it is, like making sure people’s pronouns are represented. I like how they eliminated ‘co-ed’ and just started matching people where they fit…where you fit, is where you play.” 

For athletes who identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, this year has felt especially difficult. To identify as a gender differently than the one assigned at birth, it is complicated to navigate the policies and protocols that their governing body might enforce. The controversy surrounding transgender individuals has made it difficult for them to feel welcome, or even able, to participate in group sports. To come out as gay, lesbian, trans, or queer means risking isolation from their teammates, or organization. 

For these athletes, this space is an invaluable community. 

“It means a lot to me; it’s so much more than just soccer,” says Cindy, who has played in CASA’s league for 5 years. “I don’t know if I thought I would have really needed this, but I do. This is how I met all my queer friends. Thanks to this league, I feel more myself. I get to play with my best friends, I get to play with my wife. I think it’s easy for organizations to just put up a rainbow flag, and say ‘we’re gay-friendly,’ but CASA actually does the work.” 

8 soccer players pose on a soccer field in their uniforms

CASA started their mixed division (called “Mixtos”) in 2020, to welcome people of gender identities. Yunio Martinez, CASA’s DEI officer, said that the decision was easy to make, and crucial to supporting their community. “You listen to the community to see what they want.” He started playing in the league right after it was formed, over ten years ago. “For someone like me, LGBT, when you get involved, you do it to make a safer space in your community. I want to make everyone included in this space, everyone can play.”

CASA is might be known for their inclusivity, but they are also very active in their advocacy efforts. Gina, a goalie who has been playing with CASA for four years, is an ally to her LGBTQ+ teammates. She is appreciative of their advocacy efforts, which includes mental health advocacy. She loves how she, and others, are unconditionally welcomed. “I wanted a place with no judgement, that would include everyone. CASA supports a bunch of causes, and the mental health one is big for me. I’m open about my own challenges, and I want others to feel that too.” CASA has a team focused on supporting mental wellness in athletes, named Sporting Serotonin. Its goal is to make sure that people can break the stigma of mental illness, and create a community to reach out to. Gina says, “Everyone is supportive, everyone is understanding, everyone wants to make a difference.” 

CASA’s goal is to make soccer inclusive, welcoming, and accessible to everyone. “Fútbol para todos” is a guiding principle and core value. At a soccer field in South Philadelphia, they have created a community, a safe and brave space. They’re ready for more people to join them, and to welcome more people into their league. 

Ally’s advice to people who are looking for a space to play and compete? “Come on out, because you’re going to find a community.” 

Layshia Clarendon Shares What Pride Month Means to Them

It’s Pride Month – a month to celebrate diversity, inclusion and shine a light on the struggles that the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered, Queer community faces to this day. We asked our athlete community what Pride Month means to them and Layshia Clarendon stepped up to share their story.

Selected #9 overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft, WNBPA First Vice President Layshia Clarendon currently plays for the New York Liberty. Layshia captured gold with Team USA in the 2018 FIBA World Championships, was named a WNBA All Star and lead the league in total assists for the 2017 season. In the off-season, you can find them on the sidelines providing color commentary for the Pac-12 Network and the NBA. Clarendon is a noted social advocate, speaker and writer, who is often asked to lend their voice and opinions on various social topics. Here are their thoughts on what Pride Month means to them.


“I remember wanting to paint a rainbow on my shoe in college. I was told that it would hurt my brand and I shouldn’t draw attention to myself that way. I did it anyway.

So many of us have had to overcome being told to hide who we are by people we loved and respected. Despite the array of rainbow products and business advertisements we will see during Pride month, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Being a queer person still puts you at risk for violence, harassment, and bullying. It’s still difficult to navigate workplaces, religious spaces, and to find community. As a queer black woman, I live at the intersections of being a woman, being black and being gay. In society, we haven’t done a good job of integrating our fight for social justice to include the people who fall into multiple categories of marginalization. We have seen the queer community as a whole not stand up for issues affecting the black community and we have seen the black community not embrace their queer peers. I often ask myself, where do I fall in all of this? What side do I choose when both are at odds? Do I decide to just be queer today and black tomorrow?

That is why if we want to be activists, social justice oriented, good allies or even just good people, we MUST make sure we approach the work through an intersectional lens. It’s why we have to show up for each other and especially for the folks who live on the margins of society. It’s why I fight hard and try to speak out with and for black trans women. They have 3 layers of oppression working against them. Being trans, black, and a woman. Pick any one of those and violence is often lurking too close to home.

My hope for the future is that we are willing to look ourselves in the mirror and ask the hard questions about where our blind spots are. My hope is that we are willing to be wrong, to grow, to change, to be uncomfortable. I hope we are willing to learn. My biggest hope is that we will fight for the people who are the most marginalized and the most different from ourselves – if we do that, we protect ourselves in the end.

As athletes, we know how to come together and work towards a common goal despite a multitude of backgrounds and differences. It’s what makes sports so special. I believe that same attitude can truly make our world a place where people are loved, valued, have equal rights, and can belong and are safe to live freely.”