UK Rugby player Ben Cohen has been a very vocal straight ally to the gay community for years. In 2009, he openly stated that Rugby was ready for an openly gay player just months before Gareth Thomas' momentous coming out and earlier this year shot an anti-bullying video alongside Bravo's Andy Cohen. I spoke to him as he prepares to visit the United States in May for his Ben Cohen Acceptance Tour.
SP: You've recorded a couple of anti-bullying videos with words of support toward suicidal or bullied young people. What would you say to those who are doing the bullying?
BC: I say simply stop and think. What is that person were to finish their life because of you. How would that feel? Also, bullies often have issues of their own – why else would they do it. Maybe they need to face their issues.
SP: Have you yourself ever been the victim of a bully?
BC: Not in the true sense of the word but I have been the victim of the media at times – goes with the territory, but it is still not nice. You have to say to yourself "Don’t take it personally" but thats not easy –especially when the claims made about you are unjust. It’s frustrating.
SP: You're touring the USA this summer with your "Acceptance Tour 2011" to combat homophobia. What sparked the idea for the tour?
BC: For some years now we have been receiving messages and emails from people all over the world with some heart wrenching stories. I really felt that I wanted to do something about it and I felt that I could. The video I made sparked off all sorts of things really, as well as emotions in me as a sports figure and as a Dad, so we started thinking about what we could do. Then we received an invitation to go to a sports bar in New York. And then a proposal from a Gay/Gay Friendly rugby club in Atlanta at the same time. We work with Geoff in Florida who just came on the team to help Jill with the Calendar, but then became involved representing my work in the USA and he has been linking up ever since pulling everything together. Exciting times!
Read the rest of the interview, AFTER THE JUMP.