LGBT-Empowered: Shaun T Partners Up With Athlete Ally

‘Haters Cannot Touch My Shine:’ From Rockin’ Body to #Shaunspiration and Beyond

When we last checked in with Shaun T, we found him out, proud, and happily married, emphasizing equality by weaving positive social shares in with his personal life and daily goings on, on all fronts.  They say that “slow and steady wins the race,” even when you’ve created mind-numbingly hardcore workouts.

In the wake of his heartfelt story of love, celebrity fitness trainer Shaun T. continues to inspire and capture the imaginations of his fan base with his latest venture: signing up to be Athlete Ally’s newest celebrity ambassador.

Forging a unified front with celebratory tweets sent on July 11, Shaun T and Athlete Ally shared a graphic of a ripped Shaun T striking a workout pose.  With inimitable positivity in tow it reads, “Inclusion is essential in sports.  It can never be secondary.”

In the organization’s own words, “Athlete Ally is a nonprofit that empowers athletes to be role models and challenge homophobia and transphobia in sports.”

Founded in January 2011 by self-defined “straight ally” Executive Director Hudson Taylor (currently a competitive wrestler and coach at Columbia University), Athlete Ally is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization emulating the “gay-straight alliance” model.  The nonprofit brand emphasizes inclusivity and learning opportunities.  It has co-led educational awareness campaigns with athletes such as Olympic wrestler Ellis Coleman, NBA star Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), WNBA Player Kristi Toliver (Los Angeles Sparks) and more, while promoting Public Service Announcement multimedia awareness drives to honor sportsmen like Jason Collins.

Co-launched alongside their social media campaigns, Athlete Ally’s press release, also published on July 11, further explores the value Shaun T brings to the table.  In their release, Hudson Taylor continued, “It is a true honor to have Shaun T join the Athlete Ally Movement.  He is a catalyst for the inclusion and positive change that we are continuing to see in the venue of sports.  Another vocal, recognizable fitness and athletic personality on our team will undoubtedly help spread our message.”

While Athlete Ally also works closely with the National Basketball Players Association, the NCAA and the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center among many other prominent alliances, Shaun T continues to exert influence in the fitness world.

As one of Beachbody’s most prominent fitness coaches, he just launched his official Fly Fitness Wear line and released his FOCUS T25 program which continues to lead Beachbody to profits of $250-500 million yearly.

Shaun T has worked out with everyone from Dr. Oz, to Ellen to Tyra Banks and regularly does in-person meet and greets and worldwide in outreach for his Beachbody-trained coaches and fans.

In the press release mentioned above, Shaun T enthused, “The joy of feeling free to be oneself in all aspects of life is not something that can endure if there is an underlying stressor. The ability of an athlete to step into their arena and feel free to be 100% focused on competing in their sport is the catalyst which separates the elite from the dedicated.  This is essential to an athlete’s success—it cannot be secondary.”

Learn more about Athlete Ally at, and Shaun T’s official homepage can be found at

Employment Non-Discrimination Act Passes U.S. Senate Committee

Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Passes Bill, 15 to 7

What is ENDA?

In thirty-three states that don’t have legislation prohibiting discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is perfectly legal to fire a LGBT employee solely due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, characteristics completely irrelevant to job performance. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would finally put in place uniform and comprehensive protections for the LGBT workforce in all fifty states.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) submitted to the Committee letters from over one hundred businesses and over 140 religious organizations endorsing ENDA.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is legislation that would provide protections in the workplace for LGBT employees.  According to the Williams Institute at UCLA Law, it is estimated that the number of LGBT employees are as follows: seven million in the private sector; one million state and local employees, and 200,000 employees of the federal government. Thirty percent of state and local LGBT employees live in California and New York.

Who is Exempt From ENDA

The current version of the bill #S815 prohibits private employers with more than fifteen employees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Exempt from the legislation are non-profit membership-only clubs, except labor unions, and religious organizations.

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois is the co-sponsor of the bill along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Senator Harkin is the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  

How the Bipartisan Vote Split:

Only Republicans at the hearing were Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Kirk (R-Il.).  Every Democrat except Casey (Pa) and Hagan (D-NC) were at the ENDA hearing. The Republicans who voted no were  Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Rand Paul (Ky), Pat Roberts (Kansas) and Tim Scott (S.C.)  Republican Senators Orrin Hatch, Mark Kirk, and Lisa Murowski voted yes to the passage of ENDA.

History of ENDA

The full Senate may take up the bill in the fall of 2013.  Enda hasn’t had a vote on the House or Senate Floor since November 2007, when it passed the House by 235-184.  It has been introduced in every session of Congress except one since 1994.  Representative Jared Polis, Democrat of  Colorado introduced the bill in the House and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Or) introduced it in the Senate.

Comments About the Vote on July 10, 2013

Senator Harkin:  “This is a great day, not only for the Committee, but also for America.  It is time, long, past time to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Senator Mark Kirk: “ The bill is necessary so gay Americans won’t have that potential cloud of discrimination over them.”

The White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of ENDA, and continue to urge the House to move forward on this bill that upholds America’s core values of fairness and equality.”

Senator Orrin Hatch:” I voted for it because it prohibits discrimination that should not occur in the workplace.”

President Obama wants to sign the legislation and is urging quick passage of ENDA.


One In Four Young Gay People Assaulted

Shocking new researched finds that one in four young gay people in England have been assaulted simply because of their sexuality, whilst over half have self-harmed in some way.  Forty-seven per cent say they have received threats or intimidation as a result of being gay. These statistics are alarming and the research from Youth Chances, are a stark reminder of the difficulties faced by young lesbian, gay, bi and transgender people in the UK.

Youth Chances are undertaking the biggest social research project into young GLBT people across the UK. Eventually this three-year project will conducted research with some 15,000 young people, whilst the shocking figures released last week are based on initial findings from the first 3,500 responses.

Many experts and observers are very concerned by the statistics on self-harm, which, based on this initial research, are much higher than the national average of around one in 12 young people. Some researchers and commentators suggest this may be indicative of the mental turmoil many GLBT teenagers go though during their educational lives whilst coming to terms with and coming out about their sexuality.

According to this research young gay women were significantly more likely to self-harm, two-thirds said they had hurt themselves on purpose, compared to thirty-seven per cent of young men. However, the most vulnerable seemed to be the young Transgender people, nearly four out of five admitting they had deliberately self-harmed.

Youth Chances project manager, Dan Baker, said: “In 2012, despite improvements which entitle LGBT people to equality, it’s still a really challenging environment to grow up in. Self-harm jumped out as a really alarming statistic. Self-harm is a way of people expressing an internal issue that they might not be able to express. Maybe Britain is not as tolerant as we thought.”

The UK is sometimes considered to be well ahead of many other countries around the world in terms of GLBT equality and the fight against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, yet this research shows there are still large swathes of prejudice where homophobic bullying presents a pressing and worrying problem. Youth Chances say that the research demonstrates that public attitudes have yet to catch up with the advancing legal situation. “There’s a lot of great equality now, such as allowing gay couples to adopt and have civil partnerships. But, despite the progress, there seem to be lots of cases of harassment and even assault. If people are being taunted or attacked because of who they are, it shows public opinion and behaviour hasn’t caught up with legislation.” Said Dan Baker.

Many believe part of the problem is that bullying about sexuality is not being adequately controlled or handled sufficiently in schools. According to recent research from gay rights and equality charity Stonewall, ninety per cent of secondary school teachers and around forty per cent of primary teachers had regularly witnessed homophobic bullying in schools.

I personally am appalled by the initial findings of this research, I really thought we had come a great distance from the kind of abuse I faced coming out in the early 80’s, yet it seems the same sort of prejudice and discrimination is still out there, in fact according to this report, it seems more vicious than it was in my youth. We as a society should really see this as a frightening wake up call, young people should not be having to cope with such prejudice and hatred. Every school has a duty to protect kids from all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying and they should work so much harder to achieve an environment, not only of learning, but also of tolerance and acceptance free from hatred and abuse.


Calls For UK Gay Blood Ban Removal.

A petition calling for the UK government to remove the ban on gay blood donations attracted over 8,000 signatures before it closed at the weekend.

Mr King who set up the petition said reaching 8,000 signatures was a “fantastic achievement” adding “In the past year the campaign to end the gay blood ban has come so far, we’ve had leaflets on stalls at university freshers’ fayres across the country, there’s been coverage in national newspapers, the Liberal Democrats made opposition to the ban their official policy and today 8,082 people have called on the Government to end this ban once and for all.“

A year ago the blanket ban on gay blood was partially lifted, allowing men who have sex with men to donate, providing they hadn‘t done so for a whole year before donating. Many saw this as a blanket ban just under another name and also indicative of the homophobia and prejudice of the blood service.

“The move to a 12 month deferral was a small step forward but for sexually active gay and bisexual men it is a ban in all but name and it was a decision entirely lacking in scientific foundation.” said King.

The petition called for a blanket ban on ‘men who have sex with men’ to be replaced with individual risk-based donor screening to allow gay and bisexual men to contribute to life-saving resources.

The current screening procedures group gay and bisexual men together as if they form a uniform risk to the blood stocks. A sensible, scientific and evidence-based donor screening policy would assess the risk of an individual’s sexual behaviour, without reference to their sexual orientation, King suggested.

The hypocrisy of the current system is all to evident, a heterosexual who has unprotected sexual intercourse with prostitutes regularly can still donate blood freely, yet gay or bisexual men in a long term committed relationship are unable to unless they abstain from sexual intercourse, unprotected or otherwise cannot.


Desmond Tutu Calls For Acceptance

All too often a statement about homosexuality from a leading religious figure is bad news for equality and good news for bigotry and discrimination. However, the latest statement from the archbishop Desmond Tutu was different, not filled with the usual fire and brimstone of biblical hate towards gay people one has come to expect from church leaders. The veteran former Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa has surprised many with a call to global leaders to decriminalisation of homosexuality to aid the fight against HIV. He also compared the current anti-gay laws to racial segregation of apartheid of the past in his home nation, reports Jason Shaw.

Archbishop Tutu was writing in respected medical journal, The Lancet, stating the laws around the world which criminalise “so many forms of human love and commitment” will be looked on in the future in a similar way to apartheid laws, calling them “so obviously wrong”.

The archbishops article is part of series in the Lancet regarding HIV transmission among men who have sex with men, he wrote: “The papers in The Lancet Series on HIV in men who have sex with men (MSM) tell us about how far we have to go in providing care, in acceptance, in ceasing to withhold our love. They also tell us what we each already know, if we are prepared to be honest with ourselves—that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are a part of every human community.”

In a bold move, the cleric said gays “already have God’s full love and acceptance — they are his children too”, but said they need “acceptance” and “love” from others in society. He said it was “up to all to work to change” the laws which treat gays as “inferior”. He added: “I have no doubt that in the future, the laws that criminalise so many forms of human love and commitment will look the way the apartheid laws do to us now—so obviously wrong. Such a terrible waste of human potential.” “Young people” around the world whom he said “seem to already know this” and have distanced themselves from “intolerance” of their forebears.

In a direct message to young gay, bisexual and transgender people, the Archbishop wrote: “God loves you as you are. He wants you to live and to thrive. So please take care of yourself, educate yourself about HIV, protect your partners, honour and cherish them. And never let anyone make you feel inferior for being who you are. When you live the life you were meant to live, in freedom and dignity, you put a smile on God’s face.”

Many health professionals and charities have welcomed the Archbishop’s remarks including HIV and sexual health charity the UK’s Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) who acclaimed them as “inspirational”. Director of Health Improvement at the THT, Genevieve Edwards, said: “Archbishop Tutu’s words are both moving and heartening. Stigma is a major factor driving the disproportional spread of the HIV epidemic among gay and bisexual men, not just in the UK but worldwide. If you spend your life being told you are a second class citizen, you have less motivation to take care of yourself and you’re more likely to take risks with your health. To improve someone’s self care you need, first and foremost, to improve their self esteem. The Archbishop’s commentary should act as a clarion call to all of us, whatever our beliefs, that there is a basic human responsibility to accept and respect others for who they are. With more than 100,000 people now living with HIV in the UK, faith groups have an increasingly important role to play in raising awareness and halting the spread of infection, outside the church as well as within. It is inspirational to see Archbishop Tutu leading the charge on this.”

The Archbishops remarks come hot on the heals of news that strains of drug-resistant HIV have been on the increase in parts of sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade. Studies on 26,000 untreated HIV positive people in developing countries were reviewed by a team of experts. They say resistance could build up if people fail to stick to drug regimes and because monitoring could be poor. Drug resistance is becoming a serious problem in Africa where alternative treatments were lacking and general healthcare is of a lower standard than in more developed countries.

Getting Healthy Down Under!

Australia will become the first country in the world to administer the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) to all teenage boys as a matter of course. HPV is the virus that causes genital warts as well as various types of cancer including cervical and anal as is passed through sexual contact.

HPV Immunization

It is expected that the introduction of the vaccine to boys come into force early next year and should significantly lower the risk of infection to the young population of Australia, including gay men who are considered to be in the highest risk group in Australia. The vaccine is already routenly given to teenage girls and has shown a reduction in the number of cases presenting.

“Every parent wants their child to be healthy and that is why the Australian Government is delivering the best protection we have against HPV related cancer through this vaccine.“ Australian Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said recently. “By building on Australia’s world-class immunization program, we’re stopping preventable HPV related disease and cancers, and that makes a difference to the quality of life of our families. Already the HPV vaccine has had an impact – significantly reducing the number of lesions that lead to cervical cancer amongst women in the vaccinated age group. It is estimated that a quarter of new infections will be avoided by extending the vaccine to boys.”

In the UK the British Association Of Sexual Health and HIV made a call to the government stating the HPV virus vaccine should be administered free to gay men. A suggestion backed by the HIV/AIDS charity Terrence Higgins Trust among others.


Truvada approved for prevention

There has been a mooted welcome to the announcement from The US Food and Drug Administration confirming it had approved the drug Truvada for use in preventing HIV in high risk groups in the US.

Truvada has been approved for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP, which is the use of antiretroviral drugs to decrease the likelihood of HIV infection in people with a high risk of contracting it. In the announcement the FDA also emphasised the need for other preventative measures such as safe sex practices, risk reduction counselling and regular HIV testing.

Speaking yesterday the FDA commissioner Margaret A Hamburg said: “Today’s approval marks an important milestone in our fight against HIV. Every year, about 50,000 US adults and adolescents are diagnosed with HIV infection, despite the availability of prevention methods and strategies to educate, test, and care for people living with the disease. New treatments as well as prevention methods are needed to fight the HIV epidemic in this country.”

The move will be watched closely around the world, including here in the UK where a Medical Research Council and the Health Protection Agency drug trial will be taking place during the autumn. This clinical trial, called Proud, will looking into and examine the full efficacy of a daily PrEP pill to prevent HIV infection spreading.

Critics fear that the daily taking the drug will lead to an increase in promiscuity amongst gay men increasing the number or other sexually transmitted infections and also warned that whilst the drug has been shown effective at preventing HIV in some cases, it doesn’t eliminate the risk altogether.