Mormonism, professional rugby, hip hop music, conservative politics – these places traditionally aren’t typically gay-friendly or even gay-tolerant. But sometimes support come from the unlikeliest sources. Here are 5 allies who came from places that typically produce our adversaries.
1. Marie Osmond
The Osmonds were all raised in the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism) that believes homosexuality is an immoral but curable condition. In the 1970s they were the epitome of conservative wholesomeness, none more so than Marie, the only daughter in the musical family. Famous for her relentless cheerfulness Marie achieved musical success very quickly – she is still the youngest person to ever have a #1 hit on the US Country charts.
Marie’s wider family is well known for being anti-gay, especially eldest brother Alan who even organized an anti-marriage equality rally. Marie however, has been a gay ally, likely a result of having a lesiban daughter, Jessica. When news of Jessica’s homosexuality broke Marie made her position clear – “I love my daughter, she’s my baby girl. So what if she’s gay?”. Marie even threw her support behind gay marriage, claiming that this came not just from wanting the best for her daughter – “I believe in her civil rights” – but also from her faith – “The God that I believe in is the God of love, not fear.”
2. Ben Cohen
The world of rugby has traditionally been one of “real men” – meaning no gays need apply. In the early 2000’s Cohen was English rugby’s most talented winger. He had a successful professional career in both France and at home and also played 57 tests for the national side, scoring 31 tries. In 2003 he was part of the England team that won rugby’s most prestigious competition – the World Cup. In 2011 Cohen surprised many when he quit rugby to focus on a charity he had set up. The mission of the Ben Cohen Standup Foundation is “to raise awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying and to raise funds to support those doing real-world work to stop it”.
Cohen set up the Foundation in memory of his father, who had died from injuries sustained when he stood up to bullies undertaking an assault. It was through the Foundation that Cohen became a hero to those who were being bullied due to homophobia. “I started to hear their stories and realised that we were suffering the same sort of pain and anguish but at the hands of other people – me with what happened to my dad and the knock on effect that had on my whole family, and them with coping quite often with homophobia.” Cohen has since been happy to use his fame – and his body – to promote the StandUp message.