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Former Weber State athlete advocates acceptance

9-9 Wade Davis (Ariana Berkemeier) (1 of 1)Former Weber State University cornerback and NFL Europe player Wade Davis Jr. was competitive on the field. Now he is taking that competitive spirit to a new fight: LGBT acceptance.

Davis spent Tuesday at Weber State University for the second annual Allen Holmes Diversity Symposium. He spoke twice during the day, as well as at a small lunch in between the main events. Wade is also here in honor of the LGBT resource center that is set to open on campus this fall.

Davis said he struggled with his sexual orientation while playing professional football. He left the sport in 2003, and came out as openly gay in 2012.

Since then Davis has become an advocate for the gay community with programs such as the You Can Play project, the You Belong initiative and the Hendrick-Martin Institute. The institute was set up to “create an environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth between the ages of 13 and 24 and their families,” according to its website.

While visiting Weber State, Davis had a few goals in mind.

“I want to leave with two things accomplished,” Davis said. “Knowing that I learned a lot about how to be a better advocate, and that people leave here with a different perspective on what they thought it was like to be gay in this world.”

Instead of only focusing on the aspect of being gay in sports, Davis discussed his views of how society views the gay community and why homosexuality is so hard for many to accept. Davis stated that it has a lot to do with that fact that many critics focus on the idea of sex itself, rather than people being together. Because sex is so awkward for the public to discuss, thinking about two people of the same gender being together is taboo and not as acceptable as a heterosexual couple.

“Acceptance of others has to come after acceptance of one’s self,” he said.

Discrimination against people of different sexual orientation is something that is an ongoing problem, and according to Davis, the loneliness that can come from exclusion is a huge factor on how people deal with the issue.

“I know for myself the safest place to be was with my teammates, but when I was all by myself the loneliness was loud,” Davis said.

The other major issue the gay community faces is safety. Davis called this issue a scary dynamic.

Having people become more accepting is one thing that Davis would like to see in the future.

“The first step is they have to love themselves first. If you truly love yourself it’s really hard to not like someone,” he said.

Another way Davis believes acceptance is possible is  for people to step outside of their own box.

With the many issues surrounding gay rights and the LGBT community, Davis said that he expects to see great changes in his lifetime.

“I’m an optimist. I see the evolution happening,” Davis said. “It’s a slow process, but it’s happening.”

For those struggling to come out, Davis offers his advice.

“First, always try to find an ally,” he said. “Find a person who you can trust. Second, read about your history. It’s empowering because they did it, and they did OK. Lastly, through that process, figure out how to love yourself.”


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