So first, I have to give huge, heartfelt thanks to Elisa for generously letting me post on her blog. She’s so wonderful. Second, I want to tell you very quickly about Jeff Sheng and his Fearless Project.
Jamar, by Jeff Sheng, Fearless Project
I’ve been really moved by Sheng’s work: I first discovered it when I ran across some news footage about a previous project he had done with closeted US service members during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It was the first time that I truly began to understand the personal pain of DADT. As a civilian, I just hadn’t realized, and he captured the subject matter so beautifully. He didn’t know at the time how much he had helped me, but he had. I can’t thank him enough for that.
Now. His Fearless project is something truly special because it captures an emerging generation of young people brave enough to be openly gay in sports, a place where homophobia has historically held tight. Where likeability is so important, sometimes even necessary for personal safety. When I was a teenager, sports were for the cool kids. It never would have occurred to me that an athlete could have been gay. As someone who identifies as bisexual, I honestly thought my chances of being the cheerleader I so longed to be were exactly zero. I was afraid to even try.
Taylor, by Jeff Sheng, Fearless Project
But see, Jeff Sheng has found over a hundred and fifty young people so far who are impossibly brave. Who have been willing to take the risk of being open about themselves with their peers and teammates and families with the knowledge that they will still have to see those people day after day at school and home after they come out—and with the hope that they would be accepted when they did. What’s beautiful about this project is that it has so much potential: To give hope to so many young people in the LGBT community who may feel isolated, to change minds and practices in the sports world as a whole, and who even knows about the world at large? It sounds pie in the sky but these things are like a sneeze, yanno? The gay kid who played ball in football who goes pro who winds up coaching who… We just have no idea.
These kids are heroes and just by having the courage to stand in the sunlight what they are doing is awesome. What Jeff Sheng has done to raise awareness in the gay community is pretty damn great too.
Will, by Jeff Sheng, Fearless Project
He has spent nearly the past decade on this photo series, photographing LGBT youth with not only the courage but the self-awareness to be out in sports, and doing it pretty much on his own dime. This includes the cost of travel. He is now fundraising on Kickstarter to complete the project, and there isn’t much time left (If I’m not mistaken, September 18 is the deadline). So I encourage you to go to check out the project web site, find out more, and support the project either by donating or spreading the word: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jeffsheng/fearless-project-lgbtq-student-athletes-photograph
Thank you so much.
To view more photos from "Fearless," including videos of LGBTQ high school and college athletes talking about their coming out experiences, please visit: www.FearlessProject.org