As the May 26-29 dates for rugby’s 2016 Bingham Cup move ever closer, members of the Nashville Grizzlies RFC (rugby football club), are gearing up to host the world’s largest biennial gay rugby tournament in the world. As it stands right now, there are over 1,000 rugby players, coaches and supporters expected to arrive in Nashville from across the globe.
And in the sport’s spirit of inclusion, gay rugby and the Bingham Cup are dedicated to welcoming all players, regardless of their sexual orientation, in honor of openly gay former UC Berkeley rugby star Mark Bingham who died aboard Flight 93 during the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
One of the hallmarks of gay sporting events is the generosity the host organization shows to the area where an event is being held. With an almost 10-year history of playing gay rugby, the Grizzlies also have a similar history of service projects to help its “Music City” home of Nashville and the surrounding areas. With their motto of “Tecum Fratre” (With You Brother), team members try to live by these words every time they lace up their boots.
An international event like the Bingham Cup is certainly no exception to this tradition of generosity. Part of the host duties is to choose a Charity of Choice; in this case it is the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) since the gay community is disproportionately affected by suicide.
The TSPN is a public-private partnership of counselors, mental health professionals and community advocates, all of whom are dedicated to the goal of reducing suicide rates within the state of Tennessee. The organization will be offering suicide prevention training throughout the week of the tournament for all players and supporters.
While precise numbers vary, studies suggest that LGBTQ males are 55 percent more prone to suicidal ideation than their heterosexual counterparts. And a 2001 study not only showed that roughly half of LGBTQ youth’s suicidal thoughts are linked to their sexual orientation but also that their suicide attempts more often result in death or serious harm.
One of the important things that gay and inclusive sporting events like the Bingham Cup do is to help break down the stigma attached to being a gay athlete – it enables people to realize that being gay doesn’t mean you can’t also be a great athlete. That takeaway for viewers can help to reduce or even eliminate harassment and bullying that goes on in team sports and PE classes via the trickle-down effect.
To support the team’s good works, one of their popular fund raisers is their annual calendar. And the bears aren’t afraid to show a little “hide” when their calendar sales go to such worthwhile causes as suicide prevention, Habitat for Humanity, delivering Christmas meals for Nashville CARES, or for one of their favorite annual projects, a fun run that builds awareness of neurofibromatosis and raises money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
So if you’re attending the 2016 Bingham Cup tournament in Nashville next month, take part in the suicide prevention training offered by TSPN and then share what you’ve learned when you return home. It’s the brotherhood and sisterhood of rugby, the camaraderie that’s the outcome of playing a team sport that is at the heart of all gay sports – just one of the many reasons we love it.
By Harry Andrew
Photos courtesy of Nashville Grizzlies
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