2023 Rewind: EDGE Interview: Rugby Star Ben Cohen – The Best Kind of Ally Against LGBTQ+ Bullying

Timothy Rawles READ TIME: 7 MIN.

Ben Cohen, the Northampton wing poses for a photograph at the Northampton Saints media day held at Franklin's Gardens on March 27, 2007 in Northampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

At the height of gay liberation, there were celebrities and politicians who said they sided with the LGBTQ+ community but did things that weren't aligned with the cause. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has defended gay rights many times, especially on social media where trolls bullied her for making the biggest patriarch in the series a gay man. But when it comes to trans folks, that is where she drew the line. Comedian Roseanne Barr was one of the first celebrities to include gay representation in her self-titled television series but has officially supported politicians who wish to take gay rights away.

Then there are the performative allies, or people who say they support the queer community but in reality don't want them as neighbors. Speaking for himself, Cohen defines what he thinks is a good LGBTQ+ ally.

Ben Cohen of England enjoys the waterslide at the Wet 'n' Wild theme park , on October 28, 2003 the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

"I'm all about legacy," he says. "I think the campaigns to highlight an issue without any legacy being left, I think is a waste of time and money," he says, adding that he also believes education is the catalyst of cultural change. "So, for me, it's always been a bigger picture. Now, if you relate that to me, I would say that I'm an ally that tries to give a legacy right? Through the [StandUp] Foundation or giving money out as grants, or press, or media appearance or those kinds of things."

Which brings us back to "Patterns." In America, you might be hard-pressed to find a straight male athlete making an appearance on a television series with an all-gay cast, especially if it meant coaching a gay teen to come out. What does Cohen hope that people who watch "Patterns" will get from it?

"Look, we need people to talk about [coming out] and understand it in depth so we can get a general understanding. And I still think that we are at the point of LGBTQ+, especially with recent things that are happening with transgender in a sport, there has to be an understanding – and actually, people to understand – what LGBTQ+ is, which I think we've come such a long way since I started 12 or 13 years ago. That whole movement's been phenomenal and great. So, yeah, I think education and conversation [are] what drives the cultural change and if we can get that from this and help any youngster, or anybody watching it, through any issues, then that's what this is about."

"Patterns" is streaming on Dekkoo. For more information, follow this link.

by Timothy Rawles

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