September 14, 1978– I am not personally acquainted with Ben Cohen, but I think I should be.
Cohen is the straight father of 7 year old twin girls. He is also a fearsome former rugby player, a 6’ 3’’ powerhouse 2003 World Cup winner, the second highest scorer in English history. Since leaving sports, Cohen devotes his energies full-time to the Ben Cohen Standup Foundation.
In 2000, his father Peter Cohen, the brother of 1966 World Cup winner George Cohen, died after being beaten while coming to the rescue of a man being bullied in the nightclub he owned. After his father’s death, Cohen started his foundation to combat bullying of all types, most especially including of people who might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation is the world’s first organization dedicated to combating of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying, & funding those doing real work to stop it. I don’t doubt his efforts. His StandUp Foundation helps increase awareness & makes a difference in the lives of young people who are particularly vulnerable to the hate.
“I believe that every person on this planet has a right to be true to themselves, to love, be loved & to be happy. That’s what we all want. I am in a privileged position to be able to spread some important messages across the globe & that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m passionate about standing up against homophobia & feel compelled to take action. It is time we stand up for what is right & support young people who are being harmed.”
With his handsome looks, & hot bod, Cohen gets attention & he knows it, making it work. He is willing to pose shirtless for pictures & be a calendar boy to get his message out. The fact that he is a famous world-class athlete puts him in a unique position, particularly in the world of sports, for players & spectators. Remember how closeted gay athletes still are, usually not coming out until after they’ve retired.
The general public seems willing to pay attention to straight people talking about the intolerance toward & injustices against gay people, more than when we make our own case. Gay people need to be out of the closet to the whole world, stand up & be brave in the face of hatred, but a compassionate & influential guy like Cohen on our side doesn’t hurt.
For me, Cohen is a hero. He made the choice to shift his priorities from playing professional sports & earning a handsome salary, to adopting a cause not normally supported by someone who is straight.
“We’re on a very simple mission, to create awareness & support organizations & to affect & educate that next generation. We need to teach people to understand that homophobic & racial slurs & bullying is not right. & to be part of the impact is fantastic. I think that the most important thing about it is that I’m straight & promoting a foundation that’s anti-homophobia. I’m bridging the gap between gay & straight. I think straight people are more likely to listen when they see me breaking down stereotypes.”
Besides being a Gay Hero & Gay Icon, Cohen enjoys motorcycling, & spends most of his time with the twins. His farm in Northamptonshire keeps him busy with a variety of animals including horses, sheep & chickens.
Cohen split with his wife last year. He is now dating Russian professional ballroom dancer Kristina Rihanoff, his partner on Strictly Come Dancing, a sort of British version of Dancing With The Stars, in 2013. The British scandal rags have been all over this story.
Last year, Cohen participated in our own Portland Pride celebrations, making personal appearances & raising funds. I was unable to secure a visit from him, although I had invited him to The Husband’s shop Boys’ Fort to demonstrate how to handle his balls. I give Ben Cohen an A+ on the Steve Report Card.
“It is all about that next generation & teaching kids so they understand what gay means & the connotations of words like ‘homo’ & ‘faggot’, that whole understanding. Homophobia is in the same place that racism was 30 years ago. I think homophobia is still a problem everywhere. It is the last ‘ism’ – there are still traces of racism & sexism but there is further to go to stamp out homophobia.”