It’s hard to imagine a better person to watch your back than the 6-foot-2-inch ruggedly handsome former rugby champion Ben Cohen.
Yet that’s exactly what he’s doing with the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, an organization dedicated to advancing LGBT equality and helping at-risk youth to stand up to bullying.
“I lost my father to violence when he stood up for an employee who was being attacked,” says Cohen. He first channeled his rage about his father’s murder onto the rugby field, helping England’s team to earn championships and a World Cup victory.
But he found an even more productive outlet for his hatred of bullying.
“I’ve heard from my wonderful friends in the LGBT community about the hard roads too many have traveled. And many parents have shared painful stories with me about how their children, who might be perceived to be different, are ruthlessly attacked and scared of their own schools.”
Cohen realized that he could help the LGBT community – by taking off his shirt. He’s long enjoyed a major gay following, and since 2008 he has posed for a series of calendars, which now generate money for his passion project.
“I’m passionate about standing up against bullying and homophobia in sports, and I feel compelled to take action,” he says.
The married, straight, yet anything but narrow father of two has since appeared at San Francisco’s GLAAD Media Awards, and has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign.
In addition to its own projects, Ben Cohen’s StandUp Foundation also supports the work of LGBT groups including HRC, GLSEN, The Trevor Project, and The Matthew Shepard Foundation.
“It is time we stand up for what’s right and support people who are being harmed,” he says. “Every person on this planet has a right to be true to themselves, to love and be loved, and to be happy.”