Anyone who is familiar with the Nashville Grizzlies, or their local LGBT or LGBT-affirming rugby team, knows that there’s a lot more to what they do than chasing balls, or even playing rugby…. International Gay Rugby (IGR) teams, and unaffiliated teams with similar values, hold a strong set of principles, the core of which is service to the community.

That service takes many forms, the first and most obvious of which is the creation of an emotionally safe space for LGBT to participate in the not-safe-at-all sport they share a love of. Providing for this often unmet need in adult LGBT people is itself a basic service for which such teams should be commended. But LGBT-affirming rugby also challenges societal stereotypes both within and outside of the LGBT community, and provides role models for young or aspiring LGBT athletes.

Far beyond the service provided by their very existence, however, the Grizzlies and their brothers around the world partner with other community (both LGBT and beyond) social and service organizations, becoming true pillars for the community. Nashville’s Grizzlies are often found supporting diverse causes, from Nashville’s arts scene to groups like Mr. Friendly and the Music City Sisters (especially if there is an opportunity to support them with partial nudity). It’s not unusual to see Grizzlies slipping out of one fundraiser early to get to another one on the same night!

Hosting the Bingham Cup gives the team an opportunity to support a cause on a much larger scale, by naming a “Charity of Choice.” The Grizzlies have chosen the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) as the Charity of Choice of the 2016 Bingham Cup, a world championship of IGR.

TSPN is a public-private partnership of counselors, mental health professionals and community advocates dedicated to the goal of reducing suicide rates in the state of Tennessee. TSPN works across the state to eliminate mental health stigma and educate communities about the warning signs of suicide with the goal of reducing suicide rates.

 “For various reasons, LGBTQ people are more susceptible to suicide. They are subject to stressors such as bullying, discrimination, being closeted, and a lack of support from family and friends. Also, they often have less access to mental health resources,” said Scott Ridgway, TSPN’s Executive Director. “As the Charity of Choice, TSPN will have the opportunity to offer suicide prevention training to players and guests ahead of the tournament, helping to spread the message of suicide prevention across the U.S. and around the world.”

Though there have been no empirical nation-wide studies on the occurrence of suicide among LGBTQ people, there is evidence that LGBTQ youths are significantly more susceptible to suicide and suicide ideation. Precise numbers vary, but studies suggest LGBTQ males are 55% more prone to suicidal ideation than their heterosexual counterparts. According to a 2001 study, LGBTQ youths surveyed estimated that roughly half their suicidal thoughts are connected to their sexual orientation. Furthermore, suicide attempts by LGBTQ youths tend to be more often result in death or serious.

“We are very fortunate to have in Tennessee an organization that works with all people, including the LGBTQ community, to promote mental health resources and suicide prevention training,” says Jon Glassmeyer, chairman of the Bingham Cup organizing committee.

LGBTQ students are disproportionately more likely to be harassed or bullied on team sports and in PE class according to a study by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and, as a result, are underrepresented in school athletics teams.

Gay and inclusive sporting events like the Bingham Cup can help break down stigmas that deter LGBTQ people from participating in team sports, and thus naturally help address some of the stressors that likely increase the chances a young person might become suicidal. Thus, TSPN is a natural fit for the Nashville Grizzlies, for Bingham, and for International Gay Rugby.                                                                                           

People struggling with suicidal thoughts should seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is +1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


In their home cities, most teams are active in their communities and support a wide range of noble causes. While we could not list them all, here are some of the charities teams from around the world support:

The Northampton Outlaws are proud supporters of the Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation. This is a natural tie in given that Ben Cohen, one of the most notable international athletes to come out, was born in Northampton and played rugby for Northampton Saints. Cohen’s foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying by connecting communities and raising funds to support those doing real-world work to eradicate bullying.

The preferred charity of Toronto’s Muddy York, among their many beneficiaries, is The 519 Community Centre, Toronto. The 519 is committed to the health, happiness, and full participation of the LGBTQ community and strives to make a real difference in people’s lives, while working to promote inclusion, understanding and respect.

The Caledonian Thebans of Edinburgh, Scotland, have raised money for Cahonas Scotland, a testicular cancer charity dedicated to educating “people about the signs and symptoms of Male Cancers and the importance of early detection, to remind them to regularly self-check their testicles and to reduce embarrassment and stigma relating to Male Cancers.”

The Melbourne Chargers has a long-standing community partnership with the Victorian Aids Council—an alliance that builds the profile of LGBTI sporting clubs while increasing awareness for the importance of acceptance in sports, as well as a recognition of the positive role sport and a healthy lifestyle can play in battling stigma around HIV.

The Ottawa Wolves’ preferred charity is Bruce House, “a community-based organization providing housing, compassionate care and support in Ottawa for people living with HIV and AIDS, based on the belief that everyone has the right to live and die with dignity."

The Colorado Rush support The Center—the GLBT Community Center of Colorado.

The Kings Cross Steelers had a number of charities they highlight, including Diversity Role Models, charity that seeks to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying in UK schools.

The San Diego Armada has various outreach efforts, including fundraising for the San Diego AIDS Walk/Run, and collaboration with the Imperial Court de San Diego.

The Minneapolis Mayhem is a proud supporter of the Aliveness Project in Minneapolis, a local charity that encourages self-empowerment and provides direct services for persons living with HIV/AIDS.

The Washington Renegades have helped prepare hundreds of Thanksgiving meals for people living with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. They have also sponsored a neighborhood little league team and conducted rugby clinics for youth in areas as diverse as Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Maryland.





Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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