CrossFit Games to Allow Transgender Competitors in 2019
In the 2019 CrossFit competitive season...transgender athletes are welcome to participate in the division with which they identify.
— Greg Glassman, Chairman and Founder, CrossFit, Inc

On Friday, August 3rd, 2018 - OUTWOD hosted "Big Gay Happy Hour" to raise funds for The OUT Foundation and for one BIG announcement from Greg Glassman, the Founder of CrossFit.

At the event, Greg Glassman, Chairman and Founder of CrossFit Inc., made a special announcement continuing his support of the sport’s inclusivity and presented a check for $10,000.00 to The OUT Foundation. This is a giant step for transgender athletes. Where CrossFit goes - others follow. We are proud to be a part of a community that steps up, shows the world what the right thing to do is, and follows up with that commitment.

The OUT Foundation is developing educational materials for our CrossFit community of athletes, coaches and affiliate owners to help deep dive into what it means to be a transgender person in fitness, how to be respectful of a transgender person at the gym and in the locker room, and generally how not to be accidentally offensive.

We expect these materials to be complete by October 2018, with online webinars, in person Q+A sessions, and more to be offered as we seek to make ALL people feel welcome in this sport that we love.

Stay tuned!

Will Lanier
Community Protection and the Firing of Russell Berger

by Hayden-William Courtland, Ph.D., New York, NY, @scienceforfitness, CCFT/CF-L3, and CrossFitter since 2009.

On June 6th, 2018 Russell Berger, Chief Knowledge Officer of CrossFit, Inc. posted on his personal Twitter account congratulatory remarks to the owners of CrossFit Infiltrate for canceling an Indy Pride [LQBTQ+] workout organized by their coaches and members. The cancellation was based on the owners’ religious beliefs toward homosexuality. In his original tweet Berger stated the owners’ action was praise-worthy as he too felt celebrating “pride” was a sin.

What followed was outrage from many people with ties to the CrossFit community. In a matter of hours Berger was put on unpaid leave while CrossFit, Inc. investigated, and by the end of the day his employment was terminated. The vast majority of people I know felt this was the right course of action for CrossFit, Inc. However, some social media posts and commentaries did not agree with this action. Individuals with these viewpoints generally had one of three rebuttals to Berger’s swift termination and I have given my perspective on each of them below.

1. CrossFit, Inc. should stay out of politics and just focus on fitness.

Given that CrossFit was built around a sense of community, how could we possibly expect them to turn a blind eye...

Those who ask for this approach fail to realize that when Greg Glassman founded CrossFit, it was as much about fitness as it was about community. Over the years this has changed, but only insofar as CrossFit is now even more about fitness and community. For example, on numerous occasions, when the livelihood of an affiliate was threatened (false publicity, natural disaster, etc.), CrossFit, Inc. stepped in to help. Similarly, CrossFit has extended into politics because politics impact public understanding of health science. As an example, Glassman appeared before the RI state senate to discuss the soda industry’s “undue influence on health science.” Some people may not like this, but nothing exists in a vacuum; everything is connected.  Given that CrossFit was built around a sense of community, how could we possibly expect them to turn a blind eye on community advocacy and politics?

2. Early termination leaves no room to educate or build a bridge.

As someone who spent the majority of my life performing research and teaching in academia, I can attest that education is a great and wonderful process. When given the opportunity, I try to educate those who are confused or misinformed. But in order to educate, the educator and individual being educated must be on common ground. They must be using a similar framework with similar tools, a similar system of analysis if you will. For someone like me, the system of analysis would be using components of the scientific method (logic, data collection, reproducibility, etc.). As an example, the fact that homosexuality is common among many non-human animal species across our recorded scientific history, leads me to conclude homosexuality is a natural part of life. It is from these observations (which are separate from personal opinion), that I build my belief system to include the notion that there are no amoral underpinnings to homosexuality. For someone like Berger, the framework is not built around independent empirical evidence, but a series of human records (the Bible) written by numerous individuals well before the dawn of the modern scientific method.

If people’s beliefs are constructed through different systems of thought, attempts to educate will fail.

Obviously, I feel my approach better reveals the truth, but to play devil’s advocate (as a true scientist would), let’s say my approach is wrong. Either way, the bridge breaks down. If people’s beliefs are constructed through different systems of thought, attempts to educate will fail. Facebook comment threads are filled with flame wars from these kinds of impasses and I argue that far too much divisiveness and anger is created when people with different frameworks of thought try to “educate” each other.

In my mind, the abovementioned points present reason enough to forgo the education of someone with a different framework of thought, but another reason is to send a clear message that the greater organization does not espouse or condone a given mentality, and that the speaker in question was not speaking on behalf of the organization’s values. Why is this important? Well, if you spend time trying to educate, what message does that send? As noted above, the CEO of a company is highly unlikely to talk the person out of their beliefs and in the meantime all LGBTQ members of the CrossFit community are left to wonder “was retaining this person, who’s unlikely to be swayed, more important than letting hundreds of thousands of members know that their humanity is valued, celebrated, and embraced and that the CrossFit philosophy of support and community is fully extended and inclusive of them?” I would argue that CrossFit, Inc. felt the risk was not worth it and therefore acted the way they did and as quickly as they did.

So, for one-on-one education, when there is common ground, we should all be 100% there for it, but when the common ground is not there or when someone is a leader of an organization with a bully pulpit (a highly visible messenger), education is not an effective or appropriate response. Indeed, when the stakes involve human dignity and the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the risks are often far too high.

3. This is America and people shouldn’t lose their jobs because of their personal beliefs – if they do, then they are the real victims and nobody truly wins.

The reality is, you can lose your job. The first amendment protects us from the government infringing upon our right to express ourselves. This does not mean we are free from consequences when serving as a spokesperson of our employer or making statements of opinions that run counter to those of our employer. By doing do, you have failed to do your job and the employer may act accordingly. You can still share those opinions, but no one is obliged keep you on payroll when you’ve gone “off-brand.”

The stakes are incredibly high here if you view this type of action as an attack on human rights. I believe this is why CrossFit, Inc. acted as swiftly and decisively as they did – to affirm the humanity of their LGBTQ+ community.

The legality of free speech aside, let’s consider why terminating someone’s employment in this situation might be an appropriate course of action. To do this, you really have to take a step outside your own life. Perhaps the LGBTQ+ members of CrossFit Infiltrate found a family in CrossFit. Perhaps they found acceptance of who they truly are. Perhaps this environment was enabling them to come out of the closet and escape the clutches of suicidal depression. And then a high-level CrossFit representative encourages shutting down a pride event because it is amoral. Consider the potential emotional distress such an action could cause those LGBTQ+ members, as their human dignity and right to exist are ripped apart. These are the real victims. The stakes are incredibly high here if you view this type of action as an attack on human rights (as myself and many others do). I believe this is why CrossFit, Inc. acted as swiftly and decisively as they did – to affirm the humanity of their LGBTQ+ community.

Conclusions

Each of us has to decide what role we want and need to play in the fight for human rights. The more reach we have, the greater power we have to affect change, but also the more responsibility we have towards making the arc of history bend towards social justice and equity for all. Therefore, how a large corporation like CrossFit, Inc. acts will be different from how an individual acts within the scope of their influence. This is a good thing and this many-sided approach is how we will one day win.

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Written with contributions from:  Kevin Croke

The views expressed in this opinion piece are solely those of the author and do not represent those of CrossFit, Inc., OUTWOD or The OUT Foundation.

Will Lanier
Did Anyone Really “Win” When Russell Berger Lost His Job?

by Tim Boyer, Columbus, OH, @TimDanBoyer, CrossFitter since 2013

Does anyone really "win" when someone loses their job?

I know there are plenty who would say “yes,” but I challenge you to reflect: What does it accomplish? Did this person learn a lesson about the underlying problem? Or did they learn to just keep their mouth shut unless around like-minded people? Perhaps I'm too idealistic, but hear me out.

There are plenty out there that hold firm in what they say but can’t really begin to understand the impact of their words.

It's very easy to get angry and infuriated when someone uses their public pulpit to spread a negative message and most of time it requires a response. (The exception being trolls.) But it's the response that dictates what happens after. The LGBTQ community feels the need to fight and fight hard, especially when that message appears rooted in beliefs that won't budge.

But to fight every fight with the same unrelenting, fiery anger is misguided. We must always have passion but we do not further our cause by trying to fire everyone that says something negative. When along that path do we try to get them to understand the implication of their words? When do we try to build a bridge instead of building a higher wall? Why is it always us against them?

But to fight every fight with the same unrelenting, fiery anger is misguided.

To toss those aside so easily only reinforces dissenting opinions that we are an enemy. With us or against us with no inbetween. There are plenty of well-intentioned people out there that say the wrong thing. There are plenty out there that hold firm in what they say but can't really begin to understand the impact of their words. The flame war leaves only scorched earth. Nobody learns. In fact, the persons on both ends of the fire only get pushed deeper into the recesses of their stance, they come no closer to the middle.

The flame war leaves only scorched earth. Nobody learns.

Harvey Milk was known for encouraging LGBTQ people to come out and increase visibility and to foster compassion from those who don't understand. I think more attempts to respond in a more measured way, to try and bridge a gap, than simply calling for a termination right away will pave the way for more progress. Engage to promote understanding, not to attack a dissenting view. I worry that by calling for termination so quickly (generally speaking) only presents that person as a victim with those whose views align with them and only increases the tension. Enduring change doesn’t happen with just a pink slip. Neither side should be treated like a doormat, no matter how badly they need to be checked.

It's all too easy to push away those who have a dissenting view. Sometimes opposing views are irreconcilable. But sometimes it's possible to agree to disagree. Sometimes it's possible to come to a mutual understanding through conversation and understanding another perspective in order to help them understand yours. Sometimes you can still interact with someone of dissenting views when you establish a mutual respect. Sometimes you can further the cause without the "gay wrath." But how will you know if you don't try?

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Written with contributions from:

Joey Monahan

Barrett Teachworth

Will Lanier
Athlete Ally, OUTWOD, and The Out Foundation Respond to Anti-LGBTQ Statements by CrossFit HQ Executives

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Athlete AllyOUTWOD, and The Out Foundation are outraged by the vehemently anti-LGBTQ statements released by Russell Burger, Chief Knowledge Officer of CrossFit HQ, via Twitter.

CrossFit is meant to be a community that welcomes and empowers all people. LGBTQ CrossFit athletes represent a significant percentage of the CrossFit population; to deny their existence by allowing Russell Burger to continue on staff without a formal apology to the entire community is abhorrent. As a competitive sport and fitness regimen designed to be universal, scalable and open to anyone willing to join in the camaraderie, CrossFit HQ should make it clear that discrimination and bigotry have no place in CrossFit.

During Pride Month, we should be celebrating and recognizing the influence LGBTQ people have had in sport and reflecting on progress — not regressing to hateful language. We hope for a formal and substantial apology from CrossFit HQ immediately.

Please contact Will Lanier at will@theoutfoundation.org or Anne Lieberman at anne.lieberman@athleteally.org for comment.

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UPDATE: Russell Burger has been placed on unpaid leave pending review.

 
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UPDATE: Russell Burger has been terminated.

Will Lanier