You Can Play Teams with University of Alberta for Anti-Homophobia Work

The fight for equality among LGBTQ athletes — especially important in light of the state-sanctioned homophobia surrounding the Sochi Olympics — will see a boost in support in the form of an innovative partnership that will leverage the research expertise of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) at the University of Alberta (Edmonton) and the work of the You Can Play Project.

The memorandum of understanding enables the two groups to work together in a way that previously hadn’t been possible.

“We are thrilled to be teaming up with the University of Alberta to fight against homophobia in the sports world. U of A’s ground breaking research in the study of human sexuality and diversity will allow us to ensure all of our resources are always leading the way in effective outreach. We are especially excited about their expertise when it comes to reaching and encouraging LGBTQ youth, and finding new methods to keep them safe, healthy, and involved in sports. Much of the focus in the LGBTQ sports world has revolved around ‘raising awareness’, without looking at what impact that actually has. As always, we are looking to ensure that great work is being done at all levels. We look forward to a long, productive, and informed partnership as we move forward to create change,” says Wade Davis, executive director of the You Can Play Project.

Dr. Kristopher Wells, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, and Director, iSMSS, says,

“The synergy of our partnership will allow us to help conduct and utilize research in new and innovative ways to help support the You Can Play Project and its mission to challenge and change homophobic and transphobic sporting cultures.”

The innovative project is nothing new for iSMSS, a site of national and international scholarship and programs that has garnered media attention from major outlets around the world for projects like, an innovative website that tracks hateful language on Twitter, and Camp fYrefly, Canada’s only national leadership retreat for Sexual and Gender Minority Youth.

“Our successes in changing the culture of the sports world have been done largely based on our personal experiences in locker rooms. Having a tremendous research team studying, analyzing, and monitoring our methods will ensure that our methods are backed by the finest academic research possible. The sports world is constantly learning how to incorporate new data and information to put together the best team possible. In sports terms, the U of A is our Moneyball, ensuring that You Can Play always has the best information possible as we make decisions moving forward," says Patrick Burke, co-Founder, You Can Play Project.

To help build this research capacity, an exciting postdoctoral fellowship position related to the MOU announcement is now accepting applications from early-career researchers from all over the world. Dr. Kris Wells says,

“We are looking for a dynamic and emerging researcher who is committed to not only studying the impacts of homophobia and transphobia in sports, but who is also passionate about using that knowledge to transform our sporting communities into more socially-just, welcoming, respectful, and inclusive environments for all athletes regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. This is truly a one-of-a-kind position that has the unique opportunity to support and inform the incredible work of the You Can Play Project and other international sporting movements. We’re looking for the best and brightest minds to join us in this leading-edge work.”

For more details on this unique postdoctoral fellow opportunity, please visit:

Welcome to iSMSS

Hundreds of sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth have been helped by Camp fYrefly and other programs. Projects like have raised the awareness of millions of people around the world of the homophobic language used in daily online conversation.

This is groundbreaking work that is leading social change, and helping build a more just society for everyone.

We have been successful with limited resources. With your support we can do even more.

Watch to see first hand the impact that iSMSS is making

The potential to make a substantial and immediate impact on the lives of SGM youth in Alberta, throughout Canada and internationally has never been greater.

Through a new campaign to raise over $5 million, we are seeking to

  • expand Camp fYrefly into a national program;
  • expand research programs and services;
  • train the next generation of researchers and recruit master, doctoral, and postdoctoral students from across Canada and the world;
  • create an endowment to help support core operating funding.

2013 is the 10th anniversary of Camp fYrefly, which has helped more than 1000 sexual and gender minority youth find the resiliency and skills they need to become future leaders.

Our birthday wish is to light the way to a brighter tomorrow.

Knowing you have profoundly changed a young person’s life for the better is a feeling beyond compare.

For more information or general inquiries regarding our Programs and Services, please contact:

Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services
iSMSS emailEmail:
PhoneTel: 780.492.0772
iSMSS ListsrvSuscribe to University of Alberta iSMSS Listserv

For more information on how you can make a difference by supporting our campaign, please contact:

Sean Mowat, ’95 BEd
Director of Advancement
Faculty of Education
Tel: 780-492-8863

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