Monday, 14 March 2011

Tackling Homo and Transphobia in Sport

Are there LGBT people involved in sport?

I look at my trophy collection and say that yes there are.

Are there LGBT people involved in elite sport?

Looking at the list of sportsmen and women who have are known to be out* they are there, even if the number is still surprisingly small. So what is holding them back?

For some it is the attitude of managers, some of whom have openly said a LGBT person has no place in my team, and won't get selected. This is enough to keep many sportspeople who are involved in a team sport in the closet. They want to compete on the highest stage and if that way is barred because of institutional bigotry they will play the game.

For others it is the team mates. That moment in the showers or changing rooms when there is the awkwardness. Or that banter between team mates about sex lives which they feel will be uncomfortable. Well there is a lesson for straight men, we don't find all of you attractive and we don't want to bed every one of you, and yes we can be naked around you and not get aroused, just as you can and maybe might.

As for the banter I have mentioned this before, when I came out to the guys I played bowls with, the banter didn't stop, they just changed the gender for me. But if the any of the opposition took it the wrong way and too far there were 15 guys ready to jump to my defence.

The other thing of course is the spectators. When the first black footballers started to play in the top leagues they had bananas thrown at them and monkey noises made by not just the opposition but some of their own fans. Yes there are chants from the terrace, I've heard them, when I was supporting Livingston I could pretty much end them with a look at someone in the general direction, or taken a radical move that shocked my fellow supporter. You see there are gay supporters in the crowds at most grounds, maybe we have to help police our fellow supporters to end the homophobic chanting.

However, whilst there are gay fans like me prepared to take a stand, we need gay players (and we know there are some) to do likewise. Let us the fans, the stewards, the clubs and authorities mind your backs, but give us something to mind. Eventually a top flight sportsperson coming out shouldn't be groundbreaking news, they shouldn't have to hide their same-sex partner (although we'll need a better acronym than Husbands and Boyfriends HABs).

Today the Equalities Minster Lynne Featherstone launched the Charter for Action along with backing from, amongst others, the Football Association, the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Rugby Football League saying.

"Sport is still seen by many as an institution where there are barriers we have yet to tear down, because there are so few openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who feel comfortable on the field.
"Professional sports have the ability to change attitudes, on the field as well as in society. That is why it is important we break through this last remaining taboo and tackle it head on so that LGBT people feel welcome in all sports.
"The Liberal Democrats have long pledged to tackle prejudice everywhere and today's launch of the Charter for Action is an important step in ensuring in sport homophobic prejudices become a thing of the past."
Let's break down that barrier we'll need some brave souls to lead the way on the field. But then we can help you and help others like you.

* Only 77 listed on Wikipedia.

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