As part of Rainbow Laces week, we invited Verity Smith from Yorkshire MESMAC to write a guest blog on how the sport sector can become more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community.
Verity has recently delivered LGBTQ+ awareness training from Yorkshire Sport Foundation staff, as well as National Governing Body representatives, and partners from the West Yorkshire Safe in Sport network.
Hi, my name’s Verity and I am a proud gay, trans man, and an ex-Premiership female rugby player.
I currently work for Yorkshire MESMAC as a community development worker on the Total Men’s Health Project with my colleague Ali, working on helping to break down barriers to the LGBTQ+ community in accessing sport and activity. We do this by raising awareness and breaking the stigma that people from this community should not be involved in sport and helping stop the concerns around Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.
The second part of the project is we run S.E.A courses targeted at GBT+ masculine defining young people, but not exclusively. The course is still open to anyone 16-20 in West Yorkshire who needs some support around self-esteem and confidence as well as health and emotions and other topics.
As we are seeing more awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, we are also seeing more support and more laws in place which enables people to feel more safe and comfortable to come out and live as their authentic selves whether this is through their sexuality or gender.
How can the sports sector make their offering more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community to participate?
- We need to see more sports teams and clubs being visible and being allies to the LGBTQ+ community by having a zero tolerance on attitudes towards bullying, derogative language (often seen as harmless banter) and discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender.
- More awareness training for coaches, referees first aiders and all support staff within clubs and teams.
- Knowing how to communicate within the LGBTQ+ community and learning about some of the issues faced by people could help break down some of the barriers of understanding and stigma. This will in turn help you to support and reach out to more people to help get into sport.
- Make yourself visible as a safe LGBTQ+ welcoming club join in with visible campaigns such as the Stonewall Pride in Sport Rainbow Laces campaign.
- We are also seeing a spike in comments and discrimination around trans, non-binary and gender variant athletes and this is something that should not be tolerated. Just as with racism, a zero tolerance approach needs to be seen.
- Governing bodies need to start looking at their policies and working with the Trans community. Some policies are already in place, but there are many governing bodies that still have no policies to protect or even allow participation in sport and activities, and many clubs and teams are not even aware these policies exist within their sport.
- Governing bodies, teams and clubs need to be an ally and find their voices to speak up and support the LGBTQ+ community. Training courses are available to learn and help support and facilitate to make sport open for everyone.
Everyone has a human right to be involved and take part in sport and physical activities, we know this is good for our physical health but it can be a positive for mental health as well. This is only achievable if everyone works together.
As an individual we can make small change, but as a collective we can make real change.