This story is an appeal written by Keira Rounsley, Vice President Welfare and Community at De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU).
This month we’ve seen lots of different events happening across the university and city centre to campaign for and celebrate the LGBT community as part of #DMUPride, we have seen the opening of the research centre, literary discussions, screenings of films and TV programmes as well as the LGBT+ Society putting on lots of their own events to celebrate LGBT History Month. So it got me thinking...
As well as at school, and at work, there are some areas in particular where lesbian, gay, bi and trans people struggle even more with social injustice. And one of those is in sports. A lot has changed in the realm of sports in terms of LGBT athletes and the role sports have in international LGBT politics, but there is still a long way to go. Homophobic slurs are still commonplace in Britain: 99% of young people have heard ‘you’re so gay’ or similar sayings being used in schools.
DSU's women's footballers show their support for #PlayWithPride.
More athletes are coming out in sports who are willing to be spokespeople for LGBT issues; however Britain still doesn’t have enough openly lesbian, gay, bi and trans role models in sport. Keegan Hirst, captain of the Batley Bulldogs, was the first openly gay rugby player just last year to still play the sport. Keegan Hirst’s coming out has helped increase visibility and helps break down stereotypes that have been perpetuated around sexual orientation, sports and gender norms. LGBT people experience a unique journey when learning about becoming who they are and for most of us; role models form an important part of this.
Homophobia in sport can be seen as not a barrier to participation, but a barrier to being ‘out’. When Tom Daley released his video about coming out he said ‘in an ideal world I wouldn’t be doing this video, because it shouldn’t matter’. Education is so important to move LGBT issues forward in the sporting world. Teaching people in sport, both player and spectator about the issues the LGBT community face are crucial. Inclusion of the LGBT community and sports should be embedded in the curriculum itself and I believe DSU and DMU are taking a huge lead in this to create an inclusive sports experience for all.
This is why I have decided to run the #PlayWithPride campaign to get sports teams and societies to sign their club name on the Tackling Homophobia and Transphobia in Sport the Charter for Action. Once the club has signed every member will receive a pair of free rainbow laces to show their support by wearing them for their BUCS fixtures and the all important Varsity! I ask for those taking part to tweet lots of pictures using the #PlayWithPride and #TeamDMU. I know through experience how amazing being part of a sports team can really help with your well-being, belonging and how inclusive you can be. So lets go out there, perform to the best of your ability and make it our year!