Tackling Homophobia and Transphobia in sport

An article written for and published in Pink News following the launch of the Government Charter for Action on Monday:

As a Liberal Democrat in Government, fighting for a more equal society is my driving force and I am lucky to be in a position as Minister for Equalities to be able to do so much. But sometimes you are reminded that simple Government diktat doesn’t change everything. We can declare equality but unless people understand what that really means, there’s only so much you can do. Societal change doesn’t happen because a Minister says it must it happens because everyone out there works towards it.

I was reminded of this during our Spring Conference in Sheffield, where I visited a local support group for young people struggling with their sexuality and/or gender, Sheffield Fruitbowl. The charity running the group, the Sheena Amos Youth Trust, had also invited a number of young people along who take part in the Side by Side project, a peer education initiative to tackle homophobic bullying in schools. I was struck by the enthusiasm and commitment of these teenagers. Here were a group of people who saw an injustice in their schools and instead of standing by the side-lines, instead of shrugging their shoulders and keeping their heads down, they went out into schools in Sheffield to tackle homophobia and prejudices towards gay and transgendered people, through drama and workshops.

They quite rightly asked me what I was doing to support people like them and the Charter for Action to tackle homophobia in sport, which I launched on Monday, is one of those ways. Sport is such a key element in our society, so many people enjoy playing sports and watching them. But it remains an area where homophobia remains prevalent. So many gay sportsmen and women fear coming out and those that do are often well-established in their careers. It is a shame that homophobia, and probably more importantly the fear of becoming the target of homophobic jibes, leads to many LGBT people simply not partaking.

The fight against racism has been so successful in football and other sports, through programmes like Kick it Out. Given the role sports can play to change attitudes in society, it?s crucial that we break down the culture that allows spectators and participants to get away with homophobia. The Charter for Action is the first step in bringing people together to start doing just that.

I’m glad that the Football Association, the Lawn Tennis Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football League and the Rugby Football Union joined the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) in becoming the first signatories of the Charter. Their clear intention to make sport welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be a first step. We will work together to change the culture of sport, to educate and to show just how hurtful and damaging homophobia is ? to people as well as the sport. Imagine the Welsh rugby team without Gareth Thomas, imagine England?s cricket team without Steven Davies, imagine diving without Matthew Mitcham or speed skating with Ireen Wüst. You can’t because their sport would be poorer for it without them. It is in everybody’s interest that people can be themselves because then they will perform at their peak.

As I said in answer to an oral question in Equalities Questions last week – it is hugely important that role models like Gareth Thomas and Stephen Davies have come out – and that soon we hope that working with the Football Association footballers too will feel that the atmosphere and ambiance around football will enable them to come out too. But the real importance of these fantastic role models is the message that goes out to young people – that up and down this land children will feel able to be themselves, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity, and take to the fields of sport without fear or anxiety. That is the ambition.

UPDATE:  Forgot to post the details of facebook page: facebook.com/LGBTsportcharter

0 thoughts on “Tackling Homophobia and Transphobia in sport

  1. Whilst it’s great that politicians condemn racism and transphobia you never hear them condeming crowds for making perhaps even more hoffific fasle sex abuse allegations which are directed at some fo the finest figures in the most high profile fixtures in the game.

    I’ve never seen companies profiting by selling audio copies or racist or homophobic chants, yet some fo the biggest global brands happily marketed material repeating false child abuse allegation and companies such as Amazon even defended their right to do so.

    I don’t’ expect any comment or action from the coalition give they have failed vicitms of false rape accusations so terribly despite the Lib Dem party as a whole democratically expressing their support for protecting these vulnerable people.

  2. As a woman with a trans history, I will be attending a soccer match on Saturday, the first one since transitioning a few years back. I am somewhat nervous!

    Agreed, government diktats will not change peoples’ views. Elimination of ignorance must be the way forward. The lead on getting trans accepted as mainstream must be taken by Parliament.

    An opportunity to do this was missed in the Lords when Lord Boswell’s amendment saying people who did not benefit from the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (2005) should be treated as though they had been born in their acquired gender when their state pension is calculated was not accepted.

    The sensible thing would have been to treat those that do not qualify for a GRC, such as those remained married, as Lord Boswell appeared to be proposing.

    An opportunity to send the ‘right’ message has been lost.

  3. Paula the correct solution is to treat all pensioners equally as the coalition is going to do, rather than the previous system of special privileges for women.

    You’re talking about a symptom of the wider problem of pension sexism.