The way we get active or play sports has been challenged by social distancing and lockdowns to keep one another safe this year.
But that hasn’t stopped teams, friendship groups or individuals getting active or enjoying sport as a fan safely at home, challenging and supporting one another and remaining strong allies to their LGBTQ+ peers.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has hit everyone hard. And the impact on LGBTQ+ people has been especially significant. For LGBTQ+ people experiencing multiple marginalisation including disabled LGBTQ+ people, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) LGBTQ+ people, and/or LGBTQ+ people of colour (PoC), existing inequalities have been worsened. Sport is a powerful way of energising and uniting communities. Coming together to make sport everyone’s has never been more important and allies have a crucial role to play.
1. Put your pronouns next to your name on video chats.
This is a simple step that anyone can take to be a trans ally within their sport community. Sharing your pronouns (if you’re comfortable to) and asking the same of your team-mates or fellow fans can create a culture where no one’s gender identity is assumed. You can also include your pronouns when introducing yourself in meetings.
2. Be aware of the challenges your LGBTQ+ peers might be facing.
LGBT Foundation research found that half (52 percent) of LGBT people experienced depression in the previous year and more than a quarter (27 percent) of LGBT people said isolation was a top concern for them during lockdown.
Take the time to listen to LGBTQ+ people’s experiences and consider the ways that increased isolation and living in homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and acephobic environments might take a toll. Some people may need to adapt their engagement online, and with the campaign to protect themselves.
3. Be an ally to BAME/PoC LGBTQ+ people and other marginalised LGBTQ+ people.
The fight against racism in sport has been and continues to be a long and difficult one. For BAME/PoC LGBTQ+ people, sport can be an especially unwelcoming environment with barriers to inclusion and recognition. Kick It Out research found that there have been shocking increases in the levels of race hate and abuse based on sexual orientation around football matches and across social media – in spite of the season being put on hold for several months due to Covid-19.
You and your peers can start to tackle racism – and other forms of oppression like ableism and sexism, which affect LGBTQ+ people at the intersections of these identities – by educating yourself and stepping up as an ally.
4. Support your LGBTQ+ peers.
We know sport and physical activity can be great for your mental health and wellbeing, and with COVID-19 forcing sport activities to be put on pause or exercise facilities to close, this is having a difficult effect on many of us. This is especially tough for LGBTQ+ people who may already experience mental health issues.
You can find a range of support tailored specifically to LGBT people. Make this information available to your community, friends, family or team and be part of creating a more open environment for everyone to talk about mental health and wellbeing.
5. Challenge homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and acephobia online.
Over the years, the culture around homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and acephobia has started to shift in the sporting world. It’s heartening to know that 46% of people feel confident challenging anti LGBT language online. But it’s all too easy to let things slide.
Speak up when you see anti-LGBTQ+ bullying or language. As an ally you can educate the people around you, making sure that LGBTQ+ people don’t have to do all the work on their own. It’s not always easy to use your voice but it’s a fundamental part of being an ally and can make a big difference for LGBTQ+ people in sport.
6. Celebrate LGBTQ+ achievements in sport.
There’s still more to do to end homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and acephobia in sport but it’s important to recognise and uplift LGBTQ+ people throughout the year and not just in the context of discrimination. It can be as simple as sharing positive news stories or interviews with LGBTQ+ people in sports on your social media or writing up a case study with LGBTQ+ people in your sporting community.
7. Establish or re-establish the ground rules of respect and inclusion.
Every team member plays a huge role in making people feel part of the team. Team talks, end of season speeches, WhatsApp groups and dressing room chatter – take a look at the steps to being an inclusive teammate to ensure everyone can give their all to the club and make the best of themselves.
8. Make sure your policies reflect your values.
For a lot of people, sport and sporting environments are ‘safe spaces’, somewhere they feel comfortable and at ease. But for others, the same place might make them feel like they have to hide part of their lives because of how others might react.
Follow the tips on being an inclusive sports organisation to create a space where everyone feels they can be their authentic self. This way, they can spend all their energy and enthusiasm on their sport.
9. Be a visible ally!
Buy your laces now! Wearing Rainbow Laces or a set of our new ace, bi, lesbian, non-binary or trans laces can go a long way to demonstrating a proud commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion. Consider how you can mark Rainbow Laces day and the ways that you’ll be a visible ally throughout the year.
10. Don’t wait to start the work.
The coronavirus pandemic can make it feel like the world is on pause. But being an ally is about adapting, being consistent and looking out for your LGBTQ+ peers no matter what.
Take care of yourself and take care of your community. All of these tips can be implemented from home and online, so that whether you’re able to play right now or not, we can still play our part to make sport everyone’s game!