On Monday 21st November we went along to the pre-launch of the 2012 LGBT History Month, at the Kia Oval.
The theme for next history month is sport – obviously to coincide with the Olympics and Paralympics in London. We were treated to some great speakers including. Sue Sanders (co-chair of LGBT History Month), Stephen Frost (Head of Diversity and Inclusion at LOCOG) and Chad Molleken (Executive Director of Pride House London), who were passionate about fighting homophobia in sport and making professional sport a safe space for its athletes to come out.
There was a panel discussion about what the role is of athletes themselves to be out and the management and leadership in sport (from governing bodies, to club managers, to high profile representatives) to support them to be able to do so – and the challenges this brings about. The importance of events like the gay games was also raised, as an inclusive and profile raising event (larger than the Olympics!).
We also saw some great case studies in Rugby League of the efforts some professional clubs are making, to loudly proclaim it's not okay to be homophobic in their sport.
And we heard about the plans for the Pride House (the LGBT planned cultural activity taking place throughout the duration of the Olympics and potentially the Paralympics).
All good.... but where sport, especially professional sport is concerned, there is always a dominance of men and male sport. It's what gets coverage in the press, on TV, in merchandising. And it can feel like female athletes are invisible or second rate.
This was raised to some extent, in particular the role of the media in pressuring the situation much more for men, and the role of the media in sport in general – is it a gay professional sportsperson's duty to be out and be a role model?
It feels like the theme of homophobia in sport is very different for men and women. The anecdotes used suggested that men can't come out for fear of being demasculinised, ridiculed and bullied. Lesbians are criticised for dominating the female sports scene, apparently there are too many of us.
What does this mean for LGBT History Month and 2012? Well, there is a large high profile platform we need to make the most of – sport is clearly going to be a big theme in England next year (let's hope it's not too London centric). The government has developed a Sports Charter that denounces homophobia in sport – we need all sports governing bodies to sign up to this, and encourage their clubs to do so as well. We need to promote the sports that are actively tackling homophobia, not just the big name sports like Rugby – let's celebrate other sports that offer inclusivity (I may be biased here, but softball seems like a place to start).
But let's also use the high profile sports to send out the messages to everyone that homophobia will not be tolerated.