Act of homophobic vandalism leads to further push for inclusion in sport

 

David Kyle says he has become an ally and advocate of Pride Cups almost by default. As president of the North Gippsland Football League in country Victoria, Kyle says he became motivated to become a more vocal advocate for LGBTI inclusion when he witnessed what he took to be a homophobic response to the club’s first Pride Cup match in 2016 between local teams Glengarry and Traralgon Tyres United.

When Dean Sutton – a local LGBTI community member working with the league on the Pride Cup – hung rainbow flags in the main street of the the tiny town of Glengarry, the flags were torn down and destroyed just hours later.

Seeing that negative response was probably the catalyst that made us realise we needed to keep moving forward with our inclusion policies, take more of a stand, and start the eduction process,” Kyle says.

The support mechanisms or acceptance down here are not the same as Collins Street in Melbourne – so we needed to deal with some very old and long held cultural views.”

This week, in a broad ranging push for LGBTI inclusion in sport, CEOs of several Victorian sporting organisations – including Australian rules football, tennis, rugby, cricket, football, netball and gymnastics – made a “pledge of pride”, welcoming members into clubs regardless of sexuality or gender identity.

The CEOs from across the full gamut of sporting codes expressed a common sentiment that their sports should be open to all Australians and that sexuality and gender should never be a roadblock.

Hockey Victoria and our community has been a strong advocate for celebrating sexual and gender diversity for close to a decade,” says Hockey Victoria CEO Andrew Skillern. “The collaboration with other codes is vital to ensure we all show what can be done by celebrating diversity together.”

A recent Out on the Fieldsstudy found that 80% of Australians have experienced or witnessed homophobia in sport, including slurs such as “faggot” or “dyke”; 75% believe openly gay spectators would not be safe at a sporting event, and 87% of young gay men and 75% of young gay women remain in the closet while playing sport.

Since the first Pride Cup was held in Yarra Glen in 2014, there are now more than 30 sporting clubs registered to stage their own versions. The movement formed after former Yarra Glen football club player Jason Ball came out as gay in 2012, spearheading a national campaign to tackle homophobia in sport, culminating in the founding of Pride Cup Australia.Pride Cup

Australia and VicHealth also launched a new handbook this week as a resource offering case-studies, tips and real-life scenarios for local and national sporting organisations to create successful, inclusive and meaningful Pride Cups in their communities.

The handbook is about meeting the demand we have had from sporting clubs who want to bring Pride Cup to their communities, based on the 14 or so Pride Cups that have been held across the state over the last five years,” says Ball.

We have had a massive increase in the number of clubs wanting to sign up with Pride Cup – but we need to make sure they understand that Pride Cup is not just a token adding of the rainbow to a sporting match.”

Ball says the handbook includes all the collective wisdom learnt from putting on Pride Cups to date to ensure they are staged appropriately. “It needs to be done in a meaningful way that includes education for players and coaches that helps them challenge homophobia, and includes working with local LGBTI organisations in their communities.”

According to Kyle, there are definitely signs of progress since his league started hosting events in 2016, but there is still a long way to go. “I don’t know that we have totally got to where we want to get with this yet,” he says.

But I have had parents and young people calling me and thanking us for the work we are doing in this space. I still think we have a long to travel but I do think its making a difference to people’s lives. And if that’s the only result we get out of this, I still think that’s a pretty good result.”

This story first published in The Guardian

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