Why sporting codes need more than just pride rounds

A person in rainbow colours holds a pride round footy.

Beau Newell is the National Program Manager of Pride in Sport. He writes for QNews on LGBTQ+ inclusion across sporting codes in Australia. 

Imagine you’re stepping onto a field to play the game you love, and you are told that your identity—your very essence—might be the reason you’re not welcome. How would you play? How would you feel? This is the reality for many LGBTQ+ athletes across the globe.

In my role leading Pride in Sport, I’ve been privileged to listen to the heartfelt narratives of sports icons like former Australian cricket captain Alex Blackwell, rugby league legend Ian Roberts, Olympic gold medallist Daniel Kowalski, and the trailblazing runner Ricki Coughlan.

But beyond the glamour of their titles, it’s their journeys from the shadows into the light that is profoundly moving. 

Each story, rich with resilience and bravery, serves as a powerful call to action for us all. It should remind us that the path to genuine LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports is paved with the very personal and collective stories of those who dare to live their truth.

Success so far

In the heart of Australian sports, a revolution is brewing. This is not in the grand spectacle of pride rounds, but in the quiet, steadfast march towards LGBTQ+ inclusion.

It isn’t just about adding rainbow colours to jerseys. It’s a profound commitment to welcoming diversity at every level of play, and it’s happening right here in Australian sports. 

If you peel back the layers of what you think you know about a sports effort within LGBTQ+ inclusion work, you can see that many sporting codes are taking huge strides – yet the journey ahead is like forging new paths on the road less travelled.

Understanding the depth of LGBTQ+ inclusion requires peering beyond surface-level indicators.

The 2023 PSI National Survey Key Insights highlighted that of the sports actively working in the LGBTQ+ inclusion space. 84% of people believe that their organisation or club is genuinely committed to LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion. This is a significant rise from 71% in 2022. 

Trans inclusion

This showcases a positive shift. However, these statistics also illuminate the road ahead: a path fraught with misconceptions and societal barriers that still need dismantling. 

Of particular note is the discourse around transgender inclusion in sports. It is riddled with myths and hateful rhetoric that not only misrepresent individuals but also expose a lack of awareness and education about transgender identities.

Correcting these misconceptions is not just about acknowledging diversity but about having a person-centred approach to affirm the humanity and dignity of every athlete, coach, official, volunteer and staff member. Because every person has a fundamental right to participate in sport.

Active allies

Non-LGBTQ+ people have a role to play, too. ‘Active’ allyship stands as a cornerstone in the architecture of LGBTQ+ inclusion. However, more than a quarter (28%) of people haven’t heard the executive leaders of their sport speak positively about diversity and inclusion.

 How can we expect a sporting body of any kind to improve on its diversity and inclusion work if those with the most power are not talking about it? What’s more, is that this transcends mere acceptance, and advocating for inclusion is something everyone can do. 

This involves a call to action for sporting bodies to not only embrace LGBTQ+ inclusion as a core value but to prioritise it in their strategic planning and resource allocation. 

The next challenge is to maintain this commitment even in the face of adversity; ensuring that inclusion efforts are not sidelined but are seen as integral to the fabric of the sporting community and an organisation’s success.

Players against pride

There is a reluctance of some players to participate in pride rounds or wear rainbow colours. This requires a different layer of focus to address misunderstandings. Not a black-and-white approach. 

The essence of LGBTQ+ inclusion work is not to alter or dismiss personal beliefs. It is to foster an environment where demonstrating respect for everyone is the norm.

This distinction is crucial, highlighting that the work of inclusion is fundamentally about shaping a culture of respect and understanding, rather than coercing change in personal convictions. 

Success lies in understanding that the vibrancy of the rainbow thrives when we acknowledge the grey areas between behaviour and belief.

Recently Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins AO shared a profound insight that resonates deeply with the ethos of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports.

Jenkins aptly remarked: “No Socceroos were harmed in the making of the Matildas” – a statement that brilliantly encapsulates the essence of inclusion work within sports organisations. 

This gem from Jenkins underscores the fact that focusing on LGBTQ+ inclusion does not disadvantage anyone within the sporting codes.

Instead, it enriches the sport, benefiting all individuals involved by fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment. 

Pride in Sport Index

So, where does a sporting organisation start? The Pride in Sport Index (PSI) plays a pivotal role in this ecosystem.

It provides a comprehensive benchmarking framework for sporting organisations and encourages an evidence-informed approach.

This ensures that efforts are not just well-intentioned but are grounded in practices proven to foster inclusivity.

In crafting an inclusive future for Australian sports, it’s clear that the challenge is multifaceted. It requires sustained effort, education, and advocacy. 

The journey of LGBTQ+ inclusion is not a sprint but a marathon, and one that demands resilience, commitment, and a shared vision for a sporting community where everyone feels valued and included, including those with a diverse sexuality or gender identity.

You can find more information about Pride in Sport at prideinsport.com.au

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Manly Sea Eagle pride jersey boycotters speak out

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