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Rainbow Laces: Encouraging LGBT+ participation in sport

Monday 01-08-2016 - 14:30

The Union of Brunel Students have been making a concerted and successful effort to make their sports teams more welcoming for LGBT+ students. Vice President Student Activities Michael Darlow tells us how.

One of my stated aims when I chose to run for this position was to work on enhancing the accessibility of our sports clubs to all students.

I attended several conferences and one of the more concerning facts that came to my attention was that significant challenges faced many students wishing to join in with sport across the UK. NUS has produced a comprehensive report following national research, discovering that, in one in five sports clubs, students do not feel they can be open about their sexuality to their team mates. They cite concerns that such openness would result in homophobic, transphobic or bi-phobic abuse, concerns they may be ostracised, not selected, or even ejected from the club.

NUS has also identified that on many campuses, participation in sport has strong associations with certain behaviours and norms which NUS research participants found unwelcoming. Nearly half of NUS survey respondents said that they find the culture around sport alienating or unwelcoming. Sports games were often mentioned in workshops as a manifestation of this intimidating culture, involving homophobic ‘banter’ as a form of humiliation.

The outcomes of this research saddened me, and I am determined to lead Brunel sports clubs in a campaign to eliminate such discrimination and fear of involvement. Looking at practical, visible statements, I’ve been inspired by the Rainbow Laces Campaign (led by Stonewall), and so, on Wednesday 18 November we asked every student competing for Brunel to wear rainbow laces.

This demonstrated that our clubs are inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all. I hope this is the start of an ongoing campaign, which will make people think, and ensure that any student is free and comfortable to join in, participate and gain the benefits that come from being involved in sport.

We had numerous students approach us and say that they now feel they can participate in sport at Brunel as a result of this campaign.

“As the Union of Brunel Student’s LGBT+ Liberation Officer I am determined to stamp out homophobia in every aspect of university life, including sport.” - Eilis Cronin (LGBT+ Officer)

“Anyone should be able to participate in sport, no matter what sexuality. I am fully behind this campaign as it is a fantastic way to raise awareness about homophobia in sport. I will be lacing up this Wednesday to demonstrate I am in full support.” - Chris Meadway (Sports Federation Chair)

 

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Campaigns, Features, LGBT

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