Courage on & off the field - all sports should follow
By: Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
The courageous YouTube clip created by elite hockey player Gus Johnston highlights the challenges faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) sports people, and the need for all clubs and codes to work harder to be inclusive, Acting Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Karen Toohey said today.
Ms Toohey said sports clubs would know they were truly inclusive when a player’s sexuality, race or gender identity were no longer cause for comment.
“Unwelcoming behaviour doesn’t have to be overt and blatant. In fact, often the hardest thing for GLBTI players is the unspoken, persistent assumption among their teammates that everyone in the club is straight. That belief alone is often enough to persuade people to hide their sexuality,” Ms Toohey said.
“In sharing his story with such honesty and courage, Gus has shone a light on the fact that exclusion in all its forms – and homophobia in particular – can impact profoundly on the health and wellbeing of individuals, and on the life and success of a club.”
Ms Toohey commended Hockey Victoria for its leadership in taking part in the Fair go, sport! project.
“Fair go, sport! is not about coming out, but about helping clubs create safe, supportive and inclusive sporting environments through awareness, education and leadership, as well as inclusive codes, policies, procedures, and events. By getting involved, Hockey Victoria has put out the welcome mat to all players,” Ms Toohey said.
And Ms Toohey said the project will be a beacon for other codes.
“We would welcome more codes making the effort to create inclusive, accepting cultures within clubs. Many sports believe they don’t have a problem because no-one ever reveals there’s a problem. Yet research tells us almost four out of five GLBTI people who play mainstream sport have not revealed their sexual or gender identity to their team mates,” she said.
“Research also shows sporting environments are a key site for homophobic harassment, discrimination and exclusion for GLBTI people. This video makes it clear that GLBTI people involved in mainstream sports may be concealing their sexuality because they are waiting for a safe, welcoming environment. All sporting clubs and codes have a responsibility to become that kind of environment.”