Always an Ambassador
Monday, 01 March 2021
Following on from LGBT History Month, we caught up with our Inaugural LGBT+ Sports Ambassador, Kyle, to find out how he's been getting on.
What have you been up to since graduating from Oxford Brookes?
Even though I graduated from my Architecture Masters mid-pandemic (still waiting to have an official cap & gown pic taken!), I was very fortunate to be offered a job working at a fantastic architect's practice called Assael. So after a few months of lounging around during summer, I moved down to London in October and moved in with my best mate.
This is my second time living in the capital, but due to Covid, it's been a very different, albeit still enjoyable, experience. I have been working on a variety of projects, from unique contemporary apartments to large mixed-use masterplans, collaborating with external consultants, communicating with clients & in general just learning a lot of new interesting information.
I have also continued my work on the main committee of Architecture LGBT, running their social media accounts and attempting to help organise a variety of engaging 'virtual' events - although I do miss our wildly fun pre-pandemic parties!
How have you been doing throughout this pandemic?
I feel incredibly lucky & grateful to be employed during these times doing something I love, but like everyone I do have days where I struggle both mentally & physically. Having initially worked in the office, moving to WFH full time has been difficult, I miss the home/work life separation, my big desk & joking around with colleagues.
Another major struggle has been the closure of gyms - a solid morning gym workout would set me up for the day, leaving me feeling motivated & energised. Now I try and do home workouts and regular runs, but the lack of motivation some days is massive!
Music has been a saviour though, with some fantastic albums released in the past year - Camelphat's 'Dark Matter', Jessie Ware's 'What's Your Pleasure?', Duke Dumont's 'Duality' & Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' amongst my favourites.
Most importantly though my family & friends haven't been adversely affected by the virus & for that I'm immensely grateful.
Did you have any concerns or apprehensions about taking part in competitive sport or using the gym at university as an openly gay man – and what might you say to someone in a similar position who was nervous in joining a club or the gym?
Naturally joining any new team or sport will be daunting, especially at university where you will be playing with and against your peers. In addition, I had some negative experiences playing sport as an openly gay man during my undergrad studies at Sheffield, so these insecurities did carry over. However, I shouldn't have worried as people's perceptions & opinions of LGBT+ individuals have positively improved dramatically, even just in the last few years.
Ultimately most don't care about your sexuality, just that you play the sport well & the few that do have an issue with it are a very small minority. The athletics society were incredibly welcoming, as were 99% of the other sportspeople that I interacted with, both playing sport & working at the sports centre. Just be yourself & give it your all!
What was working for Brookes Sport like?
Gyms have a reputation of being intimidatingly masculine & heteronormative environments, which sadly are often accurate perceptions. I'm passionate about fitness, so you can imagine the excitement I felt on the first day to be working doing something I loved, but similarly to joining sports clubs, I was also apprehensive - would my colleagues accept me for who I was? Could I be openly myself or would I need to 'tone' myself down in a way that would be more conventional? How would customers react if I wore a rainbow lanyard? Etc. So I have nothing but gratitude to my colleagues & our customers for embracing my authentic self - I was treated just like anyone else, with a smile and respect.
Anyone who knows me will agree that I can sometimes be a bit loud or 'camp' or have a habit of playing too much Britney, and not once did anyone make me feel lesser for it. One minor incident with a negative customer was swiftly resolved & I felt supported by management throughout. I genuinely miss working at Brookes Sport & I’m sad that my time there was unceremoniously cut short due to Covid.
From your perspective, what can sports clubs and gyms do to be more inclusive?
I was Brookes Sports first LGBT+ Ambassador, and one of the things I attempted to do was collect feedback from our LGBT+ customers as to how we could become more inclusive & welcoming to all. Some of the most common suggestions were the instillation of a dedicated gender-neutral changing facility, a range of music being played that would appeal to a variety of tastes, having openly LGBT+ staff/team captains and certain important dates such as Pride being acknowledged/celebrated. The climbing centre & its staff were often praised as an outstanding example of an environment that was welcoming to all.
I must add that my personal experiences are that of a gay, cisgender & light-skinned male - the experiences & issues faced by non-binary/Trans, female & POC LGBT+ individuals will be wildly different, and their voices need to be included and heard at every important decision-making point.
The key is that we don't want to be treated differently to others, we want to just feel included & valid.
How has being active helped you?
As someone who grew up facing a lot of body-issues & a lack of self-confidence, discovering fitness made a huge difference to my mental health. Besides the obvious physical health benefits, it aided me in meeting other like-minded individuals, taught me perseverance & the importance of eating a balanced diet.
As I previously mentioned, during these lockdowns exercise has been one of the few outlets that's allowed me to feel like I still have control over an aspect of my life, in other words it has given me stability. I still have fitness goals I want to achieve, but the beauty of exercise is that it's a continuous journey that gives back as much as you put in!
Kyle is Brookes Sport’s inaugural LGBT+ Ambassador and highly regarded team member who made some lasting friendships during his time at Oxford Brookes. We’d like to wish him all the best in his new career a hope to be able to publish more from him on this website in the future.
We are also on the lookout for someone to take on the role of LGBT+ Ambassador – if this is something that you might like to take on, please email our Marketing & Engagement Manager for more information.