Grey, Green and the tentative Pink

Monday, 03 February 2020

Rainbow Laces

Grey, green and pink are the Brookes Sport colours and with LGBT History Month fast approaching in February, let’s help make the Pink community prouder!

 

I’m unapologetically queer at work, professional but always myself – and I believe that it’s incredibly important every member of our community, LGBT+ or not, feels able to do the same, whether at university, at work, taking part in sport etc. This isn’t implying that everyone should behave in the same way, only that we are all deserving of being treated with respect and made to feel comfortable, welcome and included in spaces supposedly designed for everyone’s wellbeing. The 2012 NUS ‘Out In Sport’ study revealed that 47% of LGBT+ students who didn’t participate in sport found the culture intimidating or unwelcoming and whilst there has been evident improvement in attitudes since then, further work is needed to make sure that 0% of people feel like that.

 

In my time working at Brookes Sport, on reception and as a member of the operations team, what has been done to make me personally feel supported enough to be my true self and how have we tried to help others feel the same?

 

Firstly, attitude – on my first day I worried that I was about to enter a very suppressive overly-masculine environment, instead I met a really relaxed team, with a good balance of genders, ages and personalities. I felt just at ease discussing workout routines with my colleagues as I did discussing the latest Rupaul’s Drag Race episode and everyone was up for engaging in light-hearted humour.

 

Secondly, visibility – we have key people in management who are openly out and pro-actively using their position to give the Brookes LGBT+ community a voice in important decision making and helping to organise relevant support groups. Being able to talk to a superior who understands a problem I may face from a queer perspective makes a massive difference.

 

Thirdly, creativity – my role as the inaugural LGBT+ sports ambassador stemmed from having discussions with colleagues in how we could become more inclusive and attractive to all. Having an open-minded, inventive team enabled original ideas to be developed and implemented with enthusiasm without worry of judgement or a need to water them down to heteronormative ideals.

 

Additional small touches such as staff wearing rainbow lanyards, queer music artists being mixed in amongst our gym playlists and LGBT+ event/group posters & leaflets being distributed throughout the building are all aimed at making those members of our community who may be even slightly daunted by the prospect of entering a sporting environment feel more at ease, confident to ask for help if needed and able to use the space to relax, socialise and get a sweat on.

 

Kyle

 

 

The importance of these initiatives are unfortunately emphasised whenever we face any degree of abuse, physical, verbal or mental. The 2015 ‘Out on the Fields’ study, considered one of the largest international studies of homophobia in sport, revealed that 84% of Gay Men and 82% of Gay Women experienced verbal homophobic slurs such as ‘faggot’ and ‘dyke’ whilst participating in sport. I have personally on one occasion, suffered abuse from a customer whilst at work. This was an incident which I brushed off at the time but subsequently made me feel angry and vulnerable. Circumstances at the time unfortunately prevented further action being taken, but steps - such as those mentioned above - have been taken to try and prevent similar incidents happening again.

 

One major benefit of working on reception is being able to meet and interact with a huge number of people, including students, staff and members of the general public. It also makes noticing patterns in customer demographics easier, which can be really helpful when trying to improve our appeal and inclusivity for the LGBT+ community. For example, I’ve noticed that the climbing wall is particularly successful in attracting a substantial regular following amongst the Trans/Non-Binary community and providing a space they feel comfortable and safe to use. I’ve also noticed that there are more openly Lesbian/Bi members of female sports teams than openly Gay/Bi members of male sports teams and it’s really not hard to notice that the downstairs free-weights section of the gym is the least diverse amongst our facilities.

 

I want to be able to understand why these patterns are occurring and how we can use positive examples such as climbing to make spaces such as the gym more welcoming, however my viewpoint is limited to that of a Cisgender Gay male - in order to really appreciate what affects/empowers the remaining spectrum of our community, I need to hear from you all. Hence throughout the sports centre and on social media you may have seen posters asking for volunteers willing to discuss their sporting experiences at Brookes and elsewhere and also for any suggestions/ideas for improvement. Please email me on kyle.mccracken@hotmail.co.uk if you’d like to help and I’ll send over a quick questionnaire to complete! Responses will only be used to give varied insight for future articles and will be kept anonymous, unless you ask me to publicise your personal story, which I’m also very happy to do!

 

Grey, green and pink are the Brookes Sport colours and with LGBT History Month fast approaching in February, let’s help make the Pink community prouder!