11 October 2011
Is your club really inclusive?
"Anyone can join our club -we don't discriminate." This statement is repeated in sports clubs all over the country, but there's a big difference between being legally compliant and being genuinely inclusive.
A 2010 Victoria University report titled 'Come Out To Play' provides some insight into the sports experiences of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Victoria. It found that just ". . . 50 per cent of respondents from mainstream clubs reported their club to be welcoming to very welcoming of non-heterosexual people".
There's no doubt that over the last two decades social attitudes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender Australians have changed, but there is a range of evidence to suggest that many of these people still feel alienated and are often subject to abuse and discrimination. This is perhaps most keenly felt in sport, where a culture of homophobia still exists in some clubs.
The law and policy
In Australia, equal opportunity and discrimination laws vary between states and territories, but it is generally illegal to discriminate against a person on the basis of (among other things) gender or sexual orientation, and may result in complaints against individuals and/or clubs that allow it to happen.
Every club should have a member protection policy outlining the legal and ethical responsibilities of all club members and their expected standards of behaviour. It should also incorporate specific policies pertaining to the inclusion of people from all areas of the community.
Is your club inclusive?
Just because your club says it is inclusive doesn't mean everyone will automatically feel welcome or safe. Only a small percentage of gay, lesbian, bisexual , intersex and transgender people who are actively participating in sport are open and 'out' about their sexuality or gender identity. Many people remain silent about their sexuality and gender identity in order to 'fit in' with other players and club members, and sometimes to avoid verbal and even physical abuse.
In a country where sport is often regarded as an integral part of social and community life, especially for young people, exclusion or discrimination in this area can have serious implications for a person's health and general well-being.
So what can sporting clubs do to ensure that they don't have a culture of homophobia and exclusion? And how do we make sport genuinely inclusive? Try the following ideas:
• develop an inclusive club policy
• make your inclusive policies known to your members and to the wider community
• create a clear and direct relationship between policy and practice
• ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity are not factors when selecting teams, athletes or coaches
• forge relationships with community groups, local councils and government agencies that are focussed on encouraging inclusion and diversity. Use their knowledge, resources and contacts to attract, assist and retain new members
• ensure all club members are aware that they can be as publicly 'out' as they choose to be, with the full support of club leaders
• encourage members to bring same-sex partners to social events
• introduce educational programs to redress homophobia
• openly discuss the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender members
• ensure coaches and administrators are vested with the responsibility to make sport safe and inclusive for all members
• identify potential role models who can lead the way for new members
• have complaints and discipline processes in place (via your club's official grievance procedures) for those who display homophobic and anti-social behaviour.
Sport is for everyone. But it is clear that some people are still being excluded and discriminated against (either directly or indirectly, intentionally or not) simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. All sporting clubs share a responsibility to ensure that all sections of the community feel safe and secure, and are able to participate in their chosen sport.
• Information and advice about Homophobia and Sexuality Discrimination, including an online interactive scenario
• Come Out to Play: The Sports experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in Victoria by Caroline Symons, Melissa Sbaraglia, Lynne Hillier and Anne Mitchell
• Fair Go,Sport! project
The reality of homophobia in sport: Gus Johnston's story
Click here to see the powerful and moving story of Gus Johnston, a young man passionate about his hockey (who played for Victoria and over 202 State League One games for the Essendon Hockey Club). Gus has shown courage and leadership off the pitch by producing a video to highlight his personal challenges and experiences in relation to his sexuality, and the homophobia he witnessed in his time in the sport.
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