• Why do gays need their own program? Marrying the LGBTI community and cricket in Victoria

    10m 58s

    Ryan Storr is a PhD researcher in the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living at Victoria University. His thesis explores how volunteers in community sport clubs engage in diversity work. He is currently chief investigator of a research project with Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria which explores LGBT inclusion in Australian cricket.

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Like most of you I’m sure you’re energized and enthused to see the NRL come out in support of LGBTI diversity recently.  I was also encouraged by the AFL and some very strategically placed footballs, good work Tania Hodge, around their support and commitment for LGBTI diversity.  This also comes as Tim previously mentioned sport and politics mix.  It’s pretty hard not to mix them but everyone has an equal opportunity to say what they want.  
 
One of the problems is how do we turn these institutional commitments in policy documents, spoken words, how do we get them to perform?  How do we get them to actually do something in action?  I’m going to spend the next nine minutes or so talking about how one sport in Victoria has gone on a journey towards LGBTI inclusion.
 
The first part of this journey started when the Victoria University had been commissioned to do some research for Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria with the support of Sport & Recreation Victoria around what is the current climate and a scope in (1:25) around LGBTI inclusion across all levels of Australian cricket.  It turned out to be a very big project so I’m just going to simplify some key points.
 
There were some key challenges from the research.  Three quarters of the sample in terms of the survey and there were about 330 people who did the survey, those that were LGBTI identified that they had witnessed or reported seeing homophobia within cricket at some time or another, so that’s around 75%. This research identified there’s a problem with homophobia in Australia cricket.  Interestingly, some of the responses to the survey, very similar to when any sport institution puts out supporting marriage equality or anything like that, it’s always (2:12).  There were some really interesting ___ within the survey as well.  There was one comment basically saying “it’s total rubbish. We shouldn’t have these programs.  Why do the gays need their own program?  Why can’t they play with everybody else?”  So there’s this distinct lack of education and knowledge around why people from the LGBTI community, especially trans people might not participate in sport, however there is one other aspect to the research that was really encouraging.  The cricket community as a whole identified that there is a problem around LGBTI diversity and anti-LGBTI discrimination and they were ready to see changes within their local cricket communities to try and include people.  
 
There was some really inspiring feedback as well when we did some interviews.  There were people talking about this idea of sport and politics mixing and that cricket could actually be a real beacon of opportunity to try and bring around change within the Australian sport landscape.  
 
This one in particular I’m sure the various clubs throughout Australia now realise that cricket can move to greater heights by involvement of people regardless of gender etc.  Cricket could be the great ambassador for one of the biggest changes in sport if they elect to assist with recognising the facts in this survey.  There was a lot of really inspirational talk.  
 
The marriage equality debate recently as well show that people do want to get involved but sometimes they might not know how.  The other key statistic there, three-quarters of the sample as well identified that more should be done within cricket to support the LGBTI community so in terms of building evidence-base we identified that there’s a problem of homophobia but that the cricket community was actually ready to try and embrace cultural change.
 
The next part, we’ve got the research, we know what to do with such, so we worked with Cricket Victoria to basically design some programs around trying to include the LGBT community in the cricket landscape so really did entry level in terms of people who might never have played cricket before. 
 
So cricket’s diversity policy is a sport for all.  The research identified that in order for actually every Australian to play cricket you need to engage the LGBTI community and that currently wasn’t happening so it’s really positive to see Cricket Australia especially say we need to put our money where our mouth is and we need to actually open it up to everybody so we designed a project to get more people especially from the LGBTI community involved in sport and exercise.  Part of this partnership was with Proud to Play.  I co founded Proud to Play about 18 months ago and we work at the community grassroots level trying to get more young people, rainbow families, the trans and gender diverse community into sport and exercise.  
 
So we designed this project called Proud Cricket.  We put in for a funding application through Vic Health’s Sport Innovation Challenge. We were successful so we had this package and now we could actually go out and do something to actually put these policy documents into action trying to encourage participation.  
 
We recently got the Proud Cricket logo so we’re launching this in the next couple of months but we’ve actually been inundated with demand so we’re working with regional sport assemblies all the way out in Bendigo etc, local councils, we’re working with cricket clubs in teaching them how to engage with LGBTI diversity and how to run an inclusive program so things like how to address gender inclusive bathrooms, pronouns, what might stop someone from accessing a sport program.  When we actually trialled this last year with the Oldham Park Cricket Club it worked really well and we actually had – there’s one young trans boy who travelled an hour and a half just to come and play cricket.  He said “I’ve never had the opportunity to play cricket before and for me I need to know that there’s a safe space and I’m not going to get misgendered and that I’m valued within that cricket environment”.  He came for the next three weeks. The first journey was on a train but then his mum used to drive him as well.  She used to sit on the side and we used to chat with her etc.  
 
I’m going to give you four key messages in terms of some of the things that have worked, some of the things that haven’t worked around for a sport, it’s first starting around engaging LGBTI diversity so it can’t be something that’s haphazard and we’re going to put our support to marriage equality.  You need to do it strategically and you need to show that there’s been an evidence base as well.  
 
The first thing is around commitment.  There needs to be an institutional commitment to LGBTI diversity.  If this commitment is not institutionalized and sits within senior leadership for example we could take all these exciting ideas to a certain level and then if the senior leadership or the CEO for example does not want to engage in it, it doesn’t go anywhere so you need that commitment in order to progress.
 
Education – Like Tim mentioned there is 58,000 volunteers in Victoria alone.  Most of these probably won’t know anything around LGBTI diversity or how to engage with it so we need to educate and support these volunteers who run the clubs in order to actually engage with it.  Part of the research identified that people want to engage but they don’t know how so part of our education package with Proud Cricket is working with cricket clubs in order to teach them the basics and not to be scared.
 
Partnership – So you see from all the logos across the presentation we can’t do this by ourselves.  You need to partner.  You need to get support.  Vic Health have been particularly supportive and helpful so although they gave us funding it wasn’t just have the money and run, it was they guided us through the process of how to take the project to market and finances and everything like that and we would have that support and that skill base if we hadn’t got that support from them.  
 
The other thing, finally, LGBTI inclusion across all levels, so you might want to engage in terms of spectators in reducing homophobia in the stands but there are a lot of different levels to LGBTI inclusion.  You can start with the senior leadership in trying to get institutional by-in.  You can also get coaches, volunteers, there are lots of different platforms so I would encourage you to address all levels of LGBTI inclusion and remember the LGBTI community is very large so we’ve got issues around sexuality but there’s also a lot of work to be done in the transgender, diverse and intersex community.  Often these are left off and within Proud to Play most of our work and our positive stories has come from engagement in trans and gender diversity. They want to play sport but unless for example things like inclusive bathroom facilities they’re not going to come to your sport club and participate.  
 
Some final stories – There are lots of different ways to engage in LGBTI diversity.  We’ve done a lot of work with Rainbow Families for example, so same sex parents, parents of gender diverse children.  We recently did an event for Martin Foley around marriage equality, basically trying to give families a bit of time off and engaging sport.  There are lots of different ways and we’ve been really busy in the last year getting our name out and running sport activities.  
 
One key story that I tell this everywhere I go. When we ran our Proud Cricket program last year at Youlden Parkville there was an email sent around saying “we’re doing this project. We’re Proud to Play.  This is what we’re hoping to achieve.  If people come down to the club, speak to them, these are some of the things that you might want to talk about etc”.  Leo, who was I think five or six, spoke to his mum and said “what’s happening?”  She explained that some people might come down to the club and play cricket that might not necessarily feel welcome or that there’s a place for them within cricket.  He said that’s not fair.  That’s not right.  We want to make them feel welcome.  What can we do?” So together they made some rainbow cookies and some rainbow muffins for us all.  So we did the first session.  We had a barbecue. We ate muffins.  We all had a chat.  We talked about things, so LGBTI diversity was normalized and institutionalized within the club. It wasn’t behind, it wasn’t a separate night, it was front and centre as part of their club.  
 
It’s a tough time for the LGBTI community at the moment and sport can have a real positive impact within that community just like it does for so many other communities.  My call to action is for sport to step up and make this happen.
 
Thank you.