Queer people need opportunities in grass-root sporting environments: Proud2Play
"We still don't have any AFL men's players who feel safe enough to publicly talk about their sexuality or gender identity"
Proud 2 Play delivers education to sporting associations to create safe and inclusive environments for same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people.
JAMES LOLICATO, co-founder What was your experience with sport like when you were younger? When I was younger and in P.E. class I never felt truly comfortable. I went to a Private Catholic boys school and homophobic comments were the norm. Each and every time I heard one of those homophobic phrases I would be shot down emotionally, and felt so insecure in my own skin.
It wasn’t until I was older and openly gay that my twin brother forced me back into basketball, and I very, very begrudgingly accepted. During my first game back I realised that this time playing sport was very different. I was now playing in a team with my brother and his friends and they accepted me for who I was. What are you hoping Proud 2 Play will offer young LGBTI people? Research depicts that the biggest drop out of sport participation happens between the ages of 15 – 17 years of age. In LGBTI youth it’s mostly due to fear of rejection and a predisposition that they will not be accepted by sporting communities.
At Proud 2 Play we want to make sure that all youth have the opportunity to be involved in safe sporting practices, free from discriminatory language, gender discrimination, and judgement. What has the feedback been like so far?
One participant in our all-inclusive cricket program came to us after being subjected to bullying and transphobia within their school sports, and did not feel at all confident in joining sports post schooling.
All this person wanted to do was be able to play a friendly game of cricket with their brothers at family functions, however had never played cricket before. Our program not only taught them the basics of cricket, but also finally gave them the opportunity to play backyard cricket with their family.
RYAN STORR, co-founder Why is it important for change to come at a community sport level? Initiatives such as the Sydney vs St Kilda Pride Game have a huge positive impact on every LGBTI viewer watching the game at home or part of the spectating crowd. However, as we know we still don’t have any AFL men’s players who feel safe enough to publicly talk about their sexuality or gender identity. It is not our role to force or ask these players to come out until they feel right. It is very important to create opportunities for young queer people to feel accepted and comfortable enough in grassroot sporting environments, whereby the can gradually advance through the ranks of grassroots to elite level sports and never have to ‘come out’ but more just have to play as themselves throughout their whole sports careers.
What does Proud 2 Play provide? We provide a range of services to educate and train parties in providing inclusive opportunities for young people, running inclusive sport programs, to speaking engagements to try and raise awareness and appeal to organisations and individuals to engage in LGBTI diversity. What are the statistics / research like around LGBTI participation in sport? The 2015 research piece entitled ‘Out in the Fields’ found that 80 per cent of participants had experienced or witnessed homophobia in sport, 75 per cent of participants believed an openly gay person would not be accepted as a spectator at a sporting event, and 70 per cent of youth believed that youth team sport was not safe for gay people.
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