Lace up for LGBTQI equality in sport and support this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE VIA STONEWALL
Since the campaign’s conception, the charity has sent out close to one million pairs of their Rainbow Laces and are now expanding on their range of laces to include lesbian, bi, ace, pan, trans and non-binary flags. The campaign aims to make sport everyone’s game, and brings sport communities together to champion inclusion for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in sport.
2020 hasn’t only highlighted inequalities for LGBTQI people, with events across the globe showing the impact of structural racism across society, including within the LGBTQI community, and throughout sport. Because of this, this re-launch of the Rainbow Laces campaign will shine a light on the importance of allyship and community.
The campaign kicks off today and runs through to 13 December, with activities planned across sport and online.
We caught up with Stonewall’s Sports Engagement Manager, Erin Walters-Williams, to find out more about why Rainbow Laces is more important than ever this year.
DIVA: Tell us a bit about this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
ERIN: It’s focused on inspiring, educating and encouraging allyship and community building to support LGBTQI inclusion in sport. This year especially, it’s shown us how much community is affecting people and how much people really need community. We all know that sport has the absolute power to bring people together, but everybody has has lost that due to the pandemic. The Rainbow Laces campaign this year wants to bring people together through sport around the topic of LGBTQI inclusion, to ensure that everyone can have the amazing benefits that sport brings to people.
Why is it so important to focus on allyship and community this year?
We can’t do it alone. Sport should be that safe haven for LGBTQI people. I’ve always been really lucky and sport has been a safe space, but it was only like that because of the allyship of teammates. Whilst we’re all living in different situations at the moment where people are experiencing more isolation, the ability to know that we’re not alone is so important.
Why do you think people rely on sport to get through a year like 2020?
Part of being involved in a sport community is knowing that you have friends and knowing that everybody has each other’s backs. Whether you’re on the pitch or communicating virtually, there’s that inbuilt level of camaraderie that really grows through sport. You have the relationships and the enjoyment.
One of the clubs that I’m involved in is a LGBTQI lacrosse club. It’s been really useful to have have Zoom calls even if we can’t get on the pitch together, just to remind each other that we’re all here and we’re all in it together.
Sport and physical activity can also have a strong impact on health and mental health. Being able to go for a run or go to the gym or go swimming, we know that it can be really useful. What we want to be able to do is really use a campaign like Rainbow Laces to show and remind people that all LGBTQI people are able to access the things that are going to make our lives easier.
Why do you think there should be such a big focus on the role that diversity and inclusion plays in sports through like a campaign like Rainbow Laces?
Sport should be for everyone, everybody should have access to sport and the benefits that it brings. I was driven to do this sort of work because I have benefited massively from what I’ve gotten out of sports.
It’s all well and good to say people should be able to play sport, but once people then go to a sporting environment, that might be unsafe, or the club itself may not have done the work behind the scenes to make it inclusive. That’s not fair. People can be put in unsafe situations, so sports clubs have a responsibility to really do the work and focus on inclusivity so everyone can show up.
According to Stonewall, 4 in 10 LGBTQI people think sporting events aren’t welcoming, why do you think this is?
It comes back to the point of why this work is so important. If people aren’t feeling safe it means that more work needs to be done.
Even if we’re not together this year we need to show that support visibly somehow. Whether it’s through wearing Rainbow Laces or tweeting about involvement in campaigns to show support. Without those signals people aren’t going to think sport is a safe space for them.
What difference do you hope the Rainbow Laces campaign makes for sport in 2021?
Everybody around the country in any sport or any physical activity is pressing the reset button. We’re going to see iterations of sport that we’ve never seen before because everything has to be Covid safe. It’s given us a great opportunity to refocus on people who would have been marginalised traditionally and include people with multiple marginalised identities.
We have an amazing opportunity to build and be better. Let’s take this campaign and the learnings from it to focus on creating a safe haven in sport for everyone as we move forward into 2021.
Head over to the Stonewall website to find out more about how you can get involved with this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign.
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