Wednesday 27 November is Rainbow Laces Day, where sportspeople don the multi-coloured ties to show their support for Stonewall’s Come Out Active campaign, and so we took a look at the support for this community at UoB. We chatted to a few experts about the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and about what we can all do to ensure that sport and fitness can be an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. Our contributors include Tom, from the Rainbow Network, Sue, a Psychological Practitioner in Student Services, and Lexi, a staff member.
Guild of Students Sports Officer Josh Dooler, and LGBTQ+ officer Amber Culley say it’s imperative that, beyond this week of recognition, we come together to make people feel included, whether they are LGBTQ+ or not, in order to be healthy in whatever way people feel comfortable.
‘We need to participate in the rainbow laces campaign in order to challenge these statistics and raise awareness of the importance of inclusion. Not only is it important to make our communities more accepting and challenge oppression, but increasing LGBTQ+ equality in sport has real benefits in helping the community be healthier and happier.’
Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign exists for people to show their support, challenge discriminatory behaviour, and celebrate LGBTQ+ people in sport.
‘Equality can’t be delivered by the efforts of a small handful of individuals, as hard as we try – we need all the support we can get, whether that’s people being community role models, or friends wearing rainbow laces for a day in a welcome display of support and solidarity.’
– Tom, Rainbow Network
The positive impact that exercise can have on mental health makes it all the more important that barriers to participation in sport and exercise are broken down – but it’s still an area where there are still a lot of advances to be made.
We chatted to staff member and user of the Sport & Fitness facilities Lexi, who found that the encouragement and support of the class instructors helped her feel comfortable and enjoy exercise again, after social stigma and worries following her coming out as trans about her appearance made her avoid going out and exercising.
‘My worries changed after going to classes with some of our sport and fitness instructors such as Laura, Yvonne and Ester. For the first time in a while I feel like I can go to the gym or the pool without being judged just for being who I am. It’s always important to remember just how many people of all different types enjoy exercise. Every step we can take to make it as welcoming as possible really does matter.’
– Lexi, staff member
The UoB Lacrosse club will be showing their support on Wednesday 27 November at UpRoar, the free spectator event on the Bournbrook pitches at 2.15pm, by wearing the laces, and spectators are welcome to come and cheer on the teams and the campaign! Expect flags, facepaints and of course, rainbow laces – everyone is welcome! The LGBTQ+ Association will be running an informational stall on the day at UpRoar with flags, face paint and flyers to inform students about the campaign, and there will be an LGBTQ+ Sports Night in the evening, with the Guild decked out with rainbow flags for all to see that sport is everyone’s game. Also, check out the Guild’s social media campaign celebrating LGBTQ+ student athletes, in which our students are telling their sports stories.
Sport & Fitness are also hosting a free LGBTQ+ yoga session on Wednesday 27 November at 12pm in studio 2.
LGBTQ+ students can access all the support provided: from one to one sessions as well as group sessions and workshops, and are welcome to request a practitioner who is LGBTQ+.
As a young LGBTQ person, there is the chance that they will feel lonely and isolated. Sport has an amazing power to bring people together, and so by engaging with an exercise or activity, people can find a sense of community, energy and belonging. Sue, a Student Services staff member and Class Instructor at Sport & Fitness, says that acceptance in sport, specifically through Karate as a teenager, really improved her self-esteem; and a love of martial arts, running and weights has consistently helped her keep going through difficult times.
‘Luckily I found a home and acceptance in sport, leading to me recently completing a 4 year Post Graduate Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy and being certified as a group exercise instructor. It’s fair to say the group exercise training and teaching definitely helped balance out the challenges.’
– Sue, Student Services
The Rainbow Network provides support for LGBTQ+ staff and PhD students at the University of Birmingham. Email the network to find out more about other events and join the mailing list: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have been the victim of hate crime in relation to your identity, there is advice and support available via: www.intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hatecrime
If you are a student and have been affected by any of the issues raised, contact the University’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Service or speak to your Wellbeing Officer in your School/College.