Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone chose an LGBT History Month sponsored event at Sheffield Eagles to launch an LGBT charter in Sport.
The charter, which will invite national governing bodies of sports to commit to tackling homophobia and transphobia and making sport ‘a welcoming environment for LGB and T people’, was announced by the minister as she attended a Sheffield Eagles rugby league game at Bramall Lane.
The Eagles wore shirts with the slogan ‘Homophobia – Tackle It’ as they played against rivals Widnes Vikings. Fans were told that the event was in aid of tackling homophobia and the event drew statements of support from out sportspeople Gareth Thomas, John Amaechi, Clare Balding and Steven Davies.
Due to this, the game created some excellent media and press coverage, and the SRtRC team were able to benefit, by not only filming some footage from the game, on this historic occasion, but also by interviewing some key members who brought this event together, and were in full support of the work of SRtRC in tackling prejudice and homophobic attitudes towards gay men and women. The film footage and interviews will feature on our brand new homophobia resource.
Elton John also voiced his support in a message from the US where he is currently touring. Waterloo Road’s Scott Haining – who is outspoken about the importance of challenging homophobia – attended the event and proudly wore his LGBT History Month badge.
Education unions joined forces with LGBT History Month and Pride Sport in this ground-breaking event to educate the sports community. The match was sponsored by LGBT History Month and Pride Sport, together with the National Union of Teachers, the NASUWT, the University and College Union and Unison.
Featherstone echoed the prime minister’s commitment to making sport safer and more welcoming to LGBT people. She was optimistic about the new charter:
“Homophobia and transphobia have no place in sport and I’m delighted that so many sporting bodies are backing our campaign to stamp it out at all levels; from local parks to Olympic stadiums.”
The theme of LGBT History Month 2011 and 2012 is sport. Co-chair Tony Fenwick was proud of their achievements in the first year:
“After some amazing sporting events in February, History Month went into extra time for this final fixture. All the players and fans I spoke to were completely supportive.
“The charter is just what we need to help sport move forward into the Olympic year.”
Show Racism the Red Card interviewed Lynne Featherstone MP, the Equalities Minister, at the event for our new educational resource tackling homophobia. Here is the transcript of that inetrview.
How important is it for sports teams to support campaigns such as Show Homophobia the Red Card?
It’s beyond measure, I can not thank the Sheffield Eagles enough for wearing the ‘Homophobia – Tackle It!’ shirts today and kicking it out sport because the message that sends out to everyone - but most importantly to those who have concerns about their own sexuality or know that they’re gay and are scared to take part in sport in case their hated, discriminated against, bullied - that message is invaluable. And I have to say that rugby is the most macho sport so you can’t get better than that!
Why do you think there is such a taboo around gay sports people?
I just think that historically male sports have been ‘male’ sports and many males are very nervous around it. But in the 21st century, at last, sports people are coming out we’ve had Steven Davies, the cricketer, coming out recently as well as Gareth Thomas and we as a government want to work with anyone – work with the Football Association – to create an atmosphere and an ambience where anyone feels comfortable to come out and be who they are. Stonewall did a report, and although 93% fans think there should be absolutely no problem with homosexuals being involved in the game [football], at the same time 78% said they heard anti-gay chanting [in stadiums]. So it still is an issue and it’s by initiatives like the Sheffield Eagles demonstrating to everyone that homophobia is absolutely unacceptable, and transphobia for that matter, that we will change that.
Do the government have a policy for tackling homophobia in education?
We do absolutely. Tackling homophobic bullying was part of the coalition agreement and the Department of Education are working very hard in terms of helping to tackle all forms of bullying including homophobic bullying. The fact that 6 in 10 kids get homophobic bullying is absolute torture, and myself along with the Minister for Equalities have had three meeting with the Education Minister and I’m looking at how teachers and teacher training can help. I met with a group last night of young LGBT kids and they were saying that the big issue is that teachers don’t really take it on – not because they’re homophobic but they’re just a bit embarrassed, they don’t know how to handle it and whilst in London, where I’m from, its probably more advanced everywhere else in the country has to move too and I think teacher training is the way forward as well.
Sometimes teachers feel ill-equipped to deal with homophobia...
That’s exactly the point I’m making. Teachers don’t know what to do and a bit of teacher training would make it easier – you know everything is called ‘gay’ now and some schools have a grip on that and say “no – that’s not acceptable” – but if a teacher isn’t comfortable with it or doesn’t know enough to deal with it then perhaps they would benefit hugely from training to make them feel secure on advising young people who know they’re gay or have issues around their sexuality or gender identity. We’ve got to make it a world where everyone feels free to be themselves.
How do we tackle stereotypes?
Well my personal response to stereotypes is that you can’t believe it, whether it is black kids in hoodies – I mean my daughter wears a hoody – it’s how people behave, not what they look like and everyone should be free to wear what they like and act how they like and do what they like so long as they’re nice people, that’s what really counts.