Hugh Torrance says LGBT History Month is about our past, present, and future
The latest lockdown has made me quite reflective, remembering some happy times and important moments back in the old ‘normal’. February is LGBT History Month, and I’m remembering a trip to Berlin where a friend brought a new face along to dinner.
The new face was a former Olympic athlete who despite living as an openly lesbian woman, was contractually bound to conceal her sexual orientation and thus her identity, leaving scars of shame that were still very apparent in our conversation. It was a poignant reminder to me that systematic exclusion from physical activity and sports spaces is part of the history of oppression of LGBTIQ+ communities; it also sadly aligned with my current experience at LEAP Sports knowing that barriers to being your authentic self in sport are not something consigned to history.
It’s not just at elite level; LEAP Sports works to tackle these barriers and to improve opportunities for LGBTIQ+ people at all levels of sport, to ensure that they can access, participate and excel. Despite really positive progress that has been made for LGBTIQ+ people in many sports and in many areas, not all of our community experience progress equally and our approach at LEAP Sports is to work across different targeted initiatives: specific sports such as our Football v Homophobia Scotland work; different identities such as the Trans Active project; and in different areas such as Out on Sundays in Glasgow.
LGBT History Month gives us a direct opportunity to highlight and celebrate many of the unsung heroes whose work has helped to improve equality and tackle injustice and whose ongoing contributions make things better for future generations. LEAP Sports will be using History Month to highlight the work of the many community activists and community organisers we have the privilege of working with, including the incredible youth activists who have produced some brilliant resources for the sports sector, and the inspiring sports groups who organise regular participation opportunities and who have been finding creative ways to keep people fit, connected and supported throughout the pandemic.
Like so many other organisations, the LEAP Sports team have moved most of our work online as a result of the pandemic, and almost a year on we continue to deliver remote and virtual participation initiatives such as our series of free online yoga and fitness classes, or our newly launched Three City Challenge which links LGBTIQ+ communities in sister cities, Edinburgh, Munich and Kyiv. It’s important that what we offer is varied as we know that physical activity and sport is not only about fitness or competition, but is important for our mental health, our wellbeing, friendships, solidarity, identity, being in spaces where you feel safe and validated. It is for these reasons that physical activity and sport will play such a pivotal role in the national covid recovery effort.
LEAP Sports is gearing up to play our part in that recovery effort. We have been developing our intersectional approach in the past few years, helping us to examine the complex and multiple forms of disadvantage and discrimination that LGBTIQ+ people experience. From this work we are better positioned to target change effectively, and to keep challenging ourselves to be better. This has never been more needed than now as we must prioritise those in our community who have been most affected, who are most marginalised, and who are furthest from participating. LGBT History Month 2021 for LEAP Sports is about our past, our present, and our future.