The month of February marks LGBTQI+ History Month in the UK, which is an opportunity to celebrate, and educate ourselves on the immense history and diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex community; as well as encourage the conversations needed to achieve equality and inclusion within our society.

To raise awareness of some of the matters affecting the LGBTQI+ community, we sat down with personal development group – Lutadoras, to discuss, exchange, and share ideas and experiences, all while learning from one another in a safe space and thinking about some of the steps we need to take as a society in order to see positive change.

The session was introduced by Female Engagement Consultant and Lutadoras Coordinator, Katie-Wambui Kings, who began with an important timeline of impactful events taking place within the LGBTQI+ community. 

Starting from the 1950’s, we looked at the decriminlisation of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967, to laws later put in place to specifically cause discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community (though the community existed long before then, with stories and events spanning all the way back to ancient times!)

The diversity of the LGBTQI+ community and its development over time prompted a wealth of conversation, and we soon moved on to the importance of inclusivity within the sporting world. 

Using statistics as prompts for discussion among the group, it was interesting to see how many directions it began to take.

According to studies carried out by Stonewall UK, 43% of LGBTQ+ people think public sporting events aren’t a welcoming space for them. 

Members of the group shared thoughts and experiences of being open about their sexuality and/or gender within sports either at school or within other team sports. These included incidents of some being avoided, facing acts of aggression during the game by both their teammates and opponents, and being told by teachers at school that their only option is to use a changing room that they are not comfortable using. 

We also discussed the importance of LGBTQI+ people having the freedom to decide their pronouns (such as they/them as opposed to she/her or he/him), and the need for there to be a mutual openness in order for us all to be able to respect each other’s personal views and decisions. 

It was such an eye-opener for many of us to hear some of the discrimination and lack of consideration and understanding experienced, highlighting that there is a lot more work to be done in order to ensure that the LGBTQI+ community feel safe, fully embraced, and accepted in sport, and wider society.

The impact of not being accepted by teammates, coaches, or peers can be detrimental to an individual’s fitness progress, and could potentially take away the opportunity for them to realise their full capabilities within sport due to not feeling safe or welcome while taking part in it.

“It’s really important for everyone to be open to having conversations like this because we all play a role in contributing to the ideas and attitudes that are going to help us to build a more equal society for all,” explained Katie. 

“The rich history of the LGBTQI+ community can often be misunderstood – especially within the sporting world. But that’s why we’re here – to encourage a positive change in perspective, and challenge any views that shy away from inclusivity. It’s a learning process for all of us, I’m learning with the Lutadoras too.”

At Fight for Peace, sport is at the heart of what we do as an organisation, and our values, in particular, solidarity and embracing, encourage us to welcome these important discussions in order to continue to learn and grow. Sharing our views around topics like this increases visibility and understanding of the experiences of LGBTQI+ people within the wider community, and the communities we serve.

And while there is still a lot of learning to be done, we look to the power of being open-minded and able to listen to one another’s experiences and views, even if conversations can be difficult or out of our comfort zones. 

Because when it comes down to it, these are really some of the most powerful tools in challenging stereotypes and promoting equality and diversity within our communities in order to encourage a much safer and inclusive world to live in for everybody. 

Lutadoras sessions take place every Thursday at 5pm, while Man Talk happens on Wednesdays at 5pm, and we are always looking to welcome new members!

Photography by: @99CLIQS

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