Rugby SA acknowledges International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

Thu, May 16, 2024, 10:00 PM
by Rose Jackson

17 May is International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). It is the anniversary of the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases.

Over two decades later, despite vast improvements LGBTQIA+ people still face significant discrimination in our day to day lives.

  • 2 in 3 LGBTQIA+ youth experience abuse due to their sexual identity
  • 1 in 3 LGBTQIA+ Australians have been verbally abused in the past 12 months
  • 1 in 5 LGBTQIA+ Australians have been harassed (eg spat at) in the past 12 months
  • 1 in 20 LGBTQIA+ Australians have been physically attacked in the past 12 months

We grew up surrounded by homophobic and derogatory comments in the classroom, in our communities, and ALWAYS at any game we saw. Some comments amount to vicious verbal aggression, but even ‘casual’ homophobia is isolating and dehumanising. Strong evidence shows that these constant reminders that we aren’t accepted are a leading cause of LGBTQIA+ people having up to 6 times higher suicide rates than their peers.

Sadly, rates of abuse are higher – and more public – in the sports sector. 80% of LGBTQIA+ people have witnessed homophobia in sport. Right now, homophobic slurs in the AFL are in the news again. The public commentary shows how little respect exists in some sports, not just from the professional athletes and organisations, but with the fanbase expressing disbelief and outrage that a player could be suspended for using homophobic slurs to attack their opposition.

Every instance is a reminder that there is still a long way to go to reach acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people in sport, and also shows how little people understand the serious harm caused by words and the hatred behind them.

This is one of the reasons why many of us don’t play or feel comfortable playing sport. In youth sports, gay males play team sport at half the rate of their straight male peers. Of those who do play sport, 87% of gay males and 75% of lesbians are completely or partially in the closet while playing.

As a result, many LGBTIQ+ people miss out on the physical, mental and social benefits that participating in sport and physical activity can bring.

This is why safe and inclusive spaces are crucial for queer people to feel welcome and either come back to a sport they loved, or to try for the first time.

The Adelaide Sharks provide such a space in South Australia. Having never engaged with team sport before in my life, for me it was a life changing experience. The Adelaide Uni Rugby Club had worked hard to create a space that was inclusive for members of the LGBTQI+ community to come and be part of a rugby club; 5 years later the Sharks are still going strong and love being a part of the local comp.

As one of the 100+ IGR (International Gay Rugby) teams across the globe we are also proud to have competed in Perth at the 2023 Purchas Cup, the biannual Australian/NZ gay rugby tournament and to have sent players to Canada in 2022 and Italy in 2024 for the biannual IGR World Cup. The Purchas Cup and the Bingham Cup celebrate inclusion and diversity in Rugby. It’s a space that we can play our rugby and never have to worry if we’ll be accepted or understood, let alone welcomed. We get to experience how happy playing a team sport can make us; all the joy that comes from pushing our limits at rugby, the comradery, and the support of the rugby-family we make as a result.

At the Sharks, we are lucky to be part of a warm and embracing club community and to benefit from the support that provides. Sadly, the news and our own experiences in sport will constantly remind us that discrimination, hate, and verbal aggression continue to be directed at the LGBTQI+ community.

Hopefully that will change.

RugbySA Sharks Team Photo

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