Inclusivity is at the heart of many LGBTQ+’s sports clubs messages. Promoting diversity and creating safe spaces in most cases are named as fundamental goals. For example, Australia’s Sport 2030 policy aspires to “have a diverse and inclusive sport and physical activity sector that supports more Australians to be more active more often” (1).Yet when viewing these clubs from an intersectional lens, a diversity paradox emerges. Many LGBTQ+ sports teams are strikingly white, male, and cis with (amongst other issues) very little racial diversity. Despite in theory catering to everyone under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, often it seems to be white members of the community who are overrepresented. The paradox is that these sports teams foundations are based on messages of diversity and inclusion, so why are these values not reflected in their racial diversity?
Racism is an issue that permeates the LGBTQ+ community, so a lack of racial diversity in LGBTQ+ sport cannot be viewed in isolation. A study from Stonewall found that just over half of all black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people (51%) report experiencing discrimination or poor treatment within their local LGBT network because of their ethnicity. This number rises to three in five (61%) for black LGBT people (2). One study even looked at award winning LGBTQ+ picture books and found that there was a distinct lack of racial diversity in the images and stories told (4). These books are intended to teach children about LGBTQ+ inclusion, but yet again ‘LGBTQ+’ seems to have been understood as ‘white’.
In sports more broadly, academic inquiry from the 70’s onwards has repeatedly found overt forms of racism targeting black players (3). In English football in particular, ‘far right’ political groups have encouraged spectator racism at domestic football fixtures, with fans and clubs receiving fines for racist language. It too often seems that sports have hegemonic whiteness embedded in them, and the experiences of ethnic minority sports people are shaped not by their sporting abilities but by their race.
In the UK, 13% of the population are black, asian, mixed or from a non-white ethinic group (5). It would therefore make sense if just over 1 in 10 members of a sports group were non-white. Particularly in cities like London where black, asian, mixed or non white ethnic populations are higher, the lack of diversity becomes even more concerning. So far, no studies have been carried out looking at racial diversity in LGBTQ+ sports clubs. Looking at social media and team photos however suggests that racial diversity is an endemic problem.
There are many explanations for the lack of racial diversity in LGBTQ+ groups, with some academics arguing that leadership may suffer from subconscious bias, or that some clubs culture may be exclusionary. Either way, it is clear that LGBTQ+ sports clubs around the UK need to look at their racial diversity as a key facet of their inclusivity. Teams must ensure that club policies, cultures, and activites are welcoming to all people. In doing so teams can better embody the values of inclusivity and diversity that they promote. Teams looking to improve their diversity should consider following these recommendations:
October 30, 2020
‘We Are All Equal’ is community-led gym in Southside Glasgow described as ‘a free weekly inclusive health and wellbeing service open to all’.
Decolonisation in sport and fitness is about the power of reimagining inclusive sport and fitness spaces that advocate for wellness and community instead of separation.