Time for Action – Tackling HBT Bullying in Sport

The main aim of the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation is to bring an end to bullying of any kind, to anyone. Whether they be younger, older, at work, because of appearance, or for reasons of gender or sexual orientation, no one deserves to be bullied.

One particular form of bullying that we focus on eradicating is bullying in sport. Exercise and sport bring about amazing benefits, essential for overall wellbeing, and especially physical and mental health. People excluded from engaging in exercise are missing out on a vital part of healthy living.

As in other parts of society, people are bullied in the sporting environment because they are or appear to be LGBT. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is prolific in sport, as it is in the wider community.

Just a Ball Game?’s project, Time for Action, is helping us raise awareness around HBT bullying in sport by delivering workshops to young people, their coaches, teachers and fan base.

One of the biggest challenges is getting people to realise, in the first instance, that there is a problem of HBT bullying in sport. Gender stereotyping and use of homophobic slurs are so prevalent that some people don’t even realise what they are doing or saying is harmful.

The Time for Action workshop aims to educate around LGBTQI challenges in the sporting environment and provide an opportunity for people to think about what the acronym LGBTQI means and safely ask questions where knowledge is lacking.

The workshop goes on to provide examples of what HBT bullying is in both its obvious and more subtle forms. For example, the facilitator may show a video clip of a scenario depicting what may in the first instance appear to be harmless banter, but in fact can have a serious negative effect on the intended recipient. An example of a video clip can be seen below.

LGBTQI Hate Incidents and Crime are also covered in the workshops to ensure that people are aware that a criminal offence which is motivated by hostility or prejudice based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation and against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender is a Hate Crime. All incidents of bullying and name calling motivated by such factors should be reported to the police as a Hate Incident.

Once awareness is raised, and people start engaging in self-reflection, then the next step starts. The realisation that it’s Time For Action and getting consensus on what actions need to be taken to make the sporting environment safe and welcoming for all.

With the support of the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, Just a Ball Game? has delivered this programme to 644 individuals with amazing results.

On evaluation, most times people attending the workshop had never engaged in any type of equality training and are apprehensive on arrival. One of the first things that sparks engagement is the awareness that upon hearing a homophobic comment in a game situation, it is not only the person to whom the taunt is directed, but anyone who heard the comment that is obliged to report and this is regardless of whether the abused player is LGBT.

What becomes very clear in the workshops is that for the male game, though the other players, coaches and clubs were thought to be accepting, the participants feel the fan base will not be as accepting, hence discouraging LGBTIQ players from participating and/or coming out.

In the female game, the issues faced by women were very similar to those faced by LGBT players, but with an upside-down perspective. For example, female sportspeople, who are considered ‘very good’ at their game, are often assumed to be Lesbian or Bisexual and these were seen as positive qualities. This scenario seems to make it easier for LGBT participants to feel welcome.

Transgender people experience even more barriers to participating in sport. Not just being treated differently, as is often experienced by LGB people, but Transgender individuals are subjected to significantly more abuse and harassment, and face additional challenges around communal and/or gender-specific changing rooms and participation in competitive sport in their acquired gender.

Diversity in sports only strengthens the sporting and team environment. The more sporting environments that actively address HBT bullying, the better everyone’s sporting experiences will be – whether participating on the field or watching in the stands.

If you would like to help us support other projects that address HBT bullying, please consider making a one-off or regular donation. Donate Now