Australian lifesaving is an iconic Australian brand that has grown over the years to include women, nippers, cultural diversity, indigenous representation and the LGBT community. So what you see in the red and yellow caps is a reflection of everyone else down on the beach.
Lifesavers with Pride works with the national and state offices of lifesaving as well as surf clubs to ensure that they are making lifesaving a progressive, inclusive and welcoming organisation for their LGBT members any potential LGBT recruits.
So why should your club reach out and embrace LGBT members? Here’s where we are at the moment
There's no research out about LGBT inclusion in Emergency Services organisations, but we get a good idea from research into LGBT inclusion in sport.
Play by the Rules’ article Breaking Down the Barriers of Homophobia identified that sledging and slurs referring to sexuality marginalise LGBT people and create an atmosphere where they feel they have no place, particularly young people. It tells them that there is something wrong with their identity and they do not below, that they are ‘not right’.
With the National LGBT Health Alliance identifying a suicide rate for under 27yo LGBT five to eleven times the national rate, anything that contributes to young people feeling unwelcome needs to be addressed. Sport should be a leveller, not a divider – it belongs to us all
The Inside Sport Survey by the ACT Government (2014) identified that most people participate in physical activity for general fitness, with key themes as, being part of a team or community, being accepted and welcomed, opportunity to broaden life experiences, have fun and develop friendship and provide a positive contribution.
But it also identified that LGBT people have felt unsafe in a sporting environment, had experienced homophobia and been harassed. But crucially it identified that 16% of men, and 10% of women had identified a sport in which they would like to participate but do not due to their sexuality. Of those, 70% identified swimming based sports.
The Australian Government’s Independent Sport Panel’s The Future of Sport in Australia (2009) identified an increasing number of same sex attracted young people indicate they feel discriminated against due to their sexuality, with sport identified as an unsafe environment. Those who suffered abuse or discrimination fared worse on every indicator of health and well being.
Individual clubs and overarching can play an important role in working to better understand the issues and be more inclusive.
The Australian Sports Commission funded Fair Go, Sport (2013) to address the results of the Panel’s report. This was designed to increase awareness of sexual and gender diversity in sports, promote safe and inclusive environments in sports and clubs, and develop models of engagement.
It identified that while the notion of sport as an important arena for culture change is widely accepted within public health circles, participants often don’s see their clubs – or sport – in the same way
Beyond Blue and Victoria University released their report The Impact of Homophobic Bullying during sport – the Equal Play Study (2014) in which they identified that LGBT youth, regardless of being ‘out’, have reported higher levels of mental health and wellbeing concerns than heterosexual youth.
Whilst verbal homophobic abuse in sporting settings was strongly attributed to these findings, it was noted that a strong protective factor was unconditional self-acceptance. Targeting self-acceptance within sport can only strengthen resilience, which allows them to enjoy the many physical, mental and social health benefits of participation
Vic Health and Victoria University released the study Come out To Play (2010) identifying that whilst sport plays a significant role in Australian society, it is a place where LGBT Australians are largely invisible. It identified that participants were often labelled as "sissies" or "poofs" as a shameful insult to propel them to try harder, resulting in many leaving sport. This results in only 45% of men and 62% of women playing team sports later in life.
It identified that team sports offer opportunities for intimacy and emotional expression, which can only occur safely if all members present as heterosexual. This leaves LGBT players with two options; either stay in the closet or leave the sport. LGBT players who witness slurs and abuse become galvanised in their intentions to remain hidden.
Out on the Fields (2014) did some research involving nearly 9500 LGBT people and identified the following statistics from its Australian results;
- 80% have witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport
- 75% believe an openly gay person would not be very safe as a spectator at a sporting event
- The most likely location of homophobia is watching sport from the sidelines
- 50% of gay men and 48% of lesbians have been personally targeted in sport
- Of those targeted 85% have heard verbal slurs such as “Faggot” or “Dyke”
- 34% of gay men, and 19% of lesbians have been bullied within their sport
- 80% believe that sport is more homophobic than the rest of society
- 70% believe youth (under 22 years) team sport is not safe for LGBT people, and
- 80% of young LGBT people are completely or partially in the closet while playing sport, fearing discrimination from players and officials.
LWP is actively ensuring that lifesaving is not a contributor to these statistics by working with key stakeholders and administrators.
We released a suit of resources over the summer of 2019/20 to ensure all clubs are able to provide a safe and secure environment for their LGBT members. The resources include aids to support your club in creating a culture that exemplifies our goal of being welcoming, progressive and inclusive.
The pamphlet attached identifies a number of Australian studies undertaken in the last few years, regarding LGBT attitudes and treatment within sport. The studies identify the rates of discrimination felt by LGBT sportspeople, and the impacts these have on the members. This includes the impact on ongoing involvement in sport, and the social, physical and mental benefits that sport can provide. But moreso it identifies the repercussions that it has on sports as a whole and the community.
This second pamphlet is for distribution at your events and membership days, particularly when encouraging new bronze members, who may be concerned about your club’s position on LGBT inclusion. It provides support for these potential members, identifying tangible principles and guidelines that should be implemented, as well as providing questions for them to ask vying surf clubs, to provide satisfaction to any doubts around the inclusive, welcoming and progressive nature of life saving.
This checklist is designed to provide your club with a framework for reaching a position where your LGBT members will feel truly included and welcome. It provides tangible actions that can be implemented by your club that will provide robust and identifiable outcomes. Covering policies, communication, training and engagement, the checklist demonstrates your club’s passion in being seen as inclusive and welcoming.
These posters have been created by lifesavers, for lifesavers. They capture the inclusive elements of lifesaving and tell everyone that lifesaving is open and welcoming. Surf Life Saving Australia has recently used the tagline “The ocean doesn’t discriminate, and neither do we” and these are another way of demonstrating this ethos.