How To Be An Ally To LGBTQ+ People In Rugby

As we prepare for the start of the new rugby season, we want to highlight the importance of inclusivity ahead of the return to regular rugby. 

Our sport remains one of the most inclusive sports we know of, but there is always more that can be done, especially in light of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, data from our partners Stonewall indicates that the coronavirus pandemic has hit LGBTQ+ people disproportionately, especially those experiencing multiple marginalizations including disabled LGBTQ+ people, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) LGBTQ+ people, and/or LGBTQ+ people of colour (PoC).

It is therefore more important than ever that rugby continues to provide a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. With that in mind, Stonewall UK have suggested 10 ways in which we can all step up as an ally to LGBTQ+ people in rugby.

1. Celebrate your inclusivity

Visible promotion of your clubs inclusivity is key to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all. Taking part in events such as the rainbow laces weekend, and celebrating different identities on your clubs social media can help. Simply put, make the clear, visible statement that you welcome everyone.

2. Review your clubs policies

Ensure that your club has inclusion policies that are up to date. Be sure that you have a policy on homophobic, biphobic and transphobic behaviour, and actively promote it to your members. 

3. Put your pronouns next to your name

This has been a particularly important step during the pandemic, with many chats and meetings happening on video conferencing platforms such as zoom. This is a simple step that can make a big difference, ensuring that no one’s gender identity is assumed, whether on or offline.

4. Be aware of the challenges your LGBTQ+ peers may be facing

LGBT Foundation research has found that over half (52 percent) of LGBT people have experienced depression over the last 12 months, with more than a quarter (27 percent) of LGBT people highlighting that isolation has been a top concern for them during lockdown. Simply taking the time to listen to how the pandemic may have affected your teammates, and understanding the potential impact can really help.

5. Codes of conduct

Ensure that your members are made aware of what is and isn’t considered acceptable behaviour both inside and outside of your club. This can be done by ensuring your club's code of conduct is put on prominent display.

6. Challenge discriminatory behaviour

It is not enough to simply avoid discriminatory behaviour or language yourself, instead clubs and players should actively challenge such behaviour and ensure those responsible are made aware of the damaging impact of their words and actions. Speak up when you see or hear discriminatory behaviour and help to educate those around you.

7. Opportunities for everyone

Some people may prefer to play in mixed-gender or ability groups, so ensure mixed training sessions and games are available. RFU touch events are a great way to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all members of your clubs, and the ideal opportunity to actively promote ‘mixed’ activity.

8. Review your facilities

Ensure your club has adequate provisions for all members of the club. Are there gender-neutral changing spaces available for example, and does your club ensure it is accessible for all players?

9. Celebrate LGBTQ+ achievements in rugby

Whilst there’s still lots of work to be done to end discrimination in rugby, celebrating and promoting members of your club, especially those from less represented backgrounds can help to uplift LGBTQ+ people throughout the year, and not just in the context of discrimination. 

10. Don’t wait to start

We’ve all got busy lives, but waiting to take care of yourself and your community requires consistency, no matter what. 

To help support the LGBTQ+ community in rugby, we will be using the money raised from our rainbow inspired range of rugby clothing to fund a new inclusivity module as part of our Mental Health Training toolkit.