AS the organisation best placed to promote sport, fitness and healthy lifestyles among Sydney’s LGBTI community, Team Sydney has an accountability to step forward — together as an industry and not just an occupation — and acknowledge our role as leaders among our clubs, members and the wider, sporting community.

The purpose of Team Sydney’s Change the Game: Combating Homophobia and Transphobia in Sport conference, which will take place in May, is to address exclusion and vilification of LGBTI people in amateur sports.

Come Out To Play, the first comprehensive survey of LGBT sport experience in Australia, revealed sporting environments as being “unsafe, unpredictable, isolating and intimidating”, with 87 per cent of participants reporting their experience of verbal homophobia affected them in some way. Published in 2010, this pioneering survey was a continuation of the published work of Professor Caroline Symons in the previous decade. Four years later, a new, internationally-focused report Out On The Fields revealed that 80 per cent of participants witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport.

Symons will be a keynote speaker at the Combating Homophobia and Transphobia in Sport conference, joining a packed program of speakers who represent a variety of sports. The conference will also feature an opening address by Wayne Bennett, the most successful coach in Australian rugby league history.

We need strong leadership of people — from governments, schools, and on the sporting fields — to ensure that we can achieve inclusivity in sport, and to play the ball, not the person. We also need to challenge sport to be truly inclusive, especially when Australia needs to become more active to improve the health and well-being of citizens. It is not enough for homophobia and transphobia campaigns to be focussed on elite performers as the surveys show the majority of discrimination occurs in all types of amateur sport.

We need to learn from each other, and build ways to spread that learning to others, so that the best practice may spread across communities and countries.

We need to leverage academic insight and research data to the cause, to help us lose thinking that limits our performance and to introduce and spread new approaches that raise it.

We need to acknowledge our accountability and that of others in building a united community for the future — and building inclusivity in sport is the key to it all.

The conference also aims to:

  • Focus on current research and practice in areas relating to the safe participation in, all kinds of sport, exercise and physical activity regardless of sexuality
  • Provide an interactive, educational forum, promoting a healthy lifestyle with inclusivity in sport for LGBTI people
  • Provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change
  • Introduce solutions to homophobia and transphobia in amateur sports to make them more inclusive

Why should you attend? Key takeaways:

  • Develop strategies and techniques to change behaviours in sport from current research and practice
  • Validate one’s identity, to be part of social change and contribute to the change of consciousness in the society in which we live
  • Inspire the change that you want to see eventuate
  • Generate new club members
  • Network with like-minded professionals

In the meantime, Team Sydney once again contributed the most number of stalls at Mardi Gras Fair Day, with equal or more than the 29 stalls that it had at last year’s event. In keeping with Mardi Gras’ 2016 Momentum theme, Team Sydney’s theme will be “Change the Game” – the slogan of its upcoming sports conference.

Change the Game: Combating Homophobia and Transphobia in Sport conference is on May 7.

To register and for full details, visit: www.teamsydney.org.au/2016-conference

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**This article was first published in the March edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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