Getting dragged up to support Melbourne’s LGBTI swim team

Getting dragged up to support Melbourne’s LGBTI swim team
Image: Image: Supplied.

Paul Whelan first adopted his drag alter ego Donatella Wyfe as a means to support Melbourne’s LGBTI-inclusive swim team, the Glamourhead Sharks.

He’d been swimming with the Glams for more than four years and was trying to find a new way to champion the team.

“It’s hard to say whether Donatella’s purpose in life is to exist for the Glams or whether the Glams are a just good excuse to justify Donatella’s existence,” he says.

“I am a bit of a clown by nature so I welcomed the chance to try my hand at drag as a way of supporting the club.”

He believes the importance of inclusive sporting clubs cannot be understated.

“The Out on the Fields research project, the first international study into homophobia in sport, confirmed my own and many of my friends’ experiences –  that organised sport is often not a safe and inclusive place for LGBTI people,” he says.

“In fact, in Australia, more than 80 per cent of all participants in sport have experienced or witnessed homophobia and more than one in ten LGBTI people being physically assaulted.

“The Glams provide an antidote to that reality; the one thing that kept so many of us out of sport, our queerness, is the exact thing that brings us together now. And the experience of that is so fulfilling and so positive.”

Next month, both the Glamourhead Sharks and inclusive rugby team the Melbourne Chargers will compete in a drag-off fundraiser—the former to help raise money to travel to the Gay Games in Paris and the latter to raise money following their recent trip to the Bingham Cup in Amsterdam.

Co-hosted by Whelan as Donatella, and taking place in the Collingwood Town Hall, the event promises to be a celebration of both community and inclusion in sport.

Whelan says the Glams are fielding a handful of men and women in this year’s Gay Games, and that he’s counting the days.

“The atmosphere at a Gay Games meet is much more like a festival than a regular swim meet,” he says.

“It is the culmination of a whole year of training in and out of the pool, so the sense of achievement is going to be great for everyone.”

As for the fundraiser, Whelan says attendees can expect fun and unpredictability.

“I’ve been working with my good friend and Glams drag king Johnny Gash on a Celine Dion meets fertility clinic disaster number,” he says.

“I’ll be wearing the most ill-fitting white pant suit, so that’ll be a laugh, as will my performance with Holi Dae-Knight where we recreate a Dance Mom’s inspired audition.

“You will be entertained and will be supporting two fantastic Melbourne sports clubs in the process.”

The Mud, Wet, and Queers: The Shequel event will be held at the Collingwood Town Hall on Friday 6 July. For more information and to buy tickets click here, or purchase them at the door.

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