Posted: 26 June 2020

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Global Pride provides an opportunity for the LGBTQcommunity around the world to come together and celebrate diversity and equality during these challenging times. As signatories of the Scottish LGBT Charter for Sport, Scottish Rowing are committed to supporting individuals within the LGBTQ+ community and highlighting the importance of representation within our clubs and our sport. We are delighted to share the following three stories from our members:

Sam Winton, Scottish Rowing Board Member “Athletes have always played an important role in society, pushing the limits and boundaries of what we thought was humanly possible. They have always attracted attention and garnered celebrity. They’ve been role models and inspirations. Even the ultimate team sport hasn’t been immune, with rowing stars such as Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell, Katherine Grainger and Steve Redgrave becoming household names. 

Regardless the number of openly LGBTQ+ athletes remains low. Representation matters, and without it the LGBTQ+ community has no one to look up too. The athlete's job as inspiration and role model is even more important in this case, signalling to this community that they are free to live openly and honestly. At the end of the day, that’s all anybody wants. The club and governing body also have an important role to play in creating an inclusive, diverse and welcoming environment. It’s our job to enable our members to be open and honest, living openly. We need to empower this community, engage with them, listening to them and learning how we can address inequality and under-representation. 

Within sports the LGBTQ+ community remains marginalised and we continue to work hard to address this. This commitment goes beyond Global Pride Month and informs much of the work of Scottish Rowing. It’s important not only for our local communities and wider society but also for the future health of our sport.”

Maddie Arlett, GB Rowing Team athlete “While I was at EUBC, before I had told anyone about my sexuality, no one was openly gay in the club. This increased my anxiety about coming out and whether it would be accepted. Once I plucked up the courage to tell people I was dating a girl after months of practicing the words over and over in my head, nothing changed, no one even batted an eye.

Captaining the women’s squad for 2 years after coming out as gay, I hope I made it clear how important it is to not be scared to be who you want to be. For me the hardest part was accepting it myself. Of course, there were people who were unsure to begin with but once they saw how happy I was, they soon came round. 

I have realised in a community like rowing, you share such a love for the sport, go through mountains of pain together to achieve great things that people are very likely to accept you because of the respect you share for each other.”

DUBC President Matt Simpson “As communities across the world celebrate Pride month, it is important to remember than just over 40 years ago homosexual relationships were illegal in Scotland. Today, it can be easy to overlook the impact of this, both for the generation that was exposed to the legalised discrimination and for the new generation of young people who are now protected in their right to identify within the LGBT spectrum. If you are a part of the Scottish rowing community, whether that be a coach, participant, parent or young person, you may find yourself asking “But what has pride got to do with rowing?” or “Why does someone’s sexuality matter when they take part in sport?”.

In what could be considered a manifestation of the Scottish psyche, it is fair to say that some would have reservations about the necessity for promoting these conversations about pride and its place in the rowing community. Whether this comes as a result of inadvertent ignorance to an individual’s struggles in reconciling their sexuality within their sporting experience, or reflects a collective hesitation of how to approach the subject, one clear take away can be identified. To simply do nothing to broach the topic will only further prevent any progress in dismantling homophobia in our community. Promoting inclusive club environments only goes so far in achieving this. As facilitators, participants and contributors to the sport there is a common responsibility to always seek to understand how we can do better.

LGBTQ+ representation should be enthusiastically promoted if we are truly committed to widening participation in the sport that we all share a common passion for. Moreover, the impact of queer visibility for individuals in this community has the potential to radically diversify our sporting spaces in order to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to discover the exciting world of rowing in Scotland.”