Coming out as a famous personality is passé in the entertainment industry — in the sports world it’s a different game. For many athletes coming out is difficult, there is fear of repercussions within the sports community and the very real possibility that being out will affect their careers.
The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and sport (CAAWs) is on the forefront of tackling homophobia in sports. On May 17, the International Day of Homophobia, CAAWs is partnering with Athletes CAN and Coaches of Canada to hold a lunch meeting — Addressing Homophobia in Sport: A Call to Action for the Canadian Sport Community.
Tackling homophobia is not new to CAAWs. In 2006 they launched a paper, ‘Seeing the Invisible, Speaking about the Unspoken’ that addresses homophobia in sports. In conjunction with the paper CAAWs also started a workshop initiative that targets administrators, coaches and people at the decision making level in sports communities.
Karin Lofstrom is the Executive Director of CAAWs.
“We wanted to talk about addressing barriers for girls and women’s participation, and homophobia is one of the barriers for both the gay and lesbian women who want to be involved,” says Lofstrum. “And for some cases the straight women — they don’t want to be involved because they are thought to be lesbian.”
CAAWs received Funding through Sports Canada to conduct the workshops regionally and nationally. They have about nine women who are trained to deliver the workshops and the goal is to target high—level administrators and Chefs de Mission who, in turn, can conduct their own internal workshops. The most recent workshop that CAAWs did was for the mission staff team in lead up to the 2010 Olympics.
Lofstrum acknowledges that the key in addressing homophobia in sports is getting the larger organizations on board. She also admits that the topic is still not ‘mainstream’ enough to interest all organizations.
“It’s not like people are breaking down the doors to have the workshops. So it is always interesting to find receptive people who will take a leadership role to have this session delivered amongst their peers,” says Lofstrum.
On a national level CAAWs was involved in establishing the Pride House in Whistler and Vancouver for the 2010 Paralympics.
“It was an unique first piece at a major sporting event — having this focus on continuing the education around gay and lesbian issues and homophobia,” says Lofstrum.