National Union of Students’ LGBT Officer (Women’s place), Finn McGoldrick, says she was ”blown away” by the positive signs she saw after leading a key contacts event on campus last week.The Key Contacts scheme was established at the start of this term by Cass Brown, York Sport President, with the aim of promoting and encouraging sports participation amongst LGBTQ and disabled students on campus.
Ten focus sports are represented by a key contact at present, and plans are afoot to expand this further from 2014/15. The current ten key contacts, alongside members of the university’s LGBTQ Network, met McGoldrick last Tuesday for a workshop aiming to increase
LGBTQ participation in on-campus sport.
The workshop began with McGoldrick discussing some of the research which the NUS has recently carried out into LGBTQ participation, which concluded that there is a large barrier which remains for LGBTQ students taking part in sport. However, it was also found that representatives of these communities that do participate generally receive high levels of satisfaction.
This formed the basis for a discussion amongst the key contacts about what can be done to improve accessibility to sports at York. It was agreed that the perception of certain actions and attitudes is essential to reaching a common understanding – for both sports clubs and members of the LGBTQ community.
One issue raised was the perception of an underlying ‘lad culture’ amongst university sports clubs, which may appear intimidating to LGBTQ groups. It was suggested that although members of sports teams do not deliberately engage in phobic activities, inadvertent insensitivity can have a damaging impact upon people’s confidence. Therefore, it was agreed that key contacts will work closely with the LGBTQ Officers and the university’s teams to ensure that the problems are addressed.
The LGBTQ Officers present were able to present their concerns to key contacts, suggesting that both parties need to enjoy an open dialogue with each other to make York a pioneering university when it comes to creating a friendly sporting atmosphere. The Officers were also keen to point out that representatives of the LGBTQ community are often from an LGBTQ background themselves, and so can offer a superb insight into the feelings of the people they represent. The key contacts were keen to forge invaluable links between these two parties to ensure that awareness of LGBTQ issues was spread around campus.
Another major positive to come from the workshop was the agreement that people do not have to be members of the LGBTQ community to support their aims. It is hoped that the key contact scheme will help to encourage more sportsmen and women across campus to support these goals.
Speaking to Nouse after the conclusion of the event, McGoldrick said; “The key contacts scheme seems a really good way to pool together sports teams, working with York Sport’s objectives on equality and diversity.”
“I think it’s a really good scheme,” said the NUS Officer. “I’m so impressed and blown away by how aware of all the issues everyone was, and how willing to work with each other they were.” McGoldrick commented that she will be keeping a close eye on events at the university. “I’m really excited to see what they do this year, they all seem really open and honest which is totally what you need to run successful campaigns. They all seem willing to hit the ground running. I can’t wait to see what they do over the course of the year.”
All key contacts present recognised the importance of socials to the fabric of campus sports teams and the reputations which these events can carry. With socials being one of the most visible and potentially enjoyable aspects of participating in university sports, it was universally agreed that these must be inclusive and welcoming to all groups of students.
A major breakthrough was the consensus that certain themed socials – such as ‘slag and drag’ – may appear insensitive to members of the LGBTQ community. To tackle this potential problem, it was agreed that sports teams will work in tandem with the LGBTQ Officers to ensure that future themes are inclusive and welcoming to all. Overall, the event was a major success in bringing different groups together and progressing discussions on issues which matter to students across the university; further events are planned for the remainder of the year.
Cass Brown, was delighted with the event, telling Nouse; “I think it’s been fantastic, really successful and Finn really got the key contacts talking about issues that are relevant to York and their clubs. I’m just thrilled with how it went, she was really engaging and I think the clubs enjoyed it. We have the LGBTQ network here and I think some nice links have been forged already between the clubs and them.”