Olympic silver medalist Bruce Mouat, ParalympicsGB star Robyn Love and football referee Lloyd Wilson are special guests at panel discussion put on by Sports Media LGBT+, Pride of the Terraces and LEAP Sports Scotland…
As seen in the Ice Cube at Beijing 2022, on the Ariake Arena basketball court at Tokyo 2020, and at football stadiums from Annan to Aberdeen, three stand-out sporting Scots were able to sit back, relax and speak in person at a special event in late October.
Olympic silver medal-winning curler Bruce Mouat, ParalympicsGB wheelchair basketball star Robyn Love and referee Lloyd Wilson were all in conversation in Glasgow at #AuthenticMe, the latest edition of Sports Media LGBT+‘s panel discussion and networking night.
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The event was organised in conjunction with inclusion in sports organisation LEAP Sports Scotland and Pride of the Terraces, the platform created in 2019 by journalist Andrew Henderson to help share empowering stories from people who are lesbian, gay, bi and trans in sport.
The Sports Journalists’ Association was delighted to once again lend its support to #AuthenticMe, which also gives unsung heroes achieving great things in grassroots sport the chance to meet and rub shoulders with their elite counterparts.
Within the last year, Henderson has interviewed Mouat, Love and Wilson individually for his website and bringing the trio together made for a lively, fun-filled chat, albeit with some serious moments too as the athletes candidly described some of the more challenging moments in their careers.
As one of Team GB’s major medal hopes at the Winter Olympics earlier this year, curling skip Mouat was one of the faces of the Games – and having come out as gay several years previously to friends, family and team-mates, that turned out to be a talking point in a number of interviews he conducted with the media around Beijing 2022.
China’s human rights record was under the microscope and within that, LGBT+ rights – there are no protections in law for the community there, and little to no visibility in media or society.
“When I was going to Beijing, a lot of questions were asked about gay rights and human rights, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to answer them diplomatically,” said Mouat during the panel discussion.
“I was a part of Team GB for the first time, so I had to be careful of what I was saying and hold back opinions a little bit. LGBT+ people are putting pressure on ourselves to be the ones giving the answers, but we’re really just giving the guidance.
“We’re trying to help them understand that they’re putting LGBT+ people in sport in very dangerous situations where they can almost ruin their careers if they say something wrong, which is very scary. I did feel that a wee bit.”
It was a very different vibe for the event at the University of Strathclyde Students’ Union, with the three athletes able to speak freely. In addition, they each brought their partners along – Love’s fiancee, Laurie Williams, is also her ParalympicsGB team-mate, although Williams will be happily taking a break from the court for the foreseeable future as she is expecting the couple’s first child.
Love echoed Mouat’s call for more advice and guidance from the authorities for LGBT+ athletes going to represent their countries in parts of the world where same-sex relationships are illegal.
“In my position,” said Love, “I want the governing body to be as concerned as I am, put themselves in my position and think of the questions and have the answers before I even have to ask them.”
Wilson’s focus, meanwhile, is on the domestic scene in Scotland and helping to shift the culture of men’s football in the right direction. When he came out publicly in the summer, he took the opportunity to discuss his own struggles with mental health and in doing so, was able to connect with people across the game who continue to feel constrained or under pressure.
“Visibility is crucial, and the more players from a younger age that see people who are gay without it becoming a topic, that’s where we need to get to,” said Wilson. “Naturally things will move from there.”
The evening concluded with a fascinating grassroots panel chat chaired by Holly Bruce, who represents the Scottish Greens on Glasgow City Council and plays football for local inclusive club Camp Hellcats FC.
Bruce was joined by Blair Hamilton, the Darvel-born goalkeeper for Hastings United Women FC who is one of the country’s leading researchers into trans inclusion in sport; Zyra Evangelista, one of the co-founders of the Rainbow Glasgaroos basketball club who draws upon their experiences to raise awareness of how to make sport for welcoming for non-binary people; and Ross Lockerbie, the chair of Glasgow Raptors inclusive rugby club.
#AuthenticMe is an initiative that Sports Media LGBT+ uses all year round to encourage LGBTQ+ people across sport to speak about how being true to yourself provides a performance boost.
To find out more about #AuthenticMe or about Sports Media LGBT+ in general, visit the group’s website or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Prospective new members are welcome to connect further with the network group, which offers different levels of engagement and provides useful industry opportunities.