Just as the Rio Olympic Committee chose to use a captive global audience to make a statement on climate change during the 2016 opening ceremonies, so too are Western University researchers examining ways in which major sporting events can be used to promote education and raise awareness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) rights.
Alicia Lapointe, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education, and doctoral student Kyle Rich and associate professor Laura Misener from the Faculty of Health Sciences, are investigating the work done by Pride House – a venue, modeled after traditional Olympic hospitality houses, that sets up at large-scale international sporting events to welcome LGBTQ athletes, fans and their allies. By examining Pride House initiatives and exploring their effectiveness, the three hope to learn more about what can be done to not only raise awareness of LGBTQ issues in sport and society, but also to achieve positive social change in the future.
Lapointe, Rich and Misener have identified three pillars that can help raise LGBTQ awareness at international sporting events: creating safe spaces – where LGBTQ athletes and fans are free to be themselves without consequence; creating positive moments – where LGBTQ athletes are respected, accepted and celebrated; and identifying queer moments – where sexual and gender ‘norms’ can be questioned and disrupted.
“The Games have such a large audience – the world is watching,” said Lapointe. “By creating these spaces and these moments, they can increase the visibility of LGBTQ people in sport and draw attention to LGBTQ issues that still need to be addressed.”
The researchers are working to publish a research paper that applies these concepts to events such as the Olympic, Pan Am and Parapan AM Games. They hope the work will help raise awareness on a global level to advance messages of equality and human rights.
“The entry point is sport, and focusing on LGBTQ people in and around sport, but there are much larger learning opportunities here,” said Lapointe. “The Olympic Games are a celebration of nations coming together, but in these nations are beautiful, wonderful people who need to be celebrated as well. That doesn’t often happen, but through these types of endeavors, we can get there.”
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