Millions of us have been gripped by coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Games, from the frankly bonkers opening ceremony (any idea where we can buy a light-up duvet?), to Bradley Wiggins cementing his status as the United Kingdom’s greatest living Olympian, and potential BBC Sports Personality of the Year shoe-in.
The Olympics represents a set of ideals, of friendship, solidarity, and fair play. Yet several countries involved in the games discriminate against female athletes. Even more surprising is the ratio of out gay athletes competing in London versus total contestants. In an open letter to Jacques Rogge, the current President of the International Olympic Committee, veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell highlights the following:
"In more than 150 countries, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) athletes have to hide their sexuality to get selected for their country's Olympic squad; otherwise they risk not only non-selection but also employment discrimination, police harassment and imprisonment (nearly 80 countries still criminalise LGBT people). In the absence of laws against homophobic and transphobic discrimination, victimisation and bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity is routine in most competing nations; not only in sport but in every aspect of life."
Some developing nations are obvious offenders, but shockingly homophobia in sport is still commonplace in the United Kingdom. There is still a complete lack of out gay male football players, both in the Premiership and lower divisions, whilst pioneering gay rugby player Gareth Thomas remains in the minority.
We’ve been saddened and appalled this week by the bullying of teenage diver Tom Daley via Twitter. Disturbingly Daniel Thomas, a Welsh Premier league footballer, was suspended after a particularly offensive homophobic message concerning Daley was sent from his mobile phone.
The police have, quite rightly, taken a zero tolerance approach to these malicious communications, and it’s important that we stand together as a country against such animosity. This unified approach towards homophobia sends a strong message out to other nations. It says; “We don’t accept the discrimination of anyone based on their gender identity or sexual preference, and neither should your citizens”.
Fortunately Manchester is one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the world, but we sometimes forget this and become complacent. Yes, homophobia still exists, but not to anywhere near the extent of other countries. During the fall-out of the aborted World Pride celebrations in London commentators wondered if Pride festivals were still relevant – to which the answer is, of course, YES.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender visibility, and our freedom to express ourselves, is an important part of this message. So, this Manchester Pride come out, come out, wherever you are, and show your solidarity in the fight against discrimination, because being out and proud isn’t just a personal victory, it’s a victory against intolerance throughout the world.