IT is regarded as the final hurdle in many sports – coming out the changing room as a gay athlete.
For while the sexual choice of sportsmen and women has nothing to do with performance on the pitch, field, track or in the pool, it still remains a taboo subject.
Which is why a sports festival being held in Edinburgh aims to increase the profile of LGBT people already involved in sport as well as encouraging more to take part.
Leap Sports Scotland (Leadership, Equality and Active Participation) is behind the event which is offering sessions in squash, running, climbing, basketball, cycling or even just walking around Arthur’s Seat, in an attempt to make sport more inclusive.
Hugh Torrance, Leap’s executive director, said: “We’re a charity dedicated to working to remove the barriers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people from accessing, participating and excelling in sport.
“We know that exclusion from sport can start in schools and that stereotypes like ‘gay men are no good at sport while lesbians are great at sport’ are still powerful and still exist – and it can get to a point where LGBTI people feel they just don’t belong in sport.
“We want to make sure that people have the opportunity to participate in sport and not feel excluded.
“The festival is part of that, giving people a chance to try something new or get back into a sport they perhaps gave up.
“But we also do work in schools and we train staff and lifeguards at swimming pools so transgender people are reassured to know what reaction they will get and that they’re in a safe space.”
He added: “LGBTI specific clubs are involved in the festival and they are great as you can want to socialise with people who have similar life experiences and you don’t always have to ‘come out’.
“But we want to see progress in sporting organisations in general to be more inclusive, to remove barriers to LGBTI people which could impact on their health and wellbeing. Sport should be an area of equality – if not in ability, then definitely in gender and sexuality.”
The Capital already boasts a number of LGBT sports clubs including Edinburgh Frontrunners, Edinburgh LGBT Basketball in Leith and Hotscots FC – Scotland’s first amateur gay football team.
“Football is the national sport and it is the last bastion in homophobia,” said Hugh. “Progress is being made but more needs to be done.”
While there is still no current male football player in the top flight of UK clubs to openly admit to being gay, Olympic diver Tom Daley has led the way among other sports people.
The Leap festival – which sees 60 events take place across Scotland – is funded through a £19,700 grant from the Voluntary Action Fund.
For details of the festival events, visit festivalfortnight.org