11 Aug 2022

Pride House to help Birmingham Commonwealth Games put spotlight on LGBTQ+ issues

Pride House to help Birmingham Commonwealth Games put spotlight on LGBTQ+ issues

Pride House Birmingham will kick start two-and-a-half weeks of inclusive action on Friday as it aims to ensure “challenging and difficult conversations” take place in a safe space at the Commonwealth Games.

The hub is located in the heart of Birmingham’s Gay Village at Wynner House, only 100 yards from the Smithfield site which will host beach volleyball, basketball and wheelchair basketball.

Its doors will open this week, with a number of LGBTQ+ events lined up each day. Entry will be free and visitors are due to include competing athletes, fans, staff and volunteers.

Friday will see a panel discuss trans inclusion in grassroots sport before DJ sets occur in the evening to mark its opening, with activities, performances, screenings and entertainment running until the final day of the Commonwealth Games on August 8.

Pride House ambassador Amazin LeThi told the PA news agency: “Having a Pride House is so important for LGBTQ+ athletes.

“We do need our own safe space to champion equality where LGBTQ+ athletes feel is a place for them to be safe but also to have these challenging and difficult conversations where we can bring different communities together.

“It is a great time through sport to bring everyone together to have these conversations.

“Trans inclusion is the last frontier. We have seen what has happened in the US – and even in the UK – around Lia Thomas and now swimming has said trans women cannot compete at an elite level against other women, so I think it is really important we start Pride House with trans inclusion in sport to keep it constantly at the top of minds.”

This year’s Commonwealth Games are the first to fully integrate Pride House, which will help make sure the message of ‘celebrate, participate, educate’ can reach a wider audience in terms of competitors.

Of the 72 countries involved in Birmingham 2022, at least half still have anti-LGBTQ+ laws but LeThi feels the current hosts can shape the conversations around improving those issues for years to come.

“It is making sure you are leaving a legacy behind and I think the UK has this responsibility because so many of the anti-LGBTQ+ laws came from the Commonwealth and the UK colonising these countries,” she added.

“We have a moment now to make things right in terms of bringing all these countries together for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and really championing equality.

“We are just reminding all these countries of the reasons why it is important that LGBTQ+ people are able to be out and proud in their sport without any kind of repercussions.

“I think because we are hosting it, we have a moment to decide the legacy we want to leave behind and shape the conversations we want to take to Australia (for Melbourne 2026).”

Vietnam-born LeThi is set to speak at Pride House Birmingham in August about next year’s Gay Games, where she is also an ambassador, which will take place in Hong Kong.

After experiencing sexism, homophobia and racism during her own journey from sprinter to bodybuilder, one of LeThi’s aims is to see more children from Asian backgrounds flourish at the highest level in sport.

She believes greater visibility of British Asians at Birmingham 2022 could act as a catalyst for more participation at grassroots level, with Issy Wong – who has Cantonese heritage – recently picked for England’s cricket squad at the Games.

LeThi added: “There is a conversation that the UK has to have with itself for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham around diversity and inclusion within British sports and the reasons why we just don’t see the numbers of ethnic minority athletes that we should see at elite sport.

“When you consider the landscape of the UK has changed, what should we be doing at grassroots level so more black and Asian kids have access to sport?

“But that important moment when Issy Wong flashes up on the screen at the Commonwealth Games and some British Asian kid sees her for the first time, they will realise then that they can represent the UK and England as well.

“I think Team GB, Team England and all the sports organisations across the UK have a responsibility of cultivating at the grassroots level access to sports for the Asian community.”

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