Sports have always been a place of inclusion and diversity, but unfortunately, there has been a recent increase in resistance to LGBTIQ+ inclusion and equality. The UK charity Stonewall reports that hate crimes against the LGBTIQ+ community have increased in recent years, and Australia has seen a large uptick in anti-LGBTIQ+ related events.
Even sports have become a flashpoint for these issues, with international sports federations introducing bans to exclude trans and gender diverse athletes from competitions. FIFA even banned teams and players from wearing the “one love” armband, which was meant to protest against the treatment of LGBTIQ+ people in Qatar.
However, there have been efforts to address these problems within the sporting world. Organisations like Proud2Play and Pride Cup aim to increase the visibility of LGBTIQ+ athletes, and celebrations such as pride rounds and games across sporting codes show targeted diversity work.
Unfortunately, with increased activity and visibility of LGBTIQ+ inclusion efforts comes increased resistance from people and organisations who believe that LGBTIQ+ people are a threat to modern society. This resistance and activism against the advancement of LGBTIQ+ equality has been termed “heteroactivism”.
Heteroactivism is defined as “a term to conceptualise oppositions to LGBTIQ+ equalities, in ways that seek to assert a particular form of heteronormative sexual and gender order”. It is a framework which positions heterosexuality and gender normativity as superior, and the foundation of functioning western civilisation.
Sports have become a key platform to mobilise and advance resistance to LGBTIQ+ equality. Some Australian sports organisations have banned transgender women from participating in elite competitions, and bills have been drafted in parliament to “save women’s sport”, seeking to limit and exclude trans and gender diverse people from participating in both elite and community competitions.
The impact of ongoing heteroactivism in sport is profound, and has been very successful in halting progress for LGBTIQ+ people in that world. The targeted and coordinated activism directed at sports organisations stops administrators from enacting LGBTIQ+ inclusive policies and practices.
Administrators in sports have an opportunity to stand up to and address growing resistance to LGBTIQ+ equality. By allowing heteroactivism to be mobilised through the medium of sports, administrators continue to alienate LGBTIQ+ players, fans and employees. There are both opportunities and challenges for the Australian sporting world and how it responds to heteroactivism. Australia can be a world leader in efforts to improve outcomes for LGBTIQ+ people and make meaningful steps forward in the fight against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, ensuring LGBTIQ+ people are represented and included across all levels of sports.