LGBT+ History Month 2022: Celebrating art and creativity through sport

Published by Jon Holmes on

Sports Media LGBT+ is once again supporting LGBT+ History Month in February; we’ve selected five talking points for the 2022 theme connected to the Winter Olympics, motorsport museums, women’s tennis, football kits, and athlete activism; get in touch with us to discuss content this month!

By Jon Holmes

So much of what we love about sport is inextricably linked with art – think for instance about kit design, statues of great athletes, stadium architecture, theatre and movies.. fittingly for this February, even ice dance routines.

The theme for LGBT+ History Month 2022 is ‘Politics in Art’, tapping into how the creativity of LGBTQ+ people through the years has helped to define our fight for equality. 

July 1, 1972, will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Pride March in the UK, “a carnival-style parade” of protest from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park. Sport barely registered as an area of focus for the early gay rights movement but within just a few years, Britain would in fact have an out Olympic champion in John Curry – a man whose elegance and elan as an athlete was celebrated, but whose authenticity was largely misunderstood.

Instigated by the charity Schools Out UK, LGBT+ History Month has been marked in Britain every February since 2005, following the ultimately successful attempts to lobby the government to have Section 28 repealed. It seeks to raise awareness of the achievements and contributions of LGBT+ people throughout British history.

Once again, Sports Media LGBT+ is supporting this important initiative and is encouraging everyone in our sporting circles to tell stories about our past, present and future. 2021 brought an outstanding selection of content across different platforms and publishers, such as BBC Sport, helping to educate a broad audience.

Here are five talking points to get you thinking about the connection between sport and LGBT+ History Month 2022’s themes of art and personal politics…

The legacy of ‘The Ice King’

Outsports‘ lists of out Olympians and Paralympians are invaluable sources of visibility and always create conversations around the Games. For Beijing 2022, we know we have 35 LGBTQ+ athletes competing this month (at the time of writing) – four of whom are British. 

Makayla Gerken-Schofield spoke to us exclusively last year about being pan, while Bruce Mouat has generously shared his story of coming out as gay with several outlets in recent weeks, including Pride of the Terraces and Sky Sports. Gus Kenworthy’s journey as an out gay freestyle skier is more widely known, while ice dancer Lewis Gibson was interviewed by Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler for his Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast in the last couple of weeks.

In figure skating, Gibson is following in the footsteps (or should that be skate tracks?) of John Curry, who won gold at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck in February 1976. A month later, Curry also claimed the World Championships title in Gothenburg. In between those two events, the 26-year-old was outed as gay by a German tabloid newspaper.

Despite this, he went on to be named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 and died of an AIDS-related heart attack at the age of 44. The excellent 2018 documentary ‘The Ice King’ – available to watch now on Netflix UK – tells the story of his extraordinary life. We thoroughly recommend giving the doc a watch when you’re not tuning in to cheer on our new Olympic heroes.

Read more about John Curry and ‘The Ice King’ in our article from 2018.

A colourful T-shirt statement

It may be part of our very recent sporting history but it’s already a museum exhibit! The ‘Same Love’ T-shirt in Pride flag colours that Sebastian Vettel wore at last summer’s Hungarian Grand Prix is now on display at the Coventry Transport Museum.

Alongside the famous garment, there’s a whole section about Racing Pride in the ‘Women In Motorsport’ exhibition, which also includes racing gear from RP driver ambassador Sarah Moore. Coventry is the current UK City of Culture and it’s fantastic to know LGBTQ+ inclusion in motorsport is being represented here.

You can also see more Racing Pride input at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, where legends Roberta Cowell and Hugh Hunter are featured. Sports Media LGBT+ discussed this partnership on a Sporting Heritage Conference webinar last October – you can watch that back on YouTube…

Sports Media LGBT+ contributed a section about Racing Pride at the 2021 Sporting Heritage Conference

Fifty years since BJK’s career Grand Slam

When Billie Jean King beat Evonne Goolagong in the final of the 1972 French Open women’s singles, she also completed a career Grand Slam, having first claimed the Australian, US and Wimbledon titles in the last 1960s. It would be the only time she would lift the trophy at Roland Garros, and in total, only nine other women in tennis history have matched her achievement.

King’s activism and determination in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality continues to inspire people around the world, and her BJK Leadership Initiative is focused on achieving authenticity in the workplace for all – something that is a major priority for Sports Media LGBT+ as well.

We’re particularly excited to learn that the official launch of Pride in Tennis will be taking place in the UK in February too – loving the group’s new logo, which is a work of art in itself!

You can also follow PIT on Twitter and Instagram to get all the latest updates from the new network group, which is being supported by The LTA.

There’s further information here on the LTA website.

Stonewall FC’s Unity Kit is a striking statement

Aslie Pitter

I recently had the pleasure of hosting a Q&A for Sky Sports staff with Aslie Pitter MBE, one of the founding members of Stonewall FC which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 1991. I very proudly wore my Unity Kit shirt, which was first launched back in December 2020 but re-released to buy last year at Rainbow Laces time and to unlock on FIFA 22! 

There are so many fascinating stories connected with the club – some of which Aslie also shared with our #AuthenticMe event audience back in October 2019 (we’re looking forward to a long overdue in-person event again soon we hope!) Meanwhile, last year, images and video from Stonewall FC history were entered into the Bishopsgate Institute archives to be preserved for posterity.

Read more about the history of Stonewall FC in this Sky Sports article from February 2021.

February is also the Month of Action for the Football v Homophobia campaign; the shortlists for the 2022 FvH Awards should be available soon. Also in football, there’s an ‘Independent LGBTQ+ Convention’ event at Bradford City FC’s Valley Parade stadium on Saturday, February 19 (10am to 4pm) – get along and support that if you can!

‘Let’s all be part of changing history’

While we’re looking back at our sporting heritage and hopefully unearthing some tales previously untold, we’re also looking ahead and trying to inspire the next generation.

Pride House Birmingham ambassador Michael Gunning – another of our former #AuthenticMe speakers, and a great friend of our group – has shared a post on social media that speaks directly to that endeavour. Referencing how there are still over 70 countries around the world where love between LGBTQ+ people is criminalised, Michael also writes: “I try not to take a single day for granted and do my best to educate people around the world.”

Each of us is an artist through our ability to be creative, such as through writing. Sports Media LGBT+ is here to provide support, advice and visibility to anyone who like Michael has something they would like to share. This LGBT History Month, we urge you to remember that ‘the personal is political’ and that our individual spirit of invention is as relevant in sport as in any work of life.

Email to get in touch – we welcome your correspondence!

Sports Media LGBT+ is a network, advocacy, and consultancy group that is helping to build a community of LGBTQ+ people and allies in sport. We’re also a digital publisher. Learn more about us here.

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Jon Holmes

Digital Sports Editor