LGBTQI+ community encouraged to participate in Gaelic Games
By John Harrington
The Digital Dublin Pride Festival is taking place this week so it’s timely to shine a light on the significant work being done to make Gaelic Games more inclusive sports for the LGBTQI+ community.
GAA President, John Horan, said in his address to Congress 2019 that protection and respect for members of the LGBTQ community involved in Gaelic Games should be a priority for the Association, and since then the GAA has strived to live up to those words.
The GAA, the LGFA, and the Camogie Association were officially represented at last year’s Dublin Pride Parade, and since then have become the first sporting organisations to set up a Gender Diversity Working Group.
“The Gender Diversity Working Group was established last year to look at the promotion of gender diversity and includes members of each of our Gaelic Games Associations and indeed external people that we've invited in as well,” says the Working Group’s Chairperson, Gearóid Ó Maoilmhichíl, who is also the GAA’s Natioal Children’s Officer.
“There would be four maybe five pillars. And the first pillar just completed and now gone for consultation among each of our Associations it's called or titled the participation of the LGBTQI+ community in Gaelic Games.
“It's a big breakthrough for us to get this far. We've had widespread consultation, we're happy with the document and, as I say, following consultation we will now see if it requires major changes in the Association.
“For example, we may have to look at some of our rule wording, we may have to be more proactive in creating a welcoming Association for everybody and we will continue then at the same time with the other pillars which include inclusion, disability, employment et cetera. So they go on parallel while we're trying to complete the first pillar.
“It's a been a good experience. I think it's going to add tremendously to our Associations. It was an eye-opener for some people that we hadn't been as participative or welcoming as we thought we were and that was a good piece of research that we carried out.
“We also consulted with our Youth Forum while we were doing it as well so it's been good, it's been welcomed, there have been no obstacles and I really looking forward to the next step where we broaden our horizons.
“For example, working closely with DCU, and we're also working with other organisations where they are promoting greater inclusion. We've a seminar coming up next week that we will participate in so we have started the first steps, at least started the first steps.
"The word is out, people know that we're actually serious about, I suppose, promoting a greater participation and being more welcoming and understanding as well as we do it.”
That welcome and understanding has been warmly received by leading members of the LGBTQI+ community.
Gordon Grehan is Operations Manager at TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) and an enthusiastic member of the GAA’s Gender Diversity Working Group.
“A lot of the work that we (TENI) do is around breaking down barriers to access to social inclusion for transgender people,” Grehan told GAA.ie
“And one of the really important areas that trans people face barriers in is sport. So I was delighted to be part of the Gender Diversity Working Group and to be asked to represent the transgender
community as part of that group. It's an incredible step I think for the GAA to be so forward-thinking and so progressive and to really put the inclusion and participation of LGBTQI+ people at the forefront of their work. So I've been delighted to be part of the group and I think it's really positive.
“We know from our work that trans people miss out on all the benefits of participating in sports.
“They often don't enjoy the mental health benefits, the physical health benefits, the sense of community that can come from being part of their local sports group and that's something we really want to work on to change so we are really happy at TENI to working with the GAA on this and it's a great thing to be able to talk about for Pride.”
The formation of the Gender Diversity Working Group is just one example of the proactive work the GAA, LGFA, and Camogie Association are currently doing in the area of inclusion.
Ger McTavish works as a full-time Diversity and Inclusion Officer for all three organisations, and her brief is a wide-ranging one.
“The aim of the GAA is to offer an inclusive, diverse, and welcoming environment for everyone,” says McTavish.
“Over the last 10 years the GAA have been working very hard in the area of inclusion and integration.
“There have been many developments and many programmes implemented. The GAA For All Committee is a committee that oversees a lot of the inclusion and integration policies and also all of the initiatives.
“The GAA For All Committee is made up of the GAA, the LGFA, the Camogie Association, the Handball Association, and the Rounders Association along with many other stakeholders.
“This committee engages in the awareness campaigns and also development and guidelines around GAA For All.
“Some of the GAA For All initiatives are inter-cultural activities, wheelchair hurling and camogie, football for all with the Irish Special Schools.
“We also have inclusive Cúl Camps and All-Star programmes which are club programmes that give everyone in the community the opportunity to come and experience the GAA club.
“A lot of other programmes are underway through different training and different workshops and also an awareness campaign.
“In March we also launched a responding to racism workshop which is a two-hour workshop that gives training to our volunteers and members of GAAA clubs.”
For further information on GAA For All, go HERE.