With the end of 2021 fast approaching, declarations of ‘new year new me’ are already coming our way through the media and advertisers. Having a physique comparable to that of a professional athlete is something the average layperson often feels pressured to strive towards, and the LGBTQ+ community is not immune from such high body image expectations.
This is a topic that LGBT Ireland’s James O’Hagan has written so openly and honestly about in recent articles for our very own GCN. To keep this important conversation moving forward, James is once again teaming up with GCN, along with Sporting Pride, to host an online discussion as a part of the In and Out digital festival, discussing body image in the LGBTQ+ community.
Joining him for this discussion is Leah Lyons, an outstanding prop with Sale Sharks who has recently also been selected for the Irish Women’s Rugby Autumn Test Series, and Roland Hempel, an avid swimmer who is the International LGBTQ+ Sports Organisations Liaison for Sporting Pride.
The panel will discuss a variety of topics, including body image in sport, experiences in other LGBTQ+ spaces, and what needs to be done to make both safe for and inclusive of everyone, regardless of body type.
Leah has first-hand experience of receiving unwarranted negative remarks about her body, something she rightly called out after being targeted by a negative comment from a spectator at an International game. Leah has represented her country at the highest level and continues to perform as an elite athlete in her chosen sport.
Roland believes that “sport should provide a space for everyone.”
“Our LGBT inclusive clubs, in particular, provide opportunities to those who want to try something new, regardless of their physical appearance or current playing ability. Expectations around having to look a certain way to play sports or to be in LGBT spaces need to be left in the past,” he comments.
Messaging around what’s ‘acceptable and likeable’ is spread through social media, our favourite shows and advertisements. This discussion sets out to challenge this messaging and take one step forward on the journey of eradicating expectations around LGBTQ+ bodies.
James O’Hagan stated: “The response to the articles I wrote earlier this year has been staggering. So many people reached out to share their experiences of fatphobia, bullying and shame as queer fat people. These experiences have made them feel unwelcome and unwanted in queer spaces. The only way to challenge this is to continue to speak out.”
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