By Andrew Henderson (he/him)
I have always loved sports. Growing up I would watch whatever my dad put on the TV, which growing up in the north east of Scotland was usually football – or soccer, depending on where you are reading this.
I tried a bit of everything though really. We had public tennis courts in the town I grew up in which were always busy in the summer, I remember going to some sort of golf group when I was pretty young, we had a half-size table tennis table. At school I remember doing athletics, basketball, hockey, touch rugby and probably more that I’ve forgotten.
One of those things that my dad would watch, and that I got a taster session of, was cricket. For some reason, maybe because I had seen it and vaguely knew what I was doing compared to my classmates, that was the one that caught my imagination, and I joined my local club.
There will be plenty of places around the world that have no idea cricket exists, and where I grew up it was a bit of a strange one. The sport is surprisingly popular in Scotland – admittedly nowhere near the scale of its popularity in England – and while there was a local club that trained and played matches every week, a lot of people in the town probably weren’t aware of it.
You might well be wondering what all this had to do with journalism and writing about inclusion. Well, that cricket club was the first place I remember hearing homophobia in a sporting context.
At the time, I didn’t know I was part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I must have been around 13, and I had been to football before that so there’s every chance I had come across it earlier, but that was the earliest moment I could point to now. Looking back, I wonder how much moments like that affected my own journey to embracing who I am.
It took quite a while after that. I’d have to fast forward six or seven years before I accepted myself, and another couple before I came out publicly. By that point I had graduated from university with a journalism degree, was just about to start my first full time job in the industry covering sport but had essentially stopped playing myself.
I can’t say that there were many “incidents” directed towards me, because I passed as straight. Maybe it’s just that nobody expected someone who was sports-mad to be queer, I’m not sure, but part of what put me off of playing sport myself was the hyper-masculine attitude towards it.
Once I started living as my authentic self, I began to pick up on all these things that might make LGBTQIA+ people less receptive to sport, and I started paying more attention to issues of LGBT-phobia.
Of course, I wished something could be done to stop them. That’s when I discovered some of the people who were working towards a better future in LGBTQIA+ sport.
I feel like I always knew of Outsports, but I’m not sure exactly how or when that happened. For me, the major turning point was stumbling across the BBC LGBT+ Sport podcast hosted by Jack Murley. That really opened my eyes to just how many people there really were who were involved in sport and part of the community.
Until then, I could barely have told you anyone in that spot. Suddenly I was hearing about people from all over the world, in sports I didn’t know there was a queer presence in at all, doing amazing things in elite sport and at a grassroots level.
It’s difficult to put into words what that meant. It was inspiring, comforting, relatable and just plain interesting.
Couple that with some incidents in world sport across 2019 – the main ones being then-England cricket captain Joe Root defending the LGBTQIA+ community mid-match in the West Indies, Australian cricketer James Faulkner appearing to come out only to immediately backtrack, and the ill-fated “Gay footballer” Twitter account that claimed to be a second-tier player in England who was about to come out – and the wheels started turning in my mind.
Knowing the impact that Jack’s podcast had on me, I realised that there were no British-based websites like Outsports, telling people’s stories through the written word. I also realised that as a professional journalist, I had the tools to go and do it myself. That’s how Pride of the Terraces was created.
If you haven’t reached out yet, I’d love to hear from you! POTT is a place to share stories of being any part of the LGBTQIA+ community in any sport, at any level, in any capacity! Let’s keep our momentum rolling into 2023 and beyond 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️
— Pride of the Terraces (@PrideofTerraces) December 11, 2022
The site launched in October 2019, and it has been an incredible journey since. Starting off with local footballers in the teams I covered in my day job and old contacts from university, I have since gone on to talk to people all over the world myself.
I’ve covered athletes at the absolute pinnacle of their sport paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps, and people making a tangible difference in their local communities – learning from a lot of their experiences along the way.
I’ve met so many amazing people, and made connections with people from all across the UK through the Sports Media LGBT+ network group created by Jon Holmes – even getting the chance to meet some of them in person. We’re all pulling in the same direction and hoping to made a difference, and I never fail to be encouraged when I see what everyone is doing, even if it is as simple as providing visible representation.
I’ve had doors opened for me. I’ve been able to get involved with projects that I would never have been on the radar for, whether that’s hosting a discussion on film In From the Side involving actors and writers, hosting a podcast in conjunction with LEAP Sports Scotland or hosting a panel event.
😍 We recently launched Seen & Heard, a new podcast series showcasing brilliant stories of equality in Scottish sport 💪
— LEAP Sports Scotland (@LEAPsports) December 28, 2022
That was not just one of the highlights of my work with Pride of the Terraces, but one of the highlights of my life. Between LEAP Sports Scotland, Sports Media LGBT+ and Pride of the Terraces we hosted the first ever #AuthenticMe event in Glasgow featuring Olympians, referees, academics and athletes from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum to tell their stories in person to a room full of people. After being involved in pulling it together and chairing one of the panels, it would have taken something major to wipe that smile off my face at the end of the night.
A week on from a first #AuthenticMe event in Scotland, I look back on the night for @SportsMediaLGBT. Thanks again to @LEAPsports for their hard work, and of course panelists Lloyd, @Robyn_Love13, @BruceMouat, @Blair90x, @evangelista_zy and @RossLockerbie.https://t.co/V2FHKF6AIw
— Pride of the Terraces (@PrideofTerraces) November 3, 2022
The site itself has grown too. Yes, I still sometimes get ghosted by people I approach for interviews, and I will not pretend it’s some major media force, but every year more and more people have found something they want to read, which is amazing.
When I started Pride of the Terraces, I set out to show that it was possible to be LGBTQIA+ and involved in sport. My theory was that the more people who saw evidence of that, the more people would feel like they could get involved too.
I’m not taking credit for what’s happened globally since Pride of the Terraces launched at all, but we have seen the power of visibility over recent years. Josh Cavallo’s story made headlines around the world, and was mentioned as a big moment when Jake Daniels came out. That in turn helped Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson, who in turn helped Zander Murray.
That is just one example of a domino effect. We have also seen more out athletes than ever before compete at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, we have seen straight allies talking about LGBTQIA+ inclusion in sport more often.
There are still challenges we face, of course there are, but we have taken monumental strides forward in some ways too, and it’s important we don’t forget that.
Personally, I know I was nervous when I went back to play cricket for the first time after coming. Nobody had really given me reason to be, it was a completely internal thing. I was just very conscious that as far as I knew, I was the only one.
Now though, I proudly hold my head high and wear rainbow laces, armbands, or kit. I continue to be inspired by the people I talk to for Pride of the Terraces, who they are and what they do, and I can only hope it’s doing the same for others too.
Photos Courtesy of Andrew Henderson