Back Celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in Sport!

@CoE/@Shutterstock

@CoE/@Shutterstock

Today, for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (#IDAHOT, #IDAHOTB), we stand together for inclusivity, respect, and diversity in sport by challenging hate speech and discrimination based on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression or sex characteristics.

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is celebrated worldwide on 17 May to foster efforts against any form of marginalisation and criminalisation of LGBTI persons. The date refers to 17 May 1990, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases. Furthermore, the WHO removed gender dysphoria from mental diseases in 2018, by classifying it as gender incongruence.

Data about Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in Sport

Despite that, discrimination and hate speech take place every day. According to recent data from the research of German Sport University of Cologne1 in a general sample of over 2800 athletes from all over Europe, 80% believe that there is a serious problem of homophobia, sexism and transphobia in sport. This is particularly relevant if we consider that 74% of the sample identified as a straight person and 94% identified as a cisgender person. Respondents also witnessed sexist (46%), homophobic (28%), and transphobic (16%) language in their sports activities.

At the Council of Europe, we champion equality, and strive to combat hate speech and discrimination in all their forms. Athletes worldwide lace up their shoes, grab their equipment and step onto the field, court, or track with one common goal: to play the game they love. Hate, Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia break the game we love.

Our ambassador against Homophobia in Sport, Ioannis Icarus Melissanidis

Olympic gold medallist in artistic gymnastics and Greek sport legend, Ioannis Icarus Melissanidis is Ambassador for the #SportISRespect Campaign and is an openly gay Olympian athlete. In 1996 he became the youngest Olympic champion in the history of men floor gymnastics and the first Greece Olympic champion since 1896.

In 2000, during the Sydney Olympics, he was targeted by a fake news campaign based on an invented affair between him and his coach, accusing him of “homosexuality”. Some journalists tried to destroy his image and reputation and threatened his mental stability during the entire competition. Ioannis was able to strongly react and give no importance to this attack. It was not easy at the beginning, but after some weeks people started to support him. In less than a year he responded in the most powerful way by presenting a new vaulting exercise in the World Championship which was officially named after him by the International Gymnastic Federation.

Unfortunately, people practising sport are still not free to come out and face discrimination this way. It is necessary that every player, fan, organisation, and club understands the importance of combating homo and transphobic hate speech in sport.

Inclusion, respect and teamworking are the core of Sport

Inclusivity in sport creates a safe and well-being environment for everyone, it breeds excellence by unlocking the full potential of each athlete and boosting teamwork, it creates role models for future generations, it finally makes the respect of human rights real on the field and in everyday life.

As Ioannis said  for this #IDAHOT #IDAHOTB:

“​​LGBTI people around the world struggle against violence and discrimination every day and deserve protection from such abuses. Human rights are universal and people cannot be excluded from protection simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sport and the athletic spirit are for everybody, because both embody the ideals of equality, fairness, perseverance, discipline and integrity. Fighting for these ideas is something that makes me prouder every day”.

Sport is Respect: everyone should play without fear

Today, for The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we reaffìrm our commitment to building a world where everyone can play, compete, and cheer without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

Join the movement: #SportISRespect

[1] SGS research Sport for all Genders and Sexualities - German Sport University of Cologne, 2023  https://fis.dshs-koeln.de/en/projects/sport-for-all-genders-and-sexualities

Strasbourg, France 17 MAY 2024
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