WHAT does the word pride mean?
It is a number of things, a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired. It is also consciousness of one’s own dignity.
In June each year there is Pride Month, when members of the LGBTQ+ community, with family, friends and supporters, honour the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Manhattan. More than half a century later and there is still work to be done to make our society fully inclusive, while many other groups are also fighting to be recognised and accepted.
Though sports are considered by many to be bastions of heteronormativity, the world is changing and, gradually, sport is seen as a vehicle to influence change.
Yes, it should not be necessary for people to declare their sexuality, but staying mum and hidden often has serious effects on the health, mentally and physically, of people who are afraid to be whom they really are.
Leinster player Jack Dunne is the only active professional in rugby union who has come out, while earlier this year Blackpool forward Jake Daniels became Britain’s first male professional footballer to declare himself publicly as gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990. That it has taken more than three decades for this to happen again is sad. Retiring international swimmer Michael Gunning recently spoke about the twin prejudices of racism and homophobia he faced.
Some sports, workplaces and communities are more welcoming, and I would like to think that our sport of racing would embrace and support, and provide a safe environment for, anyone who would wish to come out.
In Britain, jockey Jack Duern said last year: “Racing has definitely come a long way since I came out in 2013. I’m proud to be the first openly gay jockey in Europe, and also proud of the racing community for accepting me for who I am and for welcoming me back into the sport.
“I’m determined to use my platform, and as an ambassador for Racing With Pride, to show other LGBT+ people, both in and out of racing, that they are not alone, and that racing is everyone’s sport.”
As important as it is for everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin, it is also vital that others with influence speak out and offer their support and encouragement. Let us show that racing is inclusive and I would ask leaders to speak up, and speak out.
Words can heal or hurt, encourage or discourage, inspire or hinder. Make your words count.