03 Jul 2020

Every year, during the month of June, Pride Month is celebrated across the world. Pride is about communities coming together in celebration, unity and solidarity with the LGBT+ community. British Athletics is proud to support and work alongside the LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Biexual & Transgender) community in the sport through the Athletics Pride Network which was launched in April this year.

Four members of the Athletics Pride Network caught up via video call to discuss their experiences of being LGBT+ in athletics, speaking about being their authentic selves and how that led to an improvement in their performance and other aspects of their lives; their challenges from the perspectives of an up and coming athlete, a coach, and a grassroots runner, and also the importance of visibility and the support of allies.

Olympian, Tom Bosworth, moderated the discussion which includes Ethan Akanni – the 2019 British Athletics Indoor Championships 60m hurdles bronze medallist; Andy Paul – coach at Birchfield Harriers, and Susie O’Connor – a grassroots runner at London Frontrunners and Wimbledon Windmilers. See the full discussion below.

During the discussion, Ethan said:

“Almost a year ago, I came out as gay to my family, and it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. I could literally just be myself. That confidence translated into everything in my life but especially in athletics. I was always wasting energy about what my family would think, how they would react and all the possible negative things went through my mind. And when that was silenced, it allowed me to use that energy that I was wasting on something useful, like down at the track.

“As you can see, this indoor season has been the best season of my career. It just goes to show, something you didn’t think was so big can have a massive impact upon you generally.”

Susie adds:

“I’m just recognising now that immersing myself in running, discovering the joy of running and the community that comes with it, I think that helped me to come out.

Andy commented on the importance of allies within the sport:

“Within my sport, and within the squad of athletes I current coach, I don’t think I can ever recall a negative situation. Actually they (training group) are hugely protective to an extent which is really nice. They are hugely vocal if they have heard anything which was mildly negative because they know me as a coach who they respect and can work with, not as someone who happens to be gay.”

The Athletics Pride Network is a safe space for the LGBT+ community across the Athletics Family and it welcome allies too. If you would like to find out more information regarding the Network, visit this page, otherwise, you can email athleticspridenetwork@britishathletics.org.uk or join the Athletics Pride Network page on Facebook.