Sheffield United Women’s Ellie Wilson and Naomi Hartley talk about their work in the LGBT+ Community
You’ve both just started working with the Community Foundation’s Empower LGBT+ programme. What attracted you to this role?
Ellie: I love everything the Empower projects stand for. Personally, I believe there shouldn’t be any barriers to participating in sport regardless of who you are or what you background is. Sport is for all, and I think the work the Community Foundation does in terms of making this a reality is great.
Naomi: I’m part of the LGBT+ community myself and I know what it’s like to go through everyday struggles being different. I want to help people who may have been like me when I was younger so I can help them feel comfortable. I want to be a realistic role model for people and inspire those who may be struggling with their sexuality.
As allies for the LGBT+ community, why do you think the Rainbow Laces campaign is important for people in sport and the people who watch it?
Ellie: It not only raises awareness of the LGBT+ community and the challenges people face, but it can also help people to learn how to be an ally and be more inclusive. This could be understanding the use of pronouns, learning why certain words can be offensive and also help people be more comfortable when talking about LGBT+ subjects. All of these are small things that can make a big difference.
Naomi: It’s important because it gives people an opportunity to connect with each other on a safe and inclusive level and gives people support when coming out. It shows the inclusivity of the club and gives people somewhere to go to if they’re in need of help. It also enables people to feel like they can be comfortable and be themselves no matter their gender, sexual orientation or appearance.
What do you think people can do to be an ally/a better ally?
Ellie: Recognise that the LGBT+ community do have barriers. It’s important we work together to understand what these are and aim to break them down. We need to include people at all times regardless of their gender, sex, sexuality, appearance, culture, anything!
Do you have any LGBT+ role models and how do they impact you on and off the pitch?
Naomi: I would have to go with Casey Stoney. Casey has a family, great job and has had an amazing and successful career as a player and a manager. She’s a hard working individual that has done so well in her career and she’s had massive achievements from not only playing at a young age when women didn’t have a ‘future’ career in football, to then playing for big clubs like Arsenal and then managing clubs like Manchester United.
Stonewall’s statistics show that many LGBT+ people are reluctant to participate in sport. How do you think we can encourage more LGBT+ people to get involved in sport in the future?
Ellie: There are still barriers to break down, and it’s important that we continue to educate people about how we can do this together so that everyone feels more comfortable participating in sport. It’s also important for us to provide ‘safe spaces’ and comfortable environments for more LGBT+ people to get involved in sport. For example, providing LGBT+ only sessions may allow people to be themselves, be confident, and enjoy the activities rather than feeling anxious or that they’re being judged for any reason.
Naomi: By giving these people a comfortable space to be in and talking to them face-to-face, it gives them a positive environment to come to, no matter what and hopefully this brings in even more people to our inclusive sessions at the Foundation.