Queer education will from now on be implemented in coaches’ training. The secretary-general of ÍSÍ, the National Olympic and Sports Association in Iceland, encourages sports clubs to be vigilant to queer prejudice.
“We reacted immediately by having a meeting with representatives from Samtökin ’78 and Styrmir, where we discussed how we could increase awareness within the organization. As a result, we made an agreement with Samtökin ’78 to have this meeting tomorrow, where María Helga Guðmundsdóttir, sports achiever, will give a talk,” says Ragnhildur Skúladóttir, director of education within ÍSÍ, the National Olympic and Sports Association. ÍSÍ holds regular lunchtime meetings, open to everyone, and on Wednesday the topic will be queer athletes.
“We think it’s very important that the person giving the talk is an athlete herself and knows the lingo, so to speak. Her lecture will be recorded and made accessible on ÍSÍ’s website and will be part of online courses that we run for coaches. María Helga is also going to prepare some exercises and questions to be pondered after watching the video.”
“We’ll continue our collaboration with Samtökin ’78 and encourage our clubs to be vigilant to queer prejudice as well as other kinds of prejudice. We do not want any kind of prejudice to thrive within the organization.”
ÍSÍ runs three online courses a year for coaching training, the next one starting in June and this material will be included in Course II already then.
“We’re very excited about this and looking forward to the meeting tomorrow; hopefully there will be a good turn out,” says Ragnhildur.
Líney Rut Halldórsdóttir, secretary-general of ÍSÍ, says that when the discussion arose in the media, with GayIceland’s series of articles about queer prejudice in sports, she hadn’t known the extent of the matter; it hadn’t come across her desk as secretary-general of the National Olympic and Sports Association. “Of course we reacted quickly; we were surprised that this was such a big problem. I’m not aware of any negative reaction amongst our people, on the contrary it made people think and become more aware and we all wanted to do something about it, right away.”
The lecture tomorrow will be used as part of coaches’ training material for the next four years. “We’ll continue our collaboration with Samtökin ’78 and encourage our clubs to be vigilant to queer prejudice as well as other kinds of prejudice. We do not want any kind of prejudice to thrive within the organization,” says Líney.
As said before karate instructor María Helga Guðmundsdóttir, one of the athletes who stepped up in March and criticized ÍSÍ for not dealing with queer prejudice within the organization, is now preparing to give a talk at the open lunchtime meeting at ÍSÍ on Wednesday. “Yes, I will be speaking on behalf of Samtökin ’78 – it’s an open meeting and we encourage people to attend, especially athletes. ÍSÍ holds these events regularly and I understand the attendance is always good so I’m just looking forward to it and to see what kind of reception it will get.”
What are your key points going to be? “My talk will be especially aimed at people working for and training within the organization. I’m going to show what the viewpoint of queer athletes is in regards of being part of the community of sports and what we as athletes can do to create a good, open community where everybody can participate as peers and become achievers as peers.”
Your lecture will be recorded and used as part of training for coaches; why is it important that they and other ÍSÍ staff listen to your lecture? “Because it’s more likely than not, considering how many people are relatively queer, that all coaches will at some point be working with a queer person and that we will all be training with a queer person. And it’s incredibly easy to take initiative with very small and simple gestures to create an environment that’s safe and welcomes queer people rather than shunning them, giving them the silent treatment or something worse. Note that it’s very often the silence and the uncertainty of how they will be received that discourages them from being open about their orientation and makes them insecure in showing initiative. I don’t think people understand how difficult the silence can be, even though there’s absolutely no harm meant.”
Your talk will be used as education material within ÍSÍ for the next four years, is that right? “Yes, it will be accessible on ÍSÍ’s website along with some exercises or thought-provoking reading material. In four years’ time there will hopefully be need for reviewing the material and update it and I believe that both parties have every intention to continue this collaboration indefinitely. But we’ll see what happens in the next four years.”
Other organizations, such as KSÍ that are actually holding this meeting too, have voiced an interest in receiving queer education especially. Will they be able to use this material? “When Samtökin ’78 and Styrmir had that meeting with ÍSÍ, there were in fact reps from KSÍ there too and they are very interested in the talk I’m giving and what comes out of it. However, their training courses are always taught on-campus so we have to look into whether to adapt the material more to their needs.”