Open letter to Ben Weyts, minister of Sports
Lettre ouverte en français:
We are on the verge of a wonderful sports summer with the Olympic Games, the European Football Championship and many other events. Athletes of whom we are proud are working their butts off. We support them, we look up to them, and yet many of them cannot be fully themselves.
On July 11, 2020, I read the emotional testimony of an anonymous professional soccer player from the English Premier League who did not dare to come out on the soccer field. He stressed the need for radical changes in sport to make his coming-out possible. We are almost a year on, but no progress has been made. As a footballer and spokesperson of Wel Jong Niet Hetero this makes me sad, but above all angry.
I had no example, no role model to look up to. There was no safe environment where I could be myself. The threshold was so high that I was forced to choose between revealing my "secret" or quitting soccer. This should not be experienced by any young person in the future, it should be prevented. In your policy paper I read "We ensure that everyone can be themselves when experiencing sport". Nice, but then there is work to be done.
European research shows that more than 90% of all LGBT+ athletes are not comfortable being themselves within their club. Hallucinating figure, right? LGBT+ athletes do not feel comfortable at a club and are afraid of reactions from others. 85% indicate that they witnessed homo- and transphobia in sports or were victims of it themselves. Statistics from the Flemish Sports Federation show that only 18% of the federations have (had) a trans person as a member participating in the competition. That trans and intersex persons are underrepresented within the organized sports sector does not surprise anyone. Many of them are currently denied equal access to sport due to barriers, fear and transphobic violence.
How is it possible that athletes - also in Belgium - can still not be themselves, or have equal access to sport? It has to be better, not tomorrow but today! Young people need examples, they need sportspeople to whom they can relate. But these role models can only arise when a safe and accessible sports climate gives them the opportunity to do so.
Dear Ben, I look to you as Minister of Sport, as policy maker and promoter of healthy and ethical sports in Flanders. Today, on the international day against LGBT and transphobia, I ask you to prioritize a dialogue on accessibility and safety in sport. Together with Wel Jong Niet Hetero, Out For The Win and LGBT+ athletes, I invite you to reflect on the following challenges that are necessary for an LGBT+ friendly sports climate:
We need a structural policy against gay and transphobia across all sports, at all levels, from elite sports to recreation, from individual athlete to coach along the sidelines. The range of sports must be inclusive and accessible to every athlete, regardless of sexuality, gender identity and gender expression. Trainers and sports leaders must be familiar with exclusionary mechanisms that perpetuate insecurity for LGBT+ individuals within their sport. As you yourself point out in your policy document: "We want every Flemish person, from young or old, to play sports. We don't go for less."
All the best
Matthias De Roover,
Footballer and spokesman Wel Jong Niet Hetero
"Matthias de Roover is a spokesperson at Wel Jong Niet Hetero, the Flemish youth organization that continues to build on the equal society from the power of young people, so they can be themselves in their bodies, sexuality and gender experiences."
You can sign this open letter and thus help to put pressure on our policy makers so that we can actively work towards a sports world that is accessible, safe and attractive for all LGBT+ people. Every name is a heart for so many athletes who are currently too afraid to be themselves. Every voice counts! #outforthewin #changethegame
Among others, signed by:
▪️ Kim Meylemans, olympische skeleton atleet en ambassadeur Out For The Win
▪️ Victor Campenaerts, professioneel wielrenner
▪️ Kim Clijsters, professioneel tennisspeler
▪️ Dries Mertens, professioneel voetballer SSC Napoli en Rode Duivels
▪️ Pieter Gerkens, professioneel voetballer Royal Antwerp F.C.
▪️ Alison Van Uytvanck, professioneel tennisspeler
▪️ Oshin Derieuw, wereldkampioen lichtgewicht boksen en ambassadeur Out For The Win
▪️ Charlotte Jamie Deldaele, professioneel triatleet en ambassadeur Out For The Win
▪️ Ann Wauters, kapitein van de Belgian Cats / olympisch atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Elodie Ouedraogo, ex-atleet
▪️ Fanny Lecluyse, professioneel zwemmer / olympisch atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Simon Haerinck, roeier en oprichter campagne #SameSportDifferentSexuality
▪️ Jelle Van Damme, ex-voetballer
▪️ Koen Naert, professioneel atleet / olympisch atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Justin Laevens, wielrenner bij Proximus-Alphamotorhomes/Doltcini
▪️ Greet Minnen, internationale tennisspeler
▪️ Marjo Carpreaux, basketballer Belgian Cats / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Seppe Smits, professioneel snowboarder
▪️ Niels Van Zandwege, roeier Sport.Vlaanderen
▪️ Marten Van Riel, professioneel triatleet Belgian Hammers
▪️ Evelien Bouillaert, professioneel skateboarder
▪️ Justien Odeurs, keeper bij RSC Anderlecht en Belgian Red Flames
▪️ Jorik Hendrickx, olympisch kunstschaatser
▪️ Gitte Haenen, professioneel atleet para-atletiek
▪️ Astrid Verhoeven, semi-professioneel marathonloper & oprichter Project.Mensch
▪️ Noor Vidts, internationaal meerkamper
▪️ Ineke Deriemaecker, canicross Team Belgium
▪️ Piet Hoebeke, decaan Fac Geneeskunde en Gezondheidswetenschappen UGent
▪️ Tim Brys, roeier bij Team Belgium
▪️ Ella Van Kerkhoven, voetballer/spits bij de Belgian Red Flames
▪️ D.S., professioneel tennisspeler
▪️ Mathias Goethals, circusartiest/acrobaat
▪️ Jill Boon, professioneel hockeyspeler / olympische atleet
▪️ Lise Jaques, professioneel badmintonner
▪️ K.M., professioneel surfer
▪️ Veerle Baumers, quidditch speler in Belgian Gryffins
▪️ An Vannieuwenhuyse, piloot bij de Belgian Bullets / olympisch atleet
▪️ Natalie van Gogh, professioneel wielrenner
▪️ Nymphe Keuleers, professioneel skeeleren
▪️ J.C., atleet VGPF
▪️ Jade Smits, zwemmer bij Team Belgium
▪️ Hanne De Vet, professioneel triatleet Belgian Hammers
▪️ Nele Gilis, professioneel squasher
▪️ Félix Denayer, hockeyer bij Red Lions
▪️ Guy T'Sjoen, diensthoofd Centrum voor Seksuologie en Gender, UZ Gent
▪️ Yanina Wickmayer, professioneel tennisser
▪️ Rani Rosius, professioneel atleet
▪️ Vincent Fierens, omroeper Royal Antwerp FC
▪️ Thomas Thijs, zwemmer bij Team Belgium
▪️ Fleur Vermeiren, topsportzwemmer
▪️ Koen De Deyne, voorzitter Antwerp Brilliant Games
▪️ Jelle Geens, professioneel triatleet Belgian Hammers
▪️ Claire Michel, professioneel triatleet Belgian Hammers
▪️ Jason Respilieux, professioneel danser / choreograaf / docent
▪️ Luka Elsner, hoofdcoach KV Kortrijk
▪️ Hanne Claes, topsporter atletiek / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Inge Coeck, ex topsporter Kayak Seoul 1988
▪️ Nora Monsecour, danseres
▪️ Hanne Mestdagh, basketballer Belgian Cats / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Jana Raman, basketballer Belgian Cats / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Becky Massey, basketballer Belgian Cats / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Antonia Delaere, basketballer Belgian Cats / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Billie Massey, basketballer Belgian Cats / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Elise Ramette, basketballer Belgian Cats/ olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Heleen Nauwelaers, basketballer Belgian Cats / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Kyara Linskens, basketballer Belgian Cats/ Olympisch atleet Tokyo 2021
▪️ Emma Meesseman, basketballer Belgian Cats / olympische atleet Tokyo 2021
We will use these mail addresses only during the #changethegame action
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