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Pride Profile: “We are so lucky to openly be who we are”

June is Pride Month and an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the LGBTQI2S+ community. Skate Canada has done and is continuing to do substantive work in relation to LGBTQI2S+ inclusion but we know there remains critical inclusion work to be done moving forward in relation to race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, religion, class, size, and ability, and their intersections.

To support an inclusive environment this Pride Month we are sharing personal stories from our skating community. Below is the story of Katie and Allison Blagdon.

Our names are Katie and Allison Blagdon. We live in Mount Pearl Newfoundland and are both coaches with the Prince of Wales Skating Club. Pride month means so much to us for so many reasons, and our experiences have been nothing short of amazing. Taking the cake would have to be our New York City engagement on June 25th, 2017, during the last weekend of Pride celebrations. We got engaged in Central Park and then got all dressed up in our rainbow attire and took in the incredible parade. It was a perfect day, and we felt so proud seeing so much support for our community, even when were nearly 2000 miles away from home. Getting engaged during such a huge pride event was an unforgettable experience.

Fast forward just over a year later. We are so incredibly blessed to be joined by our friends and family, and so many members of the skating community to celebrate our wedding day, August 11th, 2018. Of course, skating was a huge part of our day, from members of our bridal party having met us through skating, to taking pictures on the ice! One of the most special moments for us was that our dear friend Meghan Rafferty, who is a coach from Manitoba, performed our ceremony, and officially married us. We both met Meghan attending the Skate Canada Ice Summit and became forever friends. Having her as a part of our special day meant so much to us.

We are proud members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and Skate Canada family. We have met so many wonderful people during our years together, at countless events across the country. We are a coaching team that met through skating and have felt nothing but love from our skating family. We feel very fortunate to be so supported by our skaters, club, section, and sanction, and are so lucky to openly be who we are. We would like thank Skate Canada for sharing our story and for showing so much love and support to our community. As coaches we see the importance of an inclusive environment for all, no matter how you identify.

Each year we look forward to celebrating Pride here in our community and attend as many events as possible. This year, things are a little different, but celebrations will continue the best way that they can. We would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Pride month – there is no better time than now for some extra rainbows!

Skate Canada thanks to Katie and Allison for sharing their story and bringing awareness to the skating community. If you are a member of the LGBTQI2S+ skating community and are interested in sharing your personal story please send us an email at [email protected].

Pride Profile: “How far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go”

June is Pride Month and an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the LGBTQI2S+ community. Skate Canada has done and is continuing to do substantive work in relation to LGBTQI2S+ inclusion but we know there remains critical inclusion work to be done moving forward in relation to race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, religion, class, size, and ability, and their intersections.

To support an inclusive environment this Pride Month we are sharing personal stories from our skating community. Below is the story of HM.

I started out in skating after watching the 1988 Olympics and insisting to my mother that I wanted to ‘fancy skate’. Being the supportive and encouraging parents they are, my parents put me in recreational lessons then into CanSkate, where I quickly fell in love with our sport.

It was encouraged at our club to hire a private coach around the Novice I level of CanSkate, in the hopes of building a strong relationship with your private coach prior to moving up to Junior.  I chose a fun loving yet serious man who pushed me hard at a young age and insisted on my best effort at all times.  I loved him dearly and was hopelessly attached by the end of the first lesson.

Sadly, this coach-skater relationship was ended before even a full year had passed. Despite many parents (including my own) and fellow coaches’ objections, his contract of many years was not renewed for the following year when the club board of directors somehow became aware of his sexuality.  Being so young at the time, this was not shared with me, and it was years before anyone told me the truth. To this day I’m sure I’m missing some of the story, and I haven’t been able to track him down since. I do remember saying goodbye – I was in hysterics and my mom had to carry me to the car.  She says he left crying, too.

I almost quit skating after that first summer. I remember my parents sitting me down to try and help me choose a new coach, to try and convince me to keep skating. I remember looking at the list of coaches, recognizing them all and being sure of none. I knew I wanted a coach who was firmer with their skaters, but I also knew I wanted a coach who would care about me at least half as much as my first coach had. In all honesty, I didn’t want a new coach, I wanted MY coach. In the end, we reached a compromise – I would skate until Christmas with my new coaches, and if I still didn’t want to skate anymore, I could quit then.

My new coaches were a husband and wife team.  I chose them simply because they seemed strict; they were very no-nonsense and their skaters worked hard.  On paper, their roles were very defined. He was my dance coach, with the odd free skate lesson thrown in here and there.  She taught me figures and later skills, alongside the majority of all my free skate. The two of them became my second set of parents.  Throughout many of my formative years, more waking hours were spent with them than with my parents.  I was just as excited to tell them about my life as I was my parents and strove for as much, if not more, for their approval, praise and affection.  I remember having a ‘3 things’ rule put in place in elementary school – I could tell them 3 things a day before having to focus on the lesson. I would tell them about school, my friends, my family, my life. I wanted to tell them everything.  I loved them deeply and owe them a huge debt – without their efforts to win me over that first fall, I would have left skating, likely forever, and my life would have taken an entirely different course. We spent years together, from my first Preliminary tests through to double Gold. I passed my final Gold dances on my coach’s 55 birthday, and still have a collection of photos and a love of champagne from that day.  I spent my teenaged summers at the arena for 8+ hour days, biking an hour to and from the arena in order to be able to spend as much time possible there with them skating, training and helping anywhere they would let me. I was given opportunities, responsibilities and a deep sense of belonging and acceptance that made the arena the place in the world I felt I fit best without knowing why I already felt “different”. I was blessed to have had a great relationship with them that built a large part of who I am today, as both a coach and a person.

I was in eleventh grade before I came out to myself and began coming out to others. After witnessing other friends experience rejection from their adult mentors, teachers and coaches I wasn’t sure I could survive it if it happened to me and couldn’t risk it with mine. This comes across as dramatic, but in truth was probably pretty spot on. I made the decision to change coaches to a younger, less experienced coach in order to not feel any possible negative (or perceived negative) reaction as acutely.  To avoid any disappointment in myself as a person from people whose respect I couldn’t stand to lose.  In effect, and to my own skating’s detriment, at the end of my personal skating career, I abandoned them before they could me.  To be clear, I didn’t have an inkling of how they’d react. I just couldn’t muster up the courage to risk them finding out. I remember my female coach hiding her tears and thinking that at least she was disappointed in me for something I chose rather than something I couldn’t.  I remember the last hug from both of them and running out of the arena sobbing hysterically – I knew I’d made a huge mistake but I wasn’t willing to rethink my decision because it was still easier than the alternative that might never and probably wouldn’t have happened anyway. Both of them left our club very suddenly immediately afterwards, moving full time to the other club they taught at. They had been staying until I graduated and moved on; I was their ‘last’ at our club. When I left them, they left, too.

I never made amends with either of them.  A few years later I would run into them regularly at competitions with my own skaters throughout our section.  While always cordial and polite, we never even came close to reconciling.  I respect and love them both even still and I think the hurt I caused them was far worse than any negative reaction I could have ever had to live through, especially since to this day neither of them has any idea of the true reasons I chose to spend my final year of skating with someone else. I hope if either of them sees this almost 20 years later, they can forgive me for any hurt I caused them and know how valued, important and loved they were and are.

I now coach across the country from where I grew up, at a small club with young competitive athletes who have very big dreams. I am out in my everyday life and the majority of the families I work with are aware of my sexuality and my partner is welcomed at events such as award ceremonies and as a volunteer when appropriate. Though my technique has changed over the years, I find my coaching style is extremely similar to that of my past coaches. I often wonder how they would have reacted had they known the truth.

Pride month brings forward how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.  Personally, I feel the olive branches extended during this month often fall short as the seasons change but with new initiatives, follow through and education, we can make sure that our athletes, coaches, members and volunteers are happy, supported and secure in their places within our organization.

Happy Pride, Skate Canada.

Skate Canada thanks to HM for sharing their story and bringing awareness to the skating community. If you are a member of the LGBTQI2S+ skating community and are interested in sharing your personal story please send us an email at [email protected].

Eight Ways to Make Skating More Inclusive to the LGBTQI2S Community

June is Pride Month and an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the LGBTQI2S community. Skate Canada has done and is continuing to do substantive work in relation to LGBTQI2S inclusion but we know there remains critical inclusion work to be done moving forward in relation to race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, religion, class, size, and ability, and their intersections.

As part of that work, Skate Canada would like to share the following ways to make skating more inclusive to the LGBTQI2S community. We would like to thank Dr. William Bridel for putting this information together for us and for the continued work he has done to educate and provide guidance as we strive to achieve an inclusive environment for all.

  1. Listen to LGBTQI2S members and persons in your community with empathy, respect, and compassion. Their stories are valid and important sources of information and knowledge!
  2. Educate yourself, educate others. There are many excellent resources available that provide general and sport-specific information on LGBTQI2S inclusion that are available through Skate Canada’s website at https://skatecanada.ca/safe-sport/. As one specific example, encourage coaches and volunteers to participate in a Canadian Women & Sport Leading the Way webinar or book a workshop for your club, region, or Section (https://womenandsport.ca/).
  3. Think critically about your own ideas about gender, gender identity, and gender expression: are some of your taken-for-granted ideas about femininity and masculinity impacting people in your life? For example, as an official, are you familiar with the revised costume rules in the sport? How will you be supportive of choices that skaters, coaches, and/or their parents/guardians make?
  4. Don’t make assumptions about people’s identities or people’s relationships and never “out” anyone; someone’s story about their gender identity or sexuality is their own to share, unless they have given you explicit permission to speak about them to others.
  5. Commit to using inclusive language and images. For example, honour people’s chosen pronouns and names. When creating documents use, for example, “they” instead of “he/she” and “skaters” instead of gender-specific terms. You can use words such as “folks” or “everyone” in place of “Ladies and Gentlemen” and groups should never be addressed as “guys”. If you need to ask for information about athletes’ parents, use the term Parent/Guardian and provide space for two or more names to be listed; avoid using the terms mother and father as families come in all shapes and sizes!
  6. Display LGBTQI2S symbols such as the Canadian Women & Sport “I Support Positive Space in Sport” poster (https://womenandsport.ca/) or Skate Canada Pride stickers on a club bulletin board, a website, the window of a skating office or coach’s room, or on your person (e.g., coffee mug, water bottle, skate bag). Why not participate in local Pride parades as a club or Section? Representation matters!
  7. Address dressing room/locker room requests and questions. Best practice guidelines are available for sport from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (www.cces.ca). Skating-specific recommendations are in development and will be made available on Skate Canada’s website when finalized.
  8. Collaborate with other organizations in your community to offer learning opportunities to your members (e.g., PFLAG, Pride organizations, anti-bullying organizations, schools, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s #OneTeam Program, You Can Play, etc.)

In general, work to create inclusive space before you know you need to. Be willing to be brave: challenge others when they say something LGBTQphobic or you read it on social media. Seek to create spaces that are safe. Everyone benefits when sport is welcoming, inclusive, and people are allowed to be themselves in their pursuit of personal excellence.

Prepared for Skate Canada by Dr. William Bridel (Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary)