For Rainbow Laces Day, former European champion ski racer and stonewall sport champion, john dickinson-lilley, explains why our sport should be a home for LGBTQ+ equality
There are many things in my life and career that I’m proud of, but having skied competitively for my country as part of Britain’s Para Snowsport team is one of the absolute highlights. It takes a lot of different things to make it to the top of any sport, and while injuries prevented me from being able to compete at the Paralympic Games, I’ll still always know that I was able to compete with the very best in my sport.
Whilst my days of skiing competitively are behind me now, my love for skiing isn’t. I still love the slopes and follow British athletes’ performances with a level of admiration that I don’t think will ever diminish. But while my days of racing for my nation on the slopes may be over, I still hope I can offer something to Britain’s snowsport system on a different level.
And one way where I think I can make a difference – indeed, where I hope I am making a difference – is in supporting efforts to make the sport inclusive for everybody. For several years now, I’ve been a Stonewall Sport Champion. It’s a role I take seriously as a gay, disabled man and as a former international athlete, because despite the advances we’ve made in society and in sport over the past 30 years, discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people still exists.
📢 “As a former European Cup winner and British elite ski racer I know the important of being my authentic self in sport…”— GB Snowsport (@GBSnowsport) December 8, 2021
🚨 @JDLskier for @stonewalluk‘s #RainbowLacesDay 🌈https://t.co/DjV42MAI6h pic.twitter.com/v4FmhjYOCa
This year, Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign is asking people to Lace Up and Speak Up – to start conversations about why LGBTQ+ inclusion matters, and why it’s something we should all care about.
I know this is an issue that GB Snowsport – the Governing Body and many of its athletes – takes seriously. And as someone who was once part of that athlete family and who still cares deeply about the sport, I’m pleased to see such valuable progress. Because, truthfully, there’s no reason that skiing and snowboarding shouldn’t be open and welcoming to everybody.
Sadly, as I experienced during my own career, that isn’t always the case. And while outwardly homophobic attitudes appear, thankfully, to have retreated to the margins almost any LGBTQ+ person will be able to tell you about the micro-aggressions, the barriers, the discomfort or the outright discrimination they will have faced at some point in their lives.
Those conversations – about inclusion, about our experiences, about challenging attitudes and discrimination – aren’t always easy, but they are always important. Every conversation needs to start somewhere and the more that we start a dialogue, the more we can all be empowered to challenge discrimination and to show the importance of taking collective responsibility within our sports.
This is important at a recreational level, so that an environment exists where everyone feels included and able to progress whether that’s to their first winter sports holiday, local slope or even into the development pathway.
By creating a snowsports environment where LGBTQ+ people can be their authentic selves is crucial. At an elite level it means that you can be focused solely on your sport, your performance mindset and winning medals for your country – just like our cis, straight counterparts.
Nobody should have to feel unable to be their authentic selves in their sport. And nobody should feel that people won’t listen, support them, and treat them as they deserve to be treated, simply for being themselves.
I’ve made it a personal commitment that I will be continuing to have those conversations, both with those involved in snowsport, and those outside of it. With the engagement of organisations like GB Snowsport, I’m certain that the sport I love can be a sport that supports everyone equally. I hope that the conversations I can and will have about it will be my continuing contribution to making it that place in time to come.
Further Resources and Reading Materials
John Dickinson-Lilley is a former European Champion, double British Champion and Alpine Cup winning visually impaired ski racer; he retired from skiing in 2017. Alongside his career in communications and public affairs, John also serves as a Stonewall Sport Champion, advocating for LGBTQ+ equality in sport
Header Image: John Dickinson-Lilley