Interview with James McGregor

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Rainbow Laces

‘I’ve never felt as accepted as I am now’

In part two of Sport Liverpool’s four-part series of interviews with LGBTQ+ athletes for this year’s Rainbow Laces campaign, AU vice-president Matt Addison spoke to James McGregor, the president of the trampolining club.

For the third year veterinary medicine student, the Rainbow Laces campaign – which Sport Liverpool will mark with all teams wearing the laces, posting on social media and signing a mural to pledge inclusion – is something that everyone should endorse.

James explains: “We’ve done it before in previous years. Most members of the trampoline club are either a woman or gay; we’re a very inclusive club. I've never felt as accepted as I am at university.”

While much progress has been made when it comes to inclusivity, the Rainbow Laces campaign and other similar movements aiming to increase equality when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues are still necessary, James believes.

He says: “A lot of my friends are ‘laddish’ rugby boys, and they throw words around that I don’t really care about, but I know people who would. That side of it isn’t tackled as much, but it’s such a big problem, it’s really hard.

“I've been called out for not calling it out before by my own friends, but then it’s like an each to their own situation. If you know someone isn’t homophobic, then how bad is that language? But it sets a precedent.

“I don’t think it gets called out as much – especially in masculine dominated sports. It’s really rare that it gets called out in those kind of sports, but then if those boys came into the trampolining team, they would get called out quite heavily.

“As a sports team, they almost have a personality, and if you’re in that team, that’s the personality that you grow with. You’d have to change the mentality of the whole team rather than individuals.”

James feels more education is the key to meaning campaigns like Rainbow Laces are no longer necessary in the coming decades.

He says: “I think our generation especially, we’re quite good at learning from social media and stuff – more now than ever – but there is definitely room for education.

“They don’t realise that what they’re saying could be perceived as being homophobic, because they are not homophobic. I think education should be more like that than from the point of view of saying, ‘let’s make people less homophobic’.”

It might still be some time until that education pays off, and equality is achieved.

 “You look at professional football and rugby teams, and there’s not one out gay player. People like Nigel Owens are literally changing the face of homosexuals within sport,” James says.

“I recently went to a talk of his and he was saying how he has done so well, and he hopes that he can set a route for people to go down, but I think we need more role models.

“It will only take one person from rugby or football to say they’re out, and then it’s set a motion. At the end of the day, people are scared of the grief they will get from it.

“It’s about changing the culture of sport rather than addressing it on an individual basis. There’s all-gay teams coming up now and players are trying to change the face of sport.”

James was speaking to AU vice-president Matt Addison as part of Sport Liverpool’s Rainbow Laces campaign for 2019.