by: Maggie Gowland
While athletic performance is at the core of the Queen’s Athletics department, the University has made it clear that they want to create an inclusive environment on campus. Queen’s Athletics furthered these steps this week, as they hosted Stephanie Sapienza to run LGBTQ+ awareness workshops on campus.
Currently, Sapienza is the Sport Inclusion Coordinator for the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD). Her workshops are aimed at addressing and raising awareness about homophobia and transphobia within sports and athletic communities.
Since the program’s inception in 2015, these workshops have been provided at Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College.
In an interview with The Journal, Sapienza said athletes can benefit from taking part in her workshops.
According to Sapienza, each one will vary slightly in content depending on the audience and the questions that they ask. By the end of all of her workshops, Sapienza hopes she can pass on the tools necessary to challenge everyday actions of exclusion and create inclusive spaces within athletics and recreational sports in Canada.
Not only geared towards students, Sapienza said there’s also a discussion on how coaches and staff can be more supportive towards athletes and better handle any issues that may arise within a team, including on-team relationships.
Some of the workshops also discuss gender verification testing, which many female athletes must undergo to compete at the Olympics. Even though the International Olympic Committee allowed trans athletes to participate, the Olympics have yet to see a trans athlete compete.
After her workshops on campus, Sapienza hopes she can return one day to speak again.
“I’m hoping to maybe tackle that in the next couple months,” Sapienza said of the opportunity to speak with all of Queen’s varsity athletes as opposed to just the coaches. “[I hope to] at least have the opportunity to speak with some of the teams at Queen’s University.”
Through her workshops, Sapienza wants to help break the stigma towards LGBTQ+ people in society. If this happens, she believes athletes who are non-binary or gender fluid can safely participate in sport.
“At the end of the day, they’re choosing not to participate because of the exposure that they’re given. There are no changing rooms, no bathrooms, no leagues,” Sapienza said.
“The more knowledgeable we are as a society, the more awareness we’re given to a topic, and the more normal it will become.”