The importance of safe spaces in sports

Have you ever been to a birthday party or event where you felt like you’d much rather be somewhere else? Even though you were really looking forward to it? Maybe you felt you didn’t really fit in with the group because the interests of the others differed from yours or the jokes didn’t hit your sense of humor?

What may be a one-time party for you is everyday life for groups like trans*, inter*, and non-binary people in many contexts – including sports. To learn more about the topic, we spoke with Noëlle* (no_pronouns & she/her) from TRIBE Yoga Base. Together we want to create awareness for the topic and show you why safe spaces are important.

To coincide with Pride Month, we asked our partners about exclusive courses and general safe spaces and created a first guide for our most member-rich locations in Berlin, Cologne, Munich and Hamburg. We would like to expand this regularly – also with other locations – so that we can offer safe spaces to people who are looking for them. Your favorite studio is not yet included? Then feel free to send this link to the partner to fill out so we can add it. Other cities will be added as well in a timely manner.

Guide Berlin
Guide Cologne
Guide Munich
Guide Hamburg

Noëlle*, what does a safe space mean to you in sports and why is it important to create one?

Image rights: Grit Siwonia

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that not all people feel comfortable in all contexts. To play sports in a heteronormative cis environment, in which my life realities differ fundamentally from the common sense, might feel like I’m not welcome, let alone understood. Sports mean activity and interaction using your own body. What if my body is different from the average body in the yoga studio?

Safe space means to create spaces in which people do not have to justify who they are, and feel understood. This also means that there must be explicit and exclusive spaces for certain communities and marginalized groups: such as FLINTA* only yoga classes; yoga for queer people; yoga for trans people etc.

As a member, how do you think I can help provide a safe space to others?

Be an ally! Be an ally! Be an ally! 

From non-queer people and spaces open to everyone (such as our TRIBE Yoga Base) I expect a self-reflective discussion of their own prejudice, this also applies to other internalized forms of discrimination, and the effort to understand themselves as ally: that is, solidarity and recognition of all people and forms of life as equal. Open spaces can be safe for all participants.

Why is gender-neutral language important in this context?

Image rights: Grit Siwonia

Language creates realities. If gender is not used in a non-binary way, you have to be aware that certain people are not being addressed or excluded. Albeit this is not the intention.

In my interaction with people, it is important not to assume that gender performance (that is, the way I interpret the person) is congruent with their gender. Or in other words: It is not necessary for a person I think to be a female, to actually be a woman. Gender is not evident and it is important to address every person neutraand to ask for the pronoun (e.g. in the case of registration forms).

What are you doing as a studio to create a safe space?

Image rights: Grit Siwonia

At TRIBE Yoga Base, for example, we have no gender-specific changing rooms, but the participants can go to a different room to change, if required. The toilets are not gender-specific but open to everyone. We use gender-neutral language in our online interaction and in the communication with participants.

What tips do you have for other partners so that they can create safe spaces for employees and members?

What is very important to me is creating awareness, specifically with training. I would like for studios to take advantage of such training and to be aware that, for example, while yoga strives to be very open to the outside world (yoga is for everyone), there is only one very specific group represented in studios, both as teachers and as students, who are mostly white, straight-cis-women in the normal-weight range. For queer people to feel more welcome, more queer yoga teachers should be hired. My tip: listen to queer people, read books, attend training classes, confront your privileges and prejudices and once again: Be an ally!

We can only endorse it this way – thank you very much for your valuable input and your time, Noëlle*.

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