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Beginning of Pride Month marks official relaunch of Pride in Water

An organisation which plays a crucial role in increasing support, visibility and engagement of the LGBTQ+ community in aquatic sports is being relaunched.

Swim England is proud to be supporting the official relaunch of Pride in Water, which coincides with the beginning of Pride Month – a celebration of LGBTQ+ communities all around the world.

Pride Month is set in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots in America and as a reminder of how far we have come with LGBTQ+ rights.

After initially forming in August 2020, Pride in Water started out as a collaborative working group of individuals who came together to fill what they saw as a gap in aquatic sports.

Josh Devine, the chair of Pride in Water, said: “It was an area that was needed and there was nothing happening there.

“We came together and thought what are we going to do and how are we going to make an impact.

“It was very much a fledgling idea at the time: like this is what we’ve got on the wall, come and put your sticky notes all around it.

“We had some really great people attend who were either involved with aquatics or involved with LGBTQ+ visibility within sport and creating safe spaces within sport.”

After originally being under the umbrella of British Swimming, the group took the decision to become an independent body.

Speaking on the decision to do so, Josh said: “British Swimming were very forthcoming in facilitating that collaborative workspace. There was a lot of support there from them to get it up and running.

“We realised that to have the greatest impact where we could have the most effective reach things like policy, and also reach a wider audience, we would move to become an independent advisory body.

“While being very close collaborative partners, we would be outside of those bodies so that we weren’t restricted.”

‘Completely authentically themselves’

The role that Pride in Water aims to play within the aquatics community was summarised by Josh, who said: “What we’re here to do is make sure that when an athlete steps out either on the poolside of a 25 metre pool for their local club competition or onto the Tokyo Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Games, they are completely and authentically themselves and they are happy.

“Our aim is just to make sure that whoever it is, they can walk out of those changing rooms and be happy and confident in being who they are.”

Speaking on the group’s short-term plans, Josh said that ‘visibility’ is going to be their key focus.

“The immediate thing for us is all about visibility,” he said. “Pride Month is the first step in that and we’re hoping to continue that visibility work.

“In the long term, we want to be an advisory group and a membership network that people can join.”

Josh said next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham is a real ‘major thing’ the group are looking to be involved with.

He added: “As it’s a home games, that is where we are pitching our next tent.

Josh said Pride in Water is trying to ‘refocus people’s perceptions’, saying: “Just because we have Pride every year doesn’t mean everything is okay.

“We don’t want anyone to feel threatened by what we are doing. We’re not coming in and trying to make a change or trying to make swimmers gay.

“We’re trying to do it in a non-threatening way so that we can take as many people along for the ride with us.”

‘Playing a crucial role’

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said of the relaunch: “Pride in Water is something that Swim England sees as an integral part of the aquatics community as it is imperative our sports champion inclusivity and equality.

“Pride in Water is playing a crucial role within our sports to ensure that a safe space is fostered for athletes who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We are proud to support the relaunch of Pride in Water as an independent organisation and want to facilitate positive change across our sports to ensure that every individual feels comfortable and at-home in their sporting environments.”

Mike Hawkes, Swim England Inclusion & Health and Safety Partner, added: “Pride is an incredibly important month in the annual calendar that enables us to raise visibility of LGBTQ+ members within our sports.

“This year presents a unique opportunity with the relaunch of Pride in Water and as such we hope to use the spotlight afforded to these communities during Pride Month as a catalyst for further action and support throughout the year.”

British Swimming CEO, Jack Buckner, and Adele Stach-Kevitz, Equality Lead on the British Swimming Board, added: “British Swimming is proud to provide environments across the aquatics disciplines that are supportive and inclusive for all, while constantly striving to do more to ensure aquatics are open and accessible.

“Visibility plays a key part in promoting and ultimately improving such inclusivity, and this Pride month, we look forward to hearing and sharing the stories of athletes, coaches, clubs and many others involved across the disciplines on their experiences as members of the LGBT+ community or allies in aquatics.

“We were privileged to help launch Pride In Water last year, and we continue to offer our ongoing support for this fantastic network as it looks to make a telling impact across the LGBT+ community and with allies, to help every person feel safe and welcome at all levels of aquatic sports.”

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