Lesbian Visibility Week 2024: Kirsty Gilmour European Badminton Silver Medallist

25th April 2024

Lesbian Visibility Week 2024: Kirsty Gilmour European Badminton Silver Medallist

For Lesbian Visibility Week 2024, we caught up with athletes who are out in their sport. This time we spoke to Kirsty Gilmour who is a Badminton Team GB Double Olympian, two times Commonwealth athlete and a whopping 8 times European medallist.

Kirsty has just returned from the 2024 European Championship with an impressive Silver medal and found time to talk to us about Lesbian Visibility Week which is running from 22nd to 28th April.

We started off by asking Kirsty to share her thoughts on Lesbian Visibility Week:

“I think, although we are one strong community as a whole, it's important to highlight and spotlight each letter of the LGBTQIA+ acronym. To show the diversity within our community, celebrate our stories, and perhaps touch on some issues we're facing.” And so, what do you see as the reasons for celebrating lesbian visibility week?

“LGBTIQ visibility is tied into and affects so many other areas of culture, media, and sport. Lesbian Visibility Week aids in normalising the word and things associated. So showing positive, everyday, incredible stories I think really helps to destigmatise the community in a wider societal sense and also aids in displaying positive stories and experiences for anyone struggling with their identity or perhaps internalised homophobia.”

You mention the effect visibility might have within the world of sport, what are your thoughts on the need for celebrating lesbian visibility in sport?

“I think the lesbian community in sport is already incredible and deserves to be highlighted and built upon. We've made huge strides in terms of positive visibility in the last few years. Sport is becoming a safe haven for lesbians and we're kind of trailblazing in that sense. I think the sporting community is inherently welcoming of anyone's sexuality because it literally has no bearing on your abilities. If you're good, you're good.”

That’s really what it should be all about, a sense of belonging in sport as well as finding the sport you really enjoy. Do you find that being an out athlete impacts your participation and competition levels?

“Being out and authentically myself does give me some sort of freedom when on court, in the public media sphere and in life generally. When you're stressed you hold it and carry it in different ways. In a sense you're laying yourself bare out on the court, putting yourself, your goals, your dreams on the line. It is a vulnerable situation in which I would find it very difficult to have to hide or police a part of myself.”

What does it mean to you to be comfortable and out in badminton?

“With regards to being comfortable on court; I wear what makes me feel most like me on court, which might lean slightly more stereotypically masculine. But when you're serving at match point you can't be thinking about correcting or adjusting yourself. In an off-court sense, I think again being out to my family and friends helps me to have more open, honest, close relationships. There's not an elephant in the room or something going unsaid. It's a good, happy, place to be and exist.”

Being comfortable is incredibly important and it’s great to hear Kirsty has had the space to be able to be herself. We unfortunately often hear of instances where people are less uncomfortable and it has a negative impact on their participation. Luckily, Kirsty shares that she has not been on the receiving end of any targeted homophobia and has a couple of words of encouragement for others out there:

“I'm in a spectacularly privileged position, and it is an absolute credit to the badminton fans and community around the world, but I have never had a nasty or negative word said to me (to my face at least). I receive some pretty colourful, degrading, and aggressive online trolling, almost always related to gambling, but never have I even once received anything homophobic. Not a single message. I know a lot of people are not so lucky, but I would also like to highlight to anyone wary or fearful of coming out; it is also possible that it can be a positive experience and receiving a negative reaction isn't a necessary rite of passage when coming out.”

Those are really kind words and hopefully there’s people out there who might read this and consider coming out and in turn potentially be more comfortable to be their authentic selves. The hope is that this Lesbian Visibility Week, the visibility and openness of athletes such as Kirsty Gilmour will inspire and touch upon the lives of others. Thank you to Kirsty for taking the time to speak to us and we wish her all the best in preparation for Paris 2024!

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Written on 25th April 2024.