• Sport and Development - Agent of Change

    18m 37s

    Emma Staples is the Diversity & Community Engagement Manager at Cricket Victoria. With Post Graduate studies in Public Health and an equality and equity advocate, her work involves driving cultural change across the business and the broader cricket community to embrace diversity. Previously she has worked as a senior advisor in community sport and recreation for the Victorian Minister for Sport and Recreation and as a Health Promotion project lead using sport for social change in India, Fiji and remote Australian Indigenous communities.

Graphical summary and transcript


I’d like to commence by sharing my pronouns, which are she, her and hers. This might be a new concept to many of you, but I reveal a little later on how it actually makes sense.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have worked in sport and recreation for the last 20 years. However, my passion actually comes from a background on public health, focusing on health equity and human rights. And what makes me so passionate about inclusion in sport, is the fact that it’s a human right. And I think at times we actually forget about this when we focus on the performance.

Last year a friend and colleague, Dr. Ryan Star actually presented at the conference and shared some significant research that we embarked on and we commissioned with Cricket Victoria and Cricket Australia. Looking at the barriers for LGBTY community participating in sport, this was a huge step for cricket. And I’m sure for many other sports once you start embarking on this journey.

I won’t be repeating that research today, as I said we’ve already gone through it, but I do want to highlight two key issues, which is really important to set the context for today’s discussion.

Homophobia is an issue in cricket. Over 50% of our non-LGBT respondents and over 50% of our LGB respondents recorded having experienced homophobia in cricket at some point in their cricketing journey. I’m sure this is not going to be new any other sport as well if you actually embark on the research to understand your audience. Yet on the flip side to this, over ¾ of our LGBT and non-LGBTY respondents recorded that they want cricket to do more. So this is the most significant outcome for us, regardless of the challenges that we face, the challenges we are going to continue to face with racism and exclusion in our sport, we’re ready.

Cricket in Victoria is ready to have courageous conversations about inclusion. LGBTY community has been quite significant in the media over the last couple of years. It’s kind of slightly awkward that I have an image of Margaret (?) over at the (02:34) but she highlighted some significant issues and also some very personal beliefs. We also know that we mentioned Israel Falall a little earlier who shared his core beliefs, which reflected back on his religion. I’m not going to repeat those today, because I think it’s really sensitive, a very sensitive issue and can actually be harmful to others.

But it’s important to actually highlight, this is our opportunity for change.

What’s really interesting is actually can I get a show of hands who has, or actually knows somebody that is really stuck on a particular issue and just won’t budge, that have very strong beliefs about something?

Terrific, okay, that’s me.

And when it comes to inclusion, I just actually won’t accept anything less. While I do respect that we all have very different values and beliefs about inclusion on particular issues, but what I’m curious about is absolutes. And how polarizing those beliefs can actually be when we reflect on the media and these particular issues up above.

Being so polarized in our views I’m curious if this impacts our ability to be an individual. And reflect upon our human experiences. For example, I work with a devout Muslim at work, and I have to say he’s one of the most gorgeous people I have ever met. He’s infectious and he lights up a room, and Tavali’s he’s had similar to yourself. Just has this incredible presence. And we had a courageous conversation recently about homosexuality and his religion. A really interesting conversation, and he shared with me that in his family, in his culture he would not be accepted if he came out as gay. I found this really disturbing because he’s one of the most embracive people on the planet, and absolutely is inclusive of everyone.

So I asked him the question, how do you feel about cricket embracing our LBGTY community? He did not hesitate in saying, absolutely, he said because cricket is sport for everyone, and he said, I expect everyone to have that opportunity to play cricket.

I’d also like to share that this particular colleague of mine was instrumental in setting up their Proud Cricket initiative, our first pilot cricket initiative at his local club.

So it was really interesting for me and quite profound for a 22 year old that can separate his cultural and his religion and human rights. It’s quite powerful.

This slide here I want to share with you is probably not uncommon. But I think it’s really important to kind of set the context and also the opportunity we have as working in sport. So we can see the first image is about everyone having an equal opportunity. We all have the same equal height, size box to see over and watch the baseball game. Terrific.

Then we’ve got the middle image. Where we talk about equity. Equity means that some community groups or some individuals require a little bit more support to lift them up to the equal playing field. I think this is where we are as a sport, as cricket in Victoria. And I actually believe this is probably where most sports are in Victoria.

And I think it’s something that we need to be incredibly proud about and thankful to organizations like Vic Health that are here today, and Sport and Recreation at Victoria, cause these are the organizations that enable us as sports to provide opportunities to people who need that just that little bit more of a support to make sure that they are also equal. Something I’m incredibly proud of and I think we need to acknowledge that at times that we are working really hard in this space and we are doing a great job.

However, for me, it’s the next image. That’s my nirvana, that’s where we are working toward at Cricket Victoria. How do we create an environment where the systematic barriers have actually just been removed? We don’t need different sized boxes for different people. It’s just plain and simple everyone can see through the fence.

How are we going to do this? It’s not going to be easy. And it’s certainly not without it’s challenges and it’s heartache along the way. Yet it’s through partnerships we’ve been able to achieve where we are at right now and it’s with organizations like Proud to Play who we got to see two of their leaders here today, and I encourage you Victoria Organizations here who are ready to embrace our LGBTY community, meet with organizations like Proud to Play, they will help you get there.

I’d like to share with you a couple of images now which really goes through in sharing some of our achievements to date. I said, it’s certainly a journey, that we will be continuing on for a very long time.

This image here is a program where, actually it was a celebration event. It was our Proud Cricket Day held in February 2018, our very first Proud Cricket Initiative. This was an event to celebrate everything that we’ve achieved so far. For those of you in the sporting sector in Victoria, we recently moved to Junction Oval, Victorians now got it’s own brand new high performance and community center, so this was quite incredible that we were actually able to get on the cricket pitch. It’s quite protective for high performance.

We have delivered to over 20 cricket clubs now our LGBTY research and education training programs with the support of Proud to Play. We certainly don’t claim to be experts, but with our partnerships we can.

20 clubs may not seem particularly signification at this point, but it really is to us. Most significantly, this year in our achievements is looking at including KPI measures in all of our cricket regions. So, 16 cricket regions across Victoria are now going to be measured and be accountable for LGBTY inclusion initiatives in their regions. For someone that has worked in a traditionally pale male and stale cricketing culture, this is quite significant, but for me it’s a demonstration of the business being open and ready for change.

It’s also reflective of our vision to be a sport for all Victorians. And the only way we can do that is to be inclusive.

I’d like to share a video with you now, a training video that the team at Proud at Play were integral in putting together for us. It’s something that we share quite openly. Part of our training initiatives, but before I commence it, I actually just want to ask the question. Has anyone here been identified or mis-gendered? Identified by the wrong gender? Me too.

Quite often, actually. As a young child. When I say child, you know, even up into my teenage years. I actually recall being with my parents at an open house and the agent referring to me as their son, I was 14. And it’s humiliating. So this video here I want you to kind of keep that in mind as we actual talk about gender and how quite often we make assumptions about people’s gender without, and similarly to what Wayne was saying earlier, about asking the question first, and it’s okay to ask questions.

Using the right word when we talk about gender helps everyone feel included and respected.

Here are a few definitions to get you started.

Transgender or gender diverse is an umbrella term, it covers everyone who did not exclusively identify as the gender that they were assigned at birth.

When we are born, people make assumptions about what gender we’ll be. Usually by saying the baby is a girl or a boy.

That gets reinforced by the people around us, from teachers to family members to friends.

But for some people those assumptions don’t really fit or are totally wrong.

Sometimes our gender is not what other people assume it to be.

That’s called be transgender or gender diverse.

Cisgender or Cis is another way to say not trans or gender diverse.

If you do exclusively identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, you are Cisgender. Nonbinary is also another umbrella term.

It covers anyone who isn’t just a women or just a man.

Nonbinary might feel that women or men is part of their gender, but doesn’t explain everything.

Or have a gender that is a combination, but not the whole thing.

Or not have any gender.

Or have a gender that’s completely separate from female or male.

Gender and sexuality are very different things.

Gender is about how you feel and what you think of yourself.

Sexuality is about who you are attracted to.

A trans person can be bi, ace, queer, lesbian, straight or any other sexuality.

But we’re all those things in addition to being trans, not because of it.

Positioning is when a trans person takes steps to feel more comfortable with their gender, experiences or presentation.

You might also hear it called gender affirmation because we are affirming our gender within ourselves. No two transitions are the same.

There are lots of things trans people might choose today, but there’s no one path that everyone follows.

It’s not about trying to pass or look like a cis person.

It’s about doing what we need to feel comfortable and authentically express ourselves.

For me transitioning started with me changing my name and going by he, him pronouns. Later I started hormone replacement therapy and I had top surgery.

I also changed my name and hormones.

I told my school I’m trans and that is really important that they support me.

Telling people to use different language for me, but I decided that surgery wasn’t right for me.

Loving sport. Being involved in sports teams can be great.

It’s an awesome way to meet new people and be part of our community.

Unfortunately not everyone gets to have those experiences. I was In high school and told my counselor that I am trans and that I want to play on the boys’ team. She then spoke to the school principal and the school principal’s response was he would never let me play on the boys’ team because I am not. How ridiculous is that.


Transgender people have to deal with a lot of barriers, that cis people don’t have to.

A lot of sporting clubs have teams for women and men, and that’s it.

Being non-binary can mean not having anywhere to go at all.

That really sucks. It can feel like your community doesn’t really care about you at all.

And a lot of teams make assumptions about what these people’s bodies will be like.

They assume that women and men can be split into two easy groups.

And each group will have the same hormones, body types and skills.

But these stereotypes are totally wrong.

They completely ignore how amazingly diverse the world is and that’s especially hard for trans people.

There’s a lot of natural variation in everyone’s hormone levels, including cis people.

We don’t test cis people’s hormone levels before letting them join the team, but we shouldn’t do it to trans people either.

Everyone should be able to play for a team that fits their identity, including trans people.

Genetics, experience, skills and even just how much someone practices, all influence how well they play.

Assuming that someone being trans or gender diverse would be the biggest influence is just plain wrong.

Social attitudes can be really exclusive too. If people are making transfer becomance (15:25) or using gendered insults.

Even if they are not directed at a trans person, they can be really hostile.

Not respecting someone’s privacy is a really big problem.

Some trans people are really comfortable with being out. And will talk about being trans really openly, like us in this video, but not everyone will.

Some trans people are not comfortable being out and that should be respected.

Some trans people want only a couple people to know or might only feel safe telling people after they know them really well.

Trans people are forced to tell people before we are really ready and we are expected to share really personal details.

Asking someone about their genitals or medical history is not appropriate. Being inclusive.

There are lot of ways to make sporting clubs more inclusive for trans or gender diverse people.

Having clear and affirming policies to welcome trans people is a great first step.

Trans people should be allowed to play in whatever team they identify with no matter what kind of body they have or whether or not their transitioning.

Having gender neutral teams available for everybody to play is another great step.

It means that everyone has a place to play. Having that policy in place to start is a great way to let trans people know that you don’t discriminate.

Having trans gender diverse people enrolled at every level makes it way easier to create an inclusive space.

This includes players, coaches, boards and committees.

Train your coaches and other staff so they know how to support a trans player.

And educate your teams so they know how to support a trans gender teammate.

Don’t make assumptions about any one’s identity.

Women, men and non-binary people can look like anyone. And it’s not okay to rely on stereotypes to try to make those assumptions.

There’s really no way to know what gender someone is unless you ask.

A quick, hey what pronoun should I use for you is great. And introduce yourself with your own pronouns too.

Respect people’s privacy. Think carefully about how appropriate a question is before you ask it.

Anyone does choose to come out to you, doesn’t mean that they are out to everyone.

Being a welcoming club means welcoming everyone including trans people.

Inclusion is not optional. No one should have to fight to join in.

If someone in your club is excluding other people, take them aside and let them know that that’s not okay.

Take some time to educate them or reach out to some trans-led organizations to run a workshop. It’s okay to need some help with all of this.

There are trans advocates who are trained to work in this space.

So ask us. Just don’t put the burden on the person who wants to join your team.

Being an advocate can be awesome, but it shouldn’t be compulsory for every trans person. Don’t wait until a trans person comes out to you to make these changes.

If you do, then trans people will see that your club isn’t inclusive and just not come.

Make your club a place that welcomes everyone right now.


So that’s just one of the videos in part of our series of resources in our education initiatives. I feel like I had so much more to say, but I just had all these mental blanks. But if you’ve got any questions, fire away.