June is Pride Month and an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the LGBTQI2S+ community. Skate Canada has done and is continuing to do substantive work in relation to LGBTQI2S+ inclusion but we know there remains critical inclusion work to be done moving forward.
To support an inclusive environment this Pride Month we are sharing personal stories from our skating community. Below is the story of two-time world champion Eric Radford.
When I first watched figure skating on TV, I was instantly enamoured. It seemed as though the skaters could fly and as a kid, I was obsessed with planes and being able to fly. At that moment, I had no idea that skating would bring so many incredible experiences into my life, but also many challenges.
Being the only male figure skater in a small northern community where hockey was the most popular sport was not easy. There was a lot of name calling and bullying. I couldn’t understand why the other kids hated me so much because I liked this amazing sport. As I got older, and I started to have more success, the bullying never completely disappeared, but it diminished.
When I was 17, after a lot of internal struggle, I finally accepted that I was gay. My closest friends at the time were my training mates and when I came out to them, they were nothing but supportive and positive. Their acceptance and support of who I was, made a profound impact on me and was the catalyst for the self-acceptance and freedom I began to feel.
Fast forward 13 years and the opportunity to show the world my true self was presented. When I decided to come out publicly, it conjured up the same fear and anxiety I had when I came out to my friends and family. What if this changed everything? What if it affected my chances at success? Again, I was lucky to have so many wonderful friends and family supporting me, but the biggest and best surprise was the messages and support I received from people I didn’t even know.
Young athletes wrote me about their struggles and related that sharing my story had helped them. This made any fear and anxiety I did have totally worth it. I received so much support from around the world and from within the skating community.
A special moment for me was at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, where at the end of the long program, there were pride flags waving in the stands. I believe the world is changing but I know there is still more work to be done for the LGBTQI2S+ community and for LGBTQI2S+ athletes. I would love a future where an athlete’s sexuality is no longer news and that they simply feel free and comfortable to share details about their life that they otherwise would want to hide. As athletes in figure skating and other sports continue to share their stories about being their authentic selves, let us take a moment and appreciate how far the LGBTQI2S+ community in sport has come.
Happy and safe Pride everyone!
Skate Canada thanks to Eric Radford for sharing his story and bringing awareness to the skating community. If you are a member of the LGBTQI2S+ skating community and are interested in sharing your personal story please send us an email at [email protected].