This Pride Month, British Swimming is glad to be able to support the latest statement of progress and ambition from Pride In Water.
The Pride In Water network was initially formed in August 2020 – with the assistance of British Swimming – with the aim of increasing support, visibility and engagement of the LGBTQ+ community within aquatic sport, beginning as a collaborative group of individuals who came together to fill what they saw as a gap in the world of aquatics.
“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?’” said Josh Devine, the chair of Pride In Water.
"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 launching through British Swimming channels, the group has since taken the decision to become an independent body.
Speaking on the decision to do so, Josh added: "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 with 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.
"What we're here to do is make sure that when an athlete steps out, either on the poolside of a 25 meter pool for their local club competition or at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Games, they are completely and authentically themselves and they are happy with who they are.
"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.”
In the short term, visibility is the key focus for the group.
"The immediate thing for us is all about visibility. Pride Month is the first step in that and we're hoping to continue that visibility work,” added Josh.
"In the long term, we want to be an advisory group and a membership network that people can join. The next major thing that we are looking at is the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. As it's a home Games, that is where we are pitching our next tent.”
In the nine months since Pride In Water initially launched, progress has been made to allow the group to help ensure aquatics really are available for all – but Josh points out that, as in sport and society more generally, there is still a way to go.
“Just because we have Pride every year, it doesn’t mean everything is okay.”
On the latest update, British Swimming Chief Executive Jack Buckner and Board Equality Lead Adele Stach-Kevitz said: “British Swimming are 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."
Swim England chief executive, Jane Nickerson, 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."