An open letter from Australian LGBT Ice Hockey to the AIHL and its clubs
As finals weekend ends, the report of homophobic language being used by a member of an AIHL team has become yet another example of a worrying pattern emerging in 2019 at Australia’s top level of ice hockey.
In the most recent case, the situation was made even worse by the fact that the individual alleged to have used this offensive language was a coach. This is someone who holds influence and authority over players and should be setting an example for them to follow. Their behaviour in this instance indicates to players and fans that this is somehow acceptable.
It is clear from this season that there is still a lot of work to be done by the AIHL and its clubs in addressing problematic and harmful language against the LGBT+ community. Whether intended or not, use of this language is harmful to our community – a community which comprises hockey players, fans and the public we all hope to introduce to this great game.
Recent research by Erik Denison from Monash University paints a stark picture of the widespread occurrence of this behaviour. This research, surveying 98% of players in the AIHL, showed “a disconnect between perception and reality, with players perceiving their team would be welcoming to a gay person -- 86% -- despite harmful and exclusionary language being used regularly (60%)”.
Couple this with the statistics that show LGBT+ young people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide than the rest of the Australian population because of how they are marginalised through anti-LGBT+ language and attitudes, and it becomes clear we cannot afford for a second to allow exclusionary language like this to become something that is ignored in the league.
Some people ask why our organisation needs to exist in 2019. Statistics like those above are why – to call this behaviour out and show that ice hockey in Australia is inclusive despite these individuals. A significant part of sending this message rests with those at the highest levels of hockey leading by example and working with groups like ours to truly make hockey for everyone.
Australian LGBT Ice Hockey calls on the AIHL and its affiliated clubs to reaffirm their commitment to wiping out this behaviour and to taking strong and decisive disciplinary action against anyone in the league found to be acting in this way.
Carl Jackson (President)
Brendan Parsons (Vice President)
Frazer Wilson (Treasurer)
Kade Matthews (Co-founder)
Andrew McKendrick (Ordinary member)
Marie Stella (Ordinary member, Southern Lights Ice Hockey Club)