We need to make safe spaces for everyone

*Sarah’s Story

wide shot people sailing dinghies on a lake

The first time I visited the sailing club was with a friend; it was a piece of heaven. Our clubhouse is beside a lake surrounded by trees, it’s really beautiful.

After deciding to join the club and taking my RYA Powerboat 2 and RYA Sailing 1 courses, I knew that being on the water just wasn’t for me. However, I still wanted to be an active club member, so I now make my contributions off the water. I’m currently Vice Commodore, which means I get involved in nearly all aspects of running the club. 

What drew me to the club was the social element, I could see that people were having fun, and if you needed help, everybody would drop everything to help you. I particularly enjoy this aspect of the club and giving as many people as possible the opportunity to get on the water.

mid shot yacht on the lake with dinghy in the background

RYA championing inclusivity and promoting awareness

As a parent, joining a family-oriented club was important to me. My eldest child is currently transitioning, and my middle child has recently come out as non-binary. With the club facilities previously available, my children could only join in with activities if they changed their clothes at home – this was not only an impractical solution, but it also felt wrong. This opened my eyes to the challenges many people experience when accessing sports and it encouraged me to spearhead the creation of inclusive and supportive spaces at the club. We now have new areas under development such as unisex changing rooms and unisex toilet facilities.  

As a parent of trans and non-binary children, I know that having access to unisex changing rooms and toilets without having to make a special request can make all the difference in making a person feel relaxed and welcome. 

It’s fantastic to see national governing bodies such as the RYA leading the way in championing inclusivity and promoting awareness of what it means to be a welcoming and accepting club. As an active bystander, I feel that we should all challenge language and behaviours that might exclude and make others uncomfortable. I think this is key in driving culture change at clubs and encouraging inclusivity.

mid shot sailing boats moored on lake

We are all people; we are all different – nobody else has the power to tell you otherwise

Education on the role of an active bystander and how clubs can be more open, and welcoming is key. I believe that the initial welcome that people experience when joining a club is extremely powerful. For me, it is important to have a friendly and approachable membership officer and a core group of people who accept and support new members regardless of who they are.

If you would like to try sailing or boating, and you’re a trans or non-binary person, or maybe a parent of someone that is, firstly, I would recommend doing some research on clubs in your area. Then arrange a visit, explore several clubs, ask questions about inclusivity and ensure you’re truly happy. I go by the mantra, ‘If it doesn’t cater for everyone, then it isn’t right for me.’

Knowing that your kids are going to be safe, enjoying a sport, without worrying about access to facilities or potential prejudices is something that all clubs across the country should strive to emulate.

*Name has been changed to maintain anonymity.