To celebrate LGBT History month, UCFB reached out to students and employees to share their personal experiences around how a month dedicated to building a more inclusive environment has helped them.

I am currently an openly gay man studying Football Coaching and Management at UCFB Wembley in my second year. My sexuality has not always been an easy thing to live with. I grew up in a small town in the north of England called Morecambe. The lack of diversity meant that growing up I felt alone, I did not know anyone who was LGBT+ and it was not spoken about at all at secondary school. It wasn't until I was 16/17 that I became open about my sexuality to my friends and family. They were all very accepting of it and made me feel better about myself. Despite this I would still hide it from the male dominated sports that I played at the time. Especially at this point I played for a local men's Sunday league team, so I was careful to not disclose any of this to them.

Upon moving to university in 2020, it became clear I was not as alone as I thought I was when it came to being LGBT+. I decided I would be open about it just to feel more comfortable in myself. UCFB have been accommodating and helpful when it comes to any matters regarding my mental and physical health. As well as this, so many of my fellow peers have been accepting of who I am. I am currently assistant manager of the university's 3rd team. I always thought my sexuality would make some people awkward, however, everyone was ok with it. They appreciated and understood that it made no difference to my role in the team. 

Whilst there was a lot of support from friends and family, it still did not mean everyone was ok with me. There were a few isolated and rare incidents where I was subjects to verbal abuse from other people because of my sexuality. These rare but hurtful incidents show how more action is needed in sport and across society as a whole. 

I feel it is important for people like myself to speak about these experiences as to highlight the problem of homophobia and transphobia and its continued prevalence, especially in sport. Particularly for me, I think it's important to let young people know they aren't alone. I felt alone in my situation for a lot of my young life because I had no idea there were many people like me. In sport, and most prominently football, there's a complete lack of representation for the LGBT+ community and that can only be a result of the environment within sports. 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak about my experiences being LGBT+ in sport and university.

Oliver Graham