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LGBTQ+ Month: Katie Reid

Throughout February we're celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month with a series of blogs from around the paddling community. Today Canoe Sprint athlete Katie Reid tells us about her journey of coming out and her experience of being gay.

Photo 2021 02 23 10 43 34

At the age of 25 I’m still relatively new to the sport of Canoeing. I started back in 2014 where I was part of the UK Sport Girls4Gold campaign. Almost seven years later and with a couple of World Cup medals under my belt, I’m still training and competing with the aim of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and then onto Paris and LA.

Before starting canoeing, I grew up in a village called Cairneyhill on the outskirts of Dunfermline in Scotland, alongside my Mum, Dad and brother. I had a very active childhood dabbling in all sorts of sports from dance and gymnastics to football and athletics, but it was karate where I found my place. 11 years in the sport, competing all around the world and making the best of friends, I had a fantastic time, but at the age 17, I decided to move away from home to start a Molecular Biology Degree at the University of Dundee. Moving away and embarking on this new stage of my life meant Karate took a back seat, but it opened a whole new world of opportunity.

I really found myself during this time. I discovered my passions, beliefs and interests and it was at university where I came out as gay. For me, coming out felt natural. My sexuality is just one piece of my puzzle… It doesn’t define me or show the whole picture. Although I found the process straightforward, I have to say that I am incredibly grateful for the support of my housemates, friends and family who didn’t bat an eyelid and made me feel loved and equal.

Not long after I came out, I signed up for the Girls4Gold talent identification programme, attended various assessment days and was accepted onto the programme. Acceptance required me to relocate to Nottingham and that’s where my canoeing journey began.

I can’t pretend that I wasn’t a little apprehensive moving to a different country and away from my support network. Although we are incredibly privileged to live in a progressive country where the LGBTQ+ community have rights, anything that is perceived as ‘different’ provokes a reaction. I’m not particularly vocal about my sexuality, yet I still didn’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Thankfully, any worries or concerns that I had were soon put to rest. I’ve had nothing but support and respect from all my coaches, staff, and teammates at British Canoeing. I believe that they all see me for my drive, my commitment, and my passion. They see me for my paddling ability not my sexuality. I feel comfortable in my environment. I feel included. I feel accepted.

Of course, some questions were asked, and they still are, but they are all asked in good faith and out of curiosity…I encourage it. I want people to ask questions. I want to rectify misconceptions and misunderstandings. Education, in my opinion, is key to acceptance.

This acceptance means that I don’t have to hide who I am; I can be open and proud. I can train and compete freely knowing that I have the support of my team behind me. I truly believe that this freedom allows me to access areas of my performance that I wouldn’t be able to if I was racing in fear. For me, paddling allows me to openly express who I am, it’s my canvas. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone in society. Laws, discrimination, and judgment, amongst a whole host of other reasons, prevent people from coming out and being themselves. This is obviously very individual, but imagine if by accepting someone as their whole self we could help them to unlock their true potential…imagine what heights they could reach.

In the UK the LGBTQ+ movement is progressing but in some other countries, the situation isn’t as positive. Although we are moving forward, progression doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. There’s still far too much hate and prejudice in this World. Change takes time and the first step on this journey is awareness.

If writing this piece and sharing my story raises awareness and shows the paddling and sporting community that LGBTQ+ athletes aren’t just out there, but we’re out there representing our countries and doing our thing on the world stage, then thats one step closer to change. If demonstrating that safe spaces in sport do exist inspires someone to take their first steps on their own sporting journey, or offers some reassurance, then we really are making progress.

For more information about LGBT+ History Month visit: www.lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk

For advice and support around LGBTQ+ issues, visit: www.lgbt.foundation or www.mindout.org.uk. There is also a lot more information and support online.