Last year, a group of figure skaters, led by a former FGG Board Member and Treasurer, Alan Lessik, pressed US Figure Skating (USFS) not to hold its Adult Figure Skating Championships in North Carolina.
After the North Carolina governor signed regressive legislation repealing significant aspects of LGBT rights in the state, there was a nationwide boycott called. A number of high level sports events were moved to other states, and the state lost hundreds of millions of dollars from the loss of conventions and tourism. Unfortunately, USFS decided not to move this important adult event.
With that initial loss, the group decided to change their strategy. They began a campaign to add gender identity to the organization’s non-discrimination policy. Lessik said:
“Homophobia was strong within USFS for many years. Sexual orientation was only added to the non-discrimination policy a few years ago, putting the sport way behind American football, baseball and other sports. With a growing number of transgender skaters who were worried about their safety if the went to North Carolina, we decided to focus on changing the policy.”
They initiated a Change.org petition, aimed and the USFS executive staff and Board of Directors. Members of the group wrote impassioned posts in Facebook skating pages about the need for the inclusion for all in skating. The petition read:
“The undersigned members of USFS urge the Board of Directors to approve three policy changes at the next Board meeting which would demonstrate that the organization is inclusive and is concerned about protecting all skaters:
- Add gender identity to the non-discrimination policy of the USFS. Our transgender and gender variant skaters have no protection at this time and there are no rules addressing their participation in the sport.
- Apply the USFS non-discrimination policy to staff, skaters, judges and other officials and require that sites of future competitions have local or state protections that reflect USFS policy. Currently, the non-discrimination policy does not cover other participants in the organization outside of staff and does not extend to decision-making processes such as approval of competitions sites or club by-laws.
- Require all staff, judges and other officials to receive training in the USFS non-discrimination policy and its application throughout all of skating. In the corporate and non-profit worlds, tolerance and diversity training is recognized as important to assure key staff, board members and volunteers understand their responsibilities in insuring the safety, equity and well-being of all stakeholders and participants.
By passing these three policies, the USFS Board will demonstrate to its members that it is dedicated to assuring our great sport is diverse and welcoming to all.”
The skaters found a growing support for the inclusion of gender identity and the training for all relevant staff. The Board of Directors recommended the changes, and on May 6, 2017, the Governing Council approved the changes. It was reported that a cheer arose at the meeting when the vote was announced.
Lessik, who is also in the FGG Assembly for the International Gay Figure Skating Union, was pleased with the result.
“Even in these difficult political times in the US, we need to push back and advocate for the rights of all members of the LGBTQ community. Many people were discouraged and had given up hope about getting any changes in our sport. We showed that the efforts of a small dedicated group of people can have a large impact.”