Credit: GUTC

Sport can change lives and lives can change sport

By Claire Thomson

In conversation with trampoline club captain Hollie Fullerton, the student driving a campaign for LGBTQ+ and unisex representation in sport.

For several years, transgender and non-binary athletes have been at the heart of sporting debates and have become political lightning rods in a sex-segregated sporting world. Amid all this controversy and unrest, Glasgow University Sports Association’s (GUSA) first non-binary club captain, Hollie Fullerton, alongside Glasgow University Trampoline Club (GUTC) have created an accepting and encouraging space for people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and abilities. Fullerton has not been afraid to push the boundaries of the restrictive, gendered nature of sport in a fight for inclusion, and to ensure that sport is available and accessible to everyone. They want to prove that the sporting world is not a scary place and give a voice to underrepresented and marginalised groups in sport.

Coming out as non-binary almost two years ago, the third-year student was quick in acknowledging that everyone has been “very lovely, accepting and welcoming” and the support that they have received from friends, family, as well as teammates at GUTC, has been unmatched. Yet, it’s the positive and inspiring outlook that the club captain has on sport, accessibility and involvement that makes them a role model for not only the non-binary and LGBTQ+ community but for anyone wanting to participate in sport at any level.

Not failing to highlight the fact that sport’s innately gendered background is a massive barrier to trans and non-binary people getting involved in sport, Fullerton opened up about how preventative this can be a lot of the time. However, they are determined to find solutions to overcome the issue and get more people, generally, to take part in sport.

“It’s mainly just finding gender-neutral options and encouraging recreational sport,” emphasised the student. “Recreational sport does not need to be gendered. There’s no need. It’s for fun and about finding team sports as well as individual sports where people can get involved. At recreational level and university level, we can and should encourage that mix more.”

This year at Taxis Cup, an annual multi-sport competition between the three universities in Glasgow, GUTC alongside the trampoline clubs at the University of Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian University, will be competing in a competition removed from gender or sex. According to the UofG student: “Everyone completes the same routine requirements and both ‘men’ and ‘women’ have the same exact judging and scoring, there’s no reason why everyone can’t compete against each other.” On top of this massive step forward in the sport, after “a long time coming,” BUCS has introduced a gender-neutral kit option so that everyone can compete in whatever kit they’re comfortable in. Naturally, there is the hope that Scottish Student Trampoline (SST) will adopt the same principles very soon. 

The achievements and success of trans and non-binary athletes are often overlooked in the media by the debate over whether or not they should be competing instead of celebrating that they actually are. Fullerton noted the fact that role models and representation of trans sports are often hard to find unless you’re actively seeking it. For them, there is the goal to spread the word that sport doesn’t have to be an opinionated and scary place. They want to help make that change in the sporting world and create a more welcoming and accepting environment for people of all genders and sexualities.

“Just showing people that not only are you allowed to join these sports, but you can also compete, and you can, more importantly, thrive in them. It’s not a barrier anymore, as much as it used to be,” they said full of positivity and excitement.

“The clubs are like families if you manage them right. If people put in what they’re getting out of it, they can be the most accepting places. For me, it’s all my best friends in a big room together and we want to promote that further.

“I think a lot of people are scared about what they need to wear, about getting split up into groups for things, but we want to share that we’re very welcoming, and accepting, and that’s not going to happen. No one is going to make you do anything you don’t want to.

“It’s now about simply getting the word out really and saying: ‘Please come along’, as well, showing options for unisex sport. There are so many options now for clubs to join, for example, Farflung, the Ultimate team, is exactly the same.

“A lot of the time trans people are just very scared to join because they’re worried as sport’s got a bad reputation – we can’t hide from that fact. We need to be honest about that and start really targeting people who might be scared to get involved in sport and exercise and look at how we can help resolve those anxieties that they might feel around sport in the community more generally.”

Alongside the club captain and their outstanding efforts, GUTC has also played an incredibly important role in encouraging participation in the club. With almost 50 members and continually growing, Fullerton commented on the “accepting” and “welcoming” nature of the club as well as the “vibe” that they present, particularly after having redesigned their banner this year to incorporate rainbows. With big pushes for LGBT History Month and Rainbow Laces, GUTC is not just telling people that they can join, they actively want people to take part and that’s what has made the difference to the atmosphere of this club compared to others. There is a world of sporting opportunities out there and there’s definitely something for everyone.

The most potent message behind the UofG student’s whole journey through coming out and participating in sport is to get involved no matter what and that set the undertone for the whole interview. Their advice and passion for sport are honestly like nothing else, and they want to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities to enjoy themselves and see sport in its truest form rather than what it is often perceived to be.

There’s a solution to everything, which they emphasised in their words of encouragement and reassurance: “Do ask. Ask the questions. If you’re scared about something, ask, because there are answers and workarounds for everything, just in the same way, there are workarounds for people with different abilities.

“If you’re not comfortable doing something then that’s alright. It’s meant to be fun. Sport’s meant to be this fun extra thing you do when you’re at uni. There’s pro sport, which is this serious life commitment, but you’re at university to get a degree, so this is like a hobby and it shouldn’t be scary. It’s a way to meet people, enjoy yourself and get fit.

“Every GUSA club has a Welfare Officer, who has to be trained, and they have policies and guidelines in place to help support you and signpost if there are any problems that come up. But it’s 2022. Like, exercise, bro. There are so many options, there’s definitely a club for you. There’s always going to be something, even if it’s hillwalking, for example, you could be any kind of person and there will be a way for you to join them with that.”

There’s no doubt that the whole of GUTC have made a massive positive impact on the trampoline community as well as sport at the University of Glasgow through their constant work and support behind the scenes to ensure that everyone is welcomed with open arms. Fullerton’s work in representing non-binary and trans sport doesn’t just end at the GUTC, as they plan to run for Chair of SST next year and continue encouraging everyone and anyone to get involved in sport. Their commitment and dedication to providing an accessible sporting outlet in a normally tough environment should be applauded. 2021-22 has truly been an amazing year for Glasgow University Trampoline Club, with the hard work and positive mindsets of club captain, Hollie Fullerton and their outstanding committee being an inspiration to all. On behalf of The Glasgow Guardian, we wish the club all the best for the future!


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