Pride House International react to IOC “that’s so gay” guidelines

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Pride House International statement on the International Olympic Committee ‘that’s so gay’ guidelines

As members of the Pride House International coalition (http://pridehouseinternational.wordpress.com), we wish to express our grave concerns upon discovering an official internal document of the International Olympic Committee regarding the use of social media.

The document, entitled ‘MODERATION GUIDELINES FOR SOCIAL MEDIA’, until late on the night of 1 August 2013 Lausanne time, was available as a PDF on the olympic.org website. Like similar documents used by other corporations, such guidelines aim to avoid legal and PR issues for the IOC. In the section on ‘lesbian, gay and bisexual’ persons (no reference is made to trans persons), the document stated:

‘LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL
It is acceptable for a user to refer to his/her sexuality as gay, however we need to be careful with potentially defamatory posts accusing someone else of being gay – these will be removed. It is acceptable for users to use the word “gay” in a light-hearted “street talk” manner, e.g. “that‟s so gay” – but if used to be discriminatory it will be removed.’

This document was discovered by chance by a member of LEAP Sports, part of the Pride House International coalition. On our own blogs and social media accounts and those of our members, in particular the Federation of Gay Games, we shared this news and a video showing the access path to the document. We noted what we thought was obvious: that the use of the word ‘gay’ as a pejorative term is not acceptable, whether in ‘street talk’ or elsewhere.

Within less than an hour, the document was modified to state:

‘It is acceptable for a user to refer to his/her sexuality as gay, however we need to be careful with potentially defamatory posts accusing someone else of being gay – these will be removed. It is of course acceptable for users to use the word “gay” in a general way – but if used to be discriminatory it will be removed.’

Whilst we applaud the IOC’s conscientiousness in modifying the document immediately, the guidance remains at best unclear. What does it mean to use the word ‘gay’ in a ‘general way’?

As a coalition, many of whose members are working with young people to challenge casual homophobia of the type permitted in the first set of guidelines, we have grave concerns about the seriousness of the IOC on this issue. We do not believe an unannounced change in wording represents a change in culture or leadership in relation to LGBT equality in sport. And in light of this document, we are even more concerned for the safety of LGBT participants and spectators at the Sochi Games.

We reiterate our offer to work with the IOC on matters relating to homophobia in the Olympic movement, and in sport in general. And we repeat our call for concrete action to avoid discrimination and arrests in Sochi.