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British LGBTQ+ ally & Formula One driver; “Saudi Arabia’s laws terrifying”

The Saudi Arabian authorities need to realize that the best PR comes from respecting human rights says Amnesty International

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Photo Credit: Amnesty International

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Champion British Formula One racing driver and longtime LGBTQ+ ally Lewis Hamilton told the UK daily newspaper The Guardian in an interview that “he is not comfortable competing in Saudi Arabia given its repressive laws regarding the LGBTQ+ community.”

Saudi Arabia is hosting a Formula One Grand Prix race this weekend in Jeddah.

Hamilton went on to label those draconian laws as “terrifying” and called on Formula One to do more to address human rights issues in the countries it stages events in.

As if to underscore the urgency and clearly show his support the racer tweeted a picture of himself in his helmet which is adorned with a LGBTQ+ Progress Flag with a Non-binary symbol motif and the phrase ‘Equality for all.’

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s seven time Grand Prix champion driver had shown support for the LGBTQ+ community during the inaugural run of the Qatar Grand Prix Formula One race last month, which he won.

Lewis Hamilton 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix
(Photo by Morio)

Hamilton had debuted his helmet featuring the Pride Progress Flag, a redesigned and more inclusive version of the traditional rainbow flag, and emblazoned with the words “We Stand Together.”

Prior to the debut of the Qatar Formula One race and with the 2022 FIFA World Cup matches slated for 2022 in Qatar, focus once more fell on human rights issues. The Guardian reported that workers within the state have claimed that reforms to the country’s restrictive kafala labour sponsorship system have been ineffective while human rights groups continue to highlight oppressive male guardianship policies as well as discriminatory laws against women and LGBTQ+ individuals.

The Guardian noted Formula One attracted considerable criticism for racing in Saudi Arabia and Hamilton, “who has been a strident supporter of equality and diversity, admitted he did not feel at ease with the regime.”

“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do,” he said. “But it’s not my choice to be here, the sport has taken the choice to be here.”

“Whilst we are here it’s important we do try to raise awareness,” he said. “In the last race you saw the [rainbow] helmet that I wore. I will wear that again here and in the next race [in Abu Dhabi] because it is an issue. If anyone wants to take time to read what the law is for the LGBT+ community, it is pretty terrifying. There are changes that need to be made,” Hamilton stressed.

The Saudi Arabian authorities need to realize that the best PR comes from respecting human rights.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International

Responding to Saudi Arabia’s hosting of a Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“Over the last few years, the Saudi Arabian authorities have invested heavily in PR stunts to rebrand their image and attempt to deflect attention from their brutal crackdown on activists and human rights defenders. Although we saw a brief lull in executions and prosecutions of activists during Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 summit, that ended immediately after the event when the authorities ramped up their repression once again.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities need to realize that the best PR comes from respecting human rights. If the authorities want to be perceived differently, they should immediately and unconditionally release all those incarcerated for peacefully expressing their views, lift all travel bans and impose a moratorium on the death penalty. Foreign governments wishing to deepen their relations with Saudi Arabia should urge the authorities to address their egregious human rights record.

“Any company holding major events in Saudi Arabia must identify, mitigate or prevent any human right abuses that it may cause, contribute to or be directly linked to through its operations, products and services, including Formula 1 and its Grand Prix races.”

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Out soccer player calls out ‘homophobic abuse’ from crowd

The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd

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Photo courtesy of Josh Cavallo Instagram

ADELAIDE, Australia – Professional soccer player Josh Cavallo, who became the only openly gay top-flight male professional footballer last year, told his Instagram followers over the weekend that he experienced “homophobic abuse” during his last game. 

The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd at AAMI Park during his team’s Saturday game against the Melbourne Victory.

“As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022,” he wrote. “This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”

Cavallo added that he was also targeted after the game online. 

“To @instagram I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” he said. “I knew truely being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) said it was “shocked and saddened” to hear Cavallo’s reports of “homophobic bullying,” according to the Guardian

“Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe on and off the pitch,” APL CEO Danny Townsend said. “There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have zero tolerance for this harmful behaviour.”

The APL is working with both teams to investigate the incident, adding that sanctions will be issued to anyone involved. 

In a statement, Adelaide United Chief Executive Officer Nathan Kosmina said that the team was “appalled” at the “verbal abuse” that Cavallo received. 

“Adelaide United is proud to be an inclusive and diverse football club, and to see one of our players subjected to homophobic abuse is disappointing and upsetting,” he said. “Josh continues to show immense courage and we join him in calling out abuse, which has no place in society, and it will not be tolerated by our Club.”

The Melbourne Victory added that it “sees football as a platform to unite fans no matter what background. Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches.”

At the end of his Instagram message, Cavallo thanked those sending him positive messages, love and support. 

“Love will always win,” he said. 

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2 Trans athletes competed head to head at college women’s swim meet

Lia Thomas won some, lost some but didn’t set any new records; California native Iszac Henig made waves

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Iszac Henig via Instagram

NEW HAVEN, Ct. – The last home meet at the University of Pennsylvania for out trans woman Lia Thomas was a double dual against Dartmouth and Yale, and despite a pair of victories, it ended with double the disappointment for the record-setting swimmer.

That’s because Yale University’s Bulldogs won Saturday’s meet and returned to Connecticut with their undefeated record intact, and one of its swimmers on the women’s team trounced Thomas in the 100-yard freestyle.

That swimmer was Iszac Henig, 21, a senior from Menlo Park, Calif., who came out as a trans man in April 2021. 

Iszac Henig via Instagram

Although he underwent gender-affirming top surgery while competition was suspended during the pandemic, Henig decided to not start hormone therapy so he could continue to compete with his teammates in accordance with NCAA rules, as he wrote in The New York Times

“As a student athlete, coming out as a trans guy put me in a weird position,” Henig wrote in The Times. “I could start hormones to align more with myself, or wait, transition socially, and keep competing on a women’s swim team. I decided on the latter. I value my contributions to the team and recognize that my boyhood doesn’t hinge on whether there’s more or less testosterone running through my veins. At least, that’s what I’ll try to remember when I put on the women’s swimsuit for competition and am reminded of a self I no longer feel attached to.”

Wearing that traditional women’s swimsuit, Henig won the 50-yard freestyle in 22.76 by 0.96 seconds, then he followed that with a 49.57 to win the 100 free, by 1.60 seconds. As Swimswam.com reported, those are huge margins for each of those events. 

In contrast, Thomas, 22, finished 6th in the 100 free with 52.84, her slowest 100 of the season by more than a second. She was, however, able to win the 500 free with a 4:57.20, her slowest time of the season by 3 seconds. As Swimswam.com noted, it’s 23 seconds slower than her season best of 4:34.06. 

Thomas also recorded a 1:48.73 to win the 200 free, her 2nd-slowest 200 of the season so far. She swam 26.08 and 28.12 on the first 2 50s. Then on the back half, she split 27.14 and 27.39, for a 54.53 on the 2nd 100, which swimswam.com summarized as an “almost an even-split swim.”

This was Thomas’s first meet since last month, when she made headlines around the world by setting new Ivy League conference records. Thomas has been undergoing testosterone suppression, a medical treatment required by the NCAA for her to compete, for 2 ½ years, 18 months longer than is currently required.

Lia-Thomas (right) and friend Hannah Liu via Instagram

UPenn closed the meet to the public, except for a limited number of guests of athletes and coaches, in accordance with its COVID-19 guidelines for spectator sports. But as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, a phalanx of national media from Newsweek, ESPN, the Washington Post, the Daily Mail and Fox News, among others, were credentialed to cover it. 

According to the Inquirer, student-athletes who were reportedly threatening to boycott the meet to protest Thomas’s inclusion failed to make good on those threats. 

On the contrary, the other senior swimmers and divers from all three universities included both Thomas and Henig before the meet in a celebration of their collegiate accomplishments. They each received bouquets and posed together for a Senior Day photo. 

University of Pennsylvania swim meet (Photo credit: yalebulldogs.com)

In the days leading up to Saturday’s meet, Thomas’s legitimacy to compete in accordance with NCAA rules was endorsed by the Ivy League, the University of Pennsylvania, and by Penn Law School students, who tweeted their support along with a group of affiliate organizations.

Thomas also recently received support from 2016 U.S. Olympian Jacob Pebley, and two-time Australian Olympic silver medalist Madeline Groves. Pebley posted on Instagram that those attacking Thomas should instead focus on the governing bodies deciding policies, and criticized those who have been normalizing discrimination and ignoring the effects of the attacks on her mental health. 

In a series of Instagram stories, reported by Swimswam.com, Groves described those critical of Thomas’ participation with other women as spreading  “transphobic dribble.”

“It’s so sad to me to see apparently educated people use their platform to post transphobic dribble – what the fuck gives you the right to decide who can play sport? Athletes are traditionally self-centered but using bigotry to justify excluding an entire group of people from sport is just disgusting.

“If you’re too threatened to compete alongside trans women, you’re a selfish coward that probs wasn’t that good at sport in the first place.”

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NASCAR partners with Carolinas LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce

“NASCAR is excited to partner with the Carolinas LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce”

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest LGBT Chambers within the Southeastern region pushing for equitable change within the workplace and marketplace, announced this past week that NASCAR will become the organization’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion partner for the 2022 term.

This is the first time NASCAR has partnered with an LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber’s annual DE&I partnership funds and supports all of its training and programming in diversity, equity and inclusion, and it allows the organization to have a more expansive reach throughout the region.

“NASCAR has a rich history in our region and continues to be one of the most popular sports in the nation,” said Tiffany Keaton, the vice chair of the Carolinas LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce. “The intentionality of their partnership will allow the Carolinas LGBTQ+ Chamber to leverage relationships and increase our work in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. The distinct brand that NASCAR brings to the chamber validates their commitment to equality and non-discrimination both on and off the track.  It is an honor to name the league our ‘DE&I Partner’ for 2022, and I look forward to developing this amazing relationship.”

The Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce’s work to support change and growth helps strengthen organizations large and small – and the Carolinas region as a whole. Promoting DE&I training and education programming is a critical component of that change and progress for NASCAR and the communities in which it operates.

“NASCAR is excited to partner with the Carolinas LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce,” said Brandon Thompson, NASCAR’s vice president of diversity and inclusion. “With NASCAR offices and much of our industry based in the Carolinas, we look forward to working with CLGBTCC in support of its mission to foster equity, inclusion and economic prosperity for the LGBTQ community.”

In June of 2020, the modified race car sport announced its support for the LGBTQ+ community in a tweet for Pride month.

The Carolinas LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce is an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and LGBTQ+ and allied businesses, corporations and professionals throughout western North Carolina and most of South Carolina. Its mission is to foster equity, inclusion and economic prosperity for the LGBTQ community through strategic policy, professional enrichment, ally partnerships and economic development.

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