GIPPSLAND PRIDE CUP
Gender diversity advocate and Gippsland Pride Cup founder Jason Ball says this weekend's game will bring together two communities which rarely interact with one another.
Traralgon Tyers United will host six games of netball and three matches of football against Glengarry to recognise and celebrate the region's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning community.
LGBTIQ advocate Ball said the Gippsland Pride Cup would help address the growing societal issue and break down barriers for those who identify as LGBTIQ and the broader community.
"I think this event has brought together people who else would've had no interaction with each other - in other words bringing together the football community with the LQBTI community to plan and execute the event," Ball said.
"They're very two different worlds and it's just amazing to see what they can achieve together."
Last year marked Gippsland's first Pride Cup, held at Glengarry, with this year's event held at Tyers to allow the message of gender diversity and inclusion to be introduced to a new community.
"We know from the research that LQBTI people don't feel safe or welcome at sporting events in general and we know that many LQBTI people who play sport feel the need to be in the closet or they stop playing or drop out of sport," Ball said.
"That's due to high levels of homophobia and 80 per cent of people have experienced that in sport.
"It might not be direct homophobia but it could be, for example, just casual use of homophobic language but that can be enough to make LGBTIQ people not feel welcome."
Ball said the Gippsland Pride Cup would empower players and clubs to challenge homophobia while at the same time send a positive message to the LGBTIQ community that they were welcomed through the use of the pride rainbow.
"I think in the same way that people view racism to be completely unacceptable, hopefully in the very near future homophobia and transphobia will be viewed in the same way."
North Gippsland Football Netball League president David Kyle said the competition's board was "fully behind" the Pride Cup and said it was important for sporting organisations to take a strong position on the issue.
"As a sporting organisation we do have a responsibility to tackle this issue in our community," Kyle said.
"I know there is a lot of mixed emotions and feelings around this issue but the reality is our football and netball clubs reflect our community and therefore we need to talk about this.
"It's really about inclusiveness and the acceptance of diversity within our sporting codes."
Kyle said the league would investigate ways to roll out similar initiatives to other North Gippsland clubs in 2019 and beyond.