As the world sets its sights on the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the conversation around inclusion in sports has never been more vital. In the heart of Europe, Brussels is not just the capital of the continent but also a burgeoning epicenter of a transformative movement. KET Magazine is proud to announce a compelling series of articles that shine a light on how the Region is spearheading inclusivity in athletics. Through the lens of organizations and individuals who are breaking barriers and opening doors, we’ll explore the vibrant tapestry of initiatives making sports a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Often, members of the LGBTQIA+ community carry with them the weight of exclusion and harassment experienced in their younger sporting lives. Yet, as the anticipation for the Olympics grows, so does the importance of addressing the persistent shadow of homophobia that lingers in sports. This series will not only celebrate the progress but also confront the challenges, reinforcing the imperative that every child and adult should have the freedom to be their authentic selves in the pursuit of athletic excellence.Join us as we dive into the stories of change-makers and athletes alike, who are part of a collective effort to ensure that the spirit of sportsmanship transcends gender, orientation, and identity. Because in Brussels, the game is changing—and for the better.
Queer Artistic Swimming Brussels
Initially an all-male team, the Fabulous Whales was founded in 2019 following a club-wide email and social media callout, along with organized swimming tryouts. In 2022, the team embraced a more inclusive approach, welcoming members regardless of gender identity, united by shared values rather than chromosomes. The team currently boasts 16 swimmers, 11 of whom identify as male. Their priority remains to create space primarily for those who aren’t cisgender women, acknowledging the existing accessibility of artistic swimming for this group.
Competing with Pride: The Fabulous Whales on the International Stage
Each season, the Fabulous Whales participate in several competitions, including two in Belgium and various international events in cities like London, Barcelona, Paris, and Stockholm. The composition of the team varies, reflecting the availability and preferences of its members. While competition participation isn’t mandatory, it’s a valuable opportunity to showcase their hard work to judges and audiences.
By welcoming those who don’t identify as cisgender women into a sport perceived as exclusively feminine, the team hopes to challenge gender stereotypes and inspire others to pursue their passions, regardless of age, gender, physical ability, or sexual orientation.
Erell Filloque: Guiding the Whales to Artistic Heights
Under the tutelage of coach Erell Filloque, the Fabulous Whales train rigorously, perfecting their moves and routines. The swimmers, including Dante, Erwan, Renaud, Mathieu, and Duarte, demonstrate immense dedication, pushing their physical limits in each session.
The team, a vibrant mix of queer, gay, straight, and individuals from diverse economic backgrounds, prides itself on its natural diversity. Despite the lack of perfect gender mixity in this traditionally sexist sport, the members cherish this unique space where they can freely explore and express their masculinities and identities.
Embracing the Current: Everyone’s Welcome in the Water
Despite initial hesitations or physical challenges, every team member has found a home with the Fabulous Whales. The team’s philosophy emphasizes that everyone has something valuable to contribute, a sentiment echoed by coach Erell. Whether dealing with fragile joints, disabilities, or neuro-divergent conditions, all are welcome. The most crucial aspect is the ability to execute timed movements, with the team focusing more on learning and experimenting than on high-stakes competition.
In a world where artistic male swimmers are still a rarity, the Fabulous Whales and their supporters actively advocate for more inclusivity in the sport, using platforms like the #inclusionofmixedduets hashtag to push for the inclusion of mixed duos in the Olympic Games. In Brussels, the joy of swimming isn’t just about winning medals; it’s about breaking barriers and swimming in the sheer happiness of defying stereotypes, one graceful dive at a time.
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