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Inclusion

25 Feb 2021

"It's better to be who you are, and comfortable in who you are."

James Child on his BBC LGBT Sport podcast appearance

James Child hopes his interview with the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast, which was broadcast this morning, is another step in taking the sting out of issues around sexuality in sport.

Child became the first British match official to speak publically about his sexuality – not because he wants to be known as a trailblazer, in fact pretty much the opposite.

"If this will help educate people and get us all to be a little more respectful to each other, then that's great,” said the 37-year-old, who is preparing for his 12th season as a member of the RFL’s senior refereeing panel – and hoping to earn a place in his fourth Rugby League World Cup.

"It's better to be who you are, and comfortable in who you are. The way I've lived my life on social media, I'm pretty open about the fact I have a male partner.

"I don't necessarily broadcast it but just live my life normally, and that's the way I've chosen to deal with it up until now. And in many ways, my sexuality and my job are completely separate and it's irrelevant.

"When I run out there and make a decision, it doesn't matter whether I'm gay or straight. What matters is whether the decision is right or wrong.

"As I've grown older, I've become more comfortable with itIf this helps give other people a bit of courage to speak to their families or friends or work colleagues, then just do it.”

In the interview, Child admits he has been upset by homophobic abuse.

"I do receive my fair share, including a couple of death threats over the past few years that have been referred to the police," he added. 

"I'm not saying that's all to do with my sexuality, but I certainly think one, if not two of those, were homophobic.

"By me speaking about this publicly, there can't then be a situation where somebody is homophobic, but denies knowing I'm gay.

"I'm not denying people their opportunity to go to a game and shout at me as a referee. By all means, do it! Carry on doing it! I'm used to it!

"But when you start bringing religion or disability or sexual orientation into it, we don't need that level of personalisation.”

Child is hoping that the forthcoming 2021 season will bring with it a return to something approaching normality, after the unusual experiences of the last 12 months.

"It was strange last year when we started refereeing behind closed doors," he added. 

"Those moments when you walk out of the tunnel and hear the music playing, but there's no crowd noise, are very strange.

"It won't feel normal until we start getting fans back in, and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later. But still, it'll be great to get back out there."

 

You can listen to James' appearance on the BBC's LGBT Sport Podcast here.