LUYC: A 2015 Inspire Awards Nominee for LGBTQ Positive Business of the Year

The INSPIRE Awards is an organization with the mission of facilitating the annual awards and inspiring the community. Each year the organization, with the help of the LGBTQ community, chooses a series of categories to honour from within the Greater Toronto Area. LUYC is honoured and thrilled at being nominated in the Positive Business of the Year category, and for representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer women, transgender and genderqueer people in sport.

This years celebration took place on Friday, May 29, 2015 at Hart House, University of Toronto campus. The ceremony was lovely – pictures can be viewed here. Prior to the ceremony, the Inspire Awards featured LUYC on their blog, which is copied below:

Posted by Cheryl Costello on Sunday, 10 May 2015

Inspiration and dedication to making the world a better place comes in many forms. The LGBTQ community is filled with individuals working tirelessly to promote and further the cause of equality. What’s especially unique is those LGBTQ businesses at the front line of offering services, simultaneously raising awareness about matters relevant to the community. We’re excited to be celebrating the efforts of one local business, Lace Up Your Cleats for its dedication to bringing light to the LGBTQ community in sport while also giving it an important and much needed voice. Nominated for business of the year, Cristina, from this incredibly inspiring business took some time to answer a few questions about what inspires her and the organization she runs.

What inspires you?

I’m driven by the experience of community. I’ve been out as a lesbian for over ten years, and in that time I’ve yearned for environments that are accepting, generous, non-judgmental and have a healthy sense of humour. Sometimes these environments are hard to find given all of the serious and challenging issues that women, transgender, genderqueer and LGBTQ people can, and often do face.

With Lace Up Your Cleats (LUYC) my intent has been to keep my ideas alive about what community can be for LGBTQ people and allies, and to show them that they can expect more. I’ve also created an opportunity for myself to be a leader and entrepreneur, which has been inspiring and skill-enhancing. The people who attend LUYC programming, who are supportive of the work I do and constantly providing constructive/positive feedback inspire me to keep doing what I do.

Who inspires you?

My partner, friends and family who have been huge influences in my life – without that base of support and love it can be difficult to take risks and explore life, so they’ve provided that for me and I am consistently grateful for it.

My journey through education, politics, spirituality and sport has also introduced me to a plethora of inspiring people such as Pema Chödrön, Danzy Senna, Cherríe Moraga, Audre Lorde, Premier Kathleen Wynne, City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Waneek Horn-Miller, Mary Spencer, Christine Sinclair, and my Social Legacy team at TORONTO 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games: Naki Osutei, Jackie Mahon and Julie Rice.

Because LUYC is a sport venture, and I am an intense soccer and futsal nerd, all women, transgender, genderqueer and para athletes really inspire me in my work. These athletes break barriers and take risks in order to do what they love for very little monetary gain. I am in awe of individuals who train at the elite level, compete under high pressure situations, and excel when it matters most in competition. Which is why I can’t wait for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada and the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games. This summer will be a big one for sport in Canada!

Why is inspiration and having heroes/sheroes/queeroes in the LGBTQ community so important?

For so many reasons that include representation and diversity, but also connect with affirmation and achievement. For the former (affirmation), being reflected in everyday life, social media and big systems communicates that there is a place and need for difference in society and not just on the fringes. For the latter (achievement), when marginalized people/groups achieve success in ground-breaking ways, this raises the bar higher and illuminates what can be achieved now and in the future.

However, affirmation and achievement do not have to be on the terms of the mainstream, it can be done anywhere, and it can permeate the mainstream. That’s what feminism has done, particularly anti-racist feminism and lesbian-feminism who organized, marched, fought, and demanded change of society on their terms. 40 years later, I have benefited from this and see the integration of these analyses in mainstream conversation. Now we are seeing the impact of the transgender and genderqueer movement, which has been profound because we are talking/seeing gender identity in ways that are outside the biological and woman/man binary.

What are your words of inspiration for others?

My inspiring words come from Pema Chödrön, Buddhist nun, teacher and writer of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage Trungpa. Her work has seen me through some grim and challenging times and continues to.

“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice”.

For those interested in her work, here is a wonderful primer that can be accessed for free online: Pema Chödrön: An Introduction.

Thank you so much Cristina, for taking some time out to answer our questions and for giving the LGBTQ community more information about an organization doing so much to promote visibility in sport. The challenges that LGBTQ people face in many sports can be wrought with hardships and a great deal of prejudice. We’re excited to see a nominee doing a great deal to counter this, creating a new narrative for the community in sport, while also building a safe space where athletes and fans alike can come together in appreciation of their sport.