February 25, 2023

#BehindtheBow with Mandie Elson for LGBTQ+ History Month

As a some of you may know, February is LGBTQ+ History Month, an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history. It celebrates the community built by LGBT+ people. So we go #behindthebow with Mandie Elson of Newark Castle Archers, as she shares her story of being part of the LGBTQ+ community, and how she’s making sure her club is as inclusive as possible.

At my archery club we work on the ethos that any and everyone is welcome, and this includes those who’s sexual and identity choices differ from others.

My name is Mandie Elson and I’m proud to be a member of this community. It has been a battle, and everyone’s journey is different, but I am here to make sure that others feel they can be who they want to be.

My journey has been one with lots of hurdles and difficulties including childhood/teenage trauma. Did this guide me to my sexuality you may ask? The answer is no. I have always known I was different but wasn’t sure why, and as with society today, people are often steered into what others perceive as normal. Well, normal comes in all shapes and forms, and thankfully, as I progressed through life and connected with the right people, I gained a huge support network and grew the strength to be me.

In 2014 I took a beginner’s course in archery. It was always on my radar but had never really been accessible within the life I had experienced up until this point. But I was hooked and signed up straight away.

And yet, there was something holding me back. What will they be like with me if they find out I am a lesbian? That thought went through my mind every time I shot at the club and at competitions. I would hear the odd comment that wasn’t complimentary to my community, and I thought and felt vulnerable. However, I loved my new sport and wasn’t going to let this put me off, so one day I blurted it out and the reaction was one of warmth and support. It was so reassuring as sometimes I don’t feel that people realise what they are saying and how that can affect another.

This is my journey, but sadly not everyone is lucky enough to have support, encouragement, guidance and the inner strength to be open and comfortable with who they are, which is something everyone needs to be very aware of. For a lot of people, their identity can be a terrifying journey and mentally very demanding on them. As a community, we need to be educated and aware of this as that one person coming onto your beginners course could be that one person that you help and support. Or don’t, with potentially devastating outcomes.

I like to think that my club, Newark Castle Archers, are one of several clubs that are leading the way to include everyone into our sport. We are slowly welcoming other LGBTQ+ members from within our local area, and we try to be warm and friendly with every potential archer that comes to our doors. This does usually involve lots of cake and a happy atmosphere.

At the end of the day we are all human, we are all different, and yes, we may have differences, but for me this is where respect comes in. Respect that another human walks a different path to you but do not judge or critique them for it. Welcome them, support them. Archery is for everyone.


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