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English college rowing club wears rainbow boat boots to promote gay inclusion

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University of York Boat Club starts 'Rainbow Wellies' campaign to highlight change in team rules.

The University of York Boat Club in England is changing team rules to foster LGBTQ inclusion and is highlighting it by wearing rainbow wellies (or rain boots).

"Our wellies may not have all the colors of the rainbow, however they are the brightest and stripey-est we could find. They definitely stand out compared to the traditional wellies rowers wear," said Chris Cummings, senior men's captain.

Alex Ighalo came up with the idea and explains its significance:

The campaign was partly inspired by Stonewall's 'Rainbow Laces' campaign.We loved the Rainbow Laces campaign but as rowers have no use for laces (the boats come with fitted Velcro strap shoes), so we decided to do our own version. We chose the month of February because in the UK February is LGBTQ History Month.

However we did not simply purchase the wellies for their practical benefits or to merely emulate Rainbow Laces. The wellies are tied to something more. They represent the clubs brand new LGBTQ policy. The policy includes provisions on gender pronouns, bullying, homophobia, changing rooms, and highlights a variety methods available for LGBTQ individuals to resolve incidents which may arise or make them feel uncomfortable. This radically alters our constitution.

Thus the wellies represent the clubs commitment to diversity and continued efforts to ensure that everyone feels welcome at the club regardless of their sexual identity or gender identity.

The policy was drafted by myself in collaboration with Stonewall. The campaign was filmed and photographed by a member of the club. And everyone in the campaign is also a member of the club.

Currently Stonewall, BUCS (British University and Colleges Sport) and the University of York Student Union have agreed to support the campaign.

The wellies look cool and if I was a rower, I would wear a pair. The club has been in existence for more than 50 years and rowing is huge in England, so it's wonderful that York is making a specific outreach to LGBTQ people.


Here are some club members in their wellies.

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