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If this year has taught us all anything, it’s to not take for granted the positive benefits of keeping active. Being holed up in our homes during lockdown wasn’t easy for anyone – particularly LGBTQ+ people who face a greater risk of struggling with their mental wellbeing.

It means the work that Pride Sports does is even more crucial in a world readjusting after a global pandemic. Not only do they campaign for change in sports to challenge homophobia, but they also promote good practice and actively grow LGBTQ+ participation in sport. As part of a new campaign between GAY TIMES and Voltarol, we are spotlighting some of the LGBTQ+ sports groups that Pride Sports empowers, and how they are helping members of our community to keep active, stay connected and feel proud of who they are no matter what sporting environment they are walking into.

While Pride Sports does remarkable work empowering local groups, they themselves also need support to keep offering the great service they provide. It’s why GSK has made a substantial donation to the organisation, as part of their ongoing commitment to supporting, celebrating and raising awareness of the LGBTQ+ community. As one of the most prominent healthcare companies in the world, GSK Consumer Healthcare has continually lent their commitment to bettering the lives of LGBTQ+ people. Allies are crucial in our journey towards true liberation, and their support can help push forward real change. As a healthcare company, GSK has a special purpose to help people do more, feel better and live longer.

“For me personally, being a part of this community has helped me get to the point where I am super happy with who I am,” says Amy Joseph, who regularly trains as part of LGBTQ+ boxing group Knockout. They are one of the many groups Pride Sports supports, and the first of three we will be spotlighting as part of our new campaign with Voltarol. Voltarol – just in case you are unsure – is one of the UK’s leading pain relief gels that helps people maintain their active lifestyle if they come up against body aches and pains.

Knockout, meanwhile, creates a safe space for LGBTQ+ people in London to keep active, making sure anyone who wants to get involved is made to feel welcome and included. “It’s a non-gendered space and we refer to anyone as ‘Champ’, so they can be whoever they want with no questions asked,” says co-chair and boxing coach, Pierre Ulysse Gouverneur. “They’re just here for fun and to meet people.”

Knockout meets up three times a week in either North or Central London to train, with people of all boxing abilities free to join. They also arrange regular social activities, march in Pride parades together, and raise awareness of their group through social media. “Boxing with LGBTQ+ people is just the best thing ever,” says Clarisse. “You won’t be questioned about your sexuality. In that moment when I am boxing, I do not think of myself as a woman, as a lesbian, but just as a boxer.”

Through this campaign and because of their significant donation to Pride Sports, GSK is helping groups like Knockout to continue being a safe and social space for LGBTQ+ boxers. As we’ve mentioned before, GSK continues to proactively support and platform LGBTQ+ people by investing in their experiences and ensuring their existence isn’t overlooked. Diversity and inclusion isn’t a project for them, it’s built into the very fibre of their company. This isn’t a one-off campaign for GSK, but rather the start of a long-term commitment to serve and support LGBTQ+ consumers and the community.

““This partnership not only brings us an opportunity to engage with the LGBTQ+ community but also to support the community group Pride Sports who have introduced us to the individuals featured in these films,” says Louise Vincer, Digital & Marketing Acceleration Director, GBI, GSK Consumer Healthcare. “Shot on location using user-generated content, the films are designed to express people’s renewed love of the great outdoors and the joy they find in activity & movement. Spectrum, GSKs LGBTQ+ employee resource group, will also be more broadly supporting the Pride Sports organisation & individual sports clubs.”

It’s been a tough year for us all, but throughout lockdown Knockout offered free virtual boxing sessions for the community. “I’ve struggled with my mental health in the past and it’s definitely been a great way to help with my overall wellbeing,” says Amy, proving that Knockout is much more than a form of fitness, but also healthy for the mind. With us all navigating this new normal, it’s groups like Knockout that prove just how vital and valuable they are to members of our community who like to stay active and connected.