Photo of Laura Clise (left) and Belle Brockhoff (right), courtesy of Laura Clise.
After coming out in response to Russia’s anti-LGBT legislation in 2013, Belle Brockhoff became one of the faces of the Principle 6 Campaign and competed as a member of the Australian Olympic team in 2014. Athlete Ally board member Laura Clise recently had the opportunity to catch up with Belle following the 22-year-old’s debut at the Winter X Games in Aspen.
Laura: What was it like to receive an invitation to your first X Games?
Belle: With my riding going quite well this season, I had hoped that this might be the year that I would have the opportunity to compete at the X Games. When the first wave of invitations went out, I’ll admit that I was a little bit disappointed. But as it turned out, the organizers had tried to contact me at an old email address. Once I learned that I had been invited, I was so stoked by the opportunity to compete with the best of the best! Especially as this is only my third season competing in snowboard-cross, it was such an honor to be invited.
Laura: You compete every year in World Cup competition, and last year, you made your Olympic debut. What are the X Games like in comparison?
Belle: The X Games are a huge competition for action sports. I remember watching Lindsey Jacobellis win when I was 10 years old, so it was incredibly cool to stand next to her. Of course, the Olympics are incredible. There is something unique and special about the opportunity to represent your country. But the X-Games are big as well. It’s a fun atmosphere, and the track was fun as well, and really suited my riding style.
Laura: Competition takes you all around the world. What is that experience like?
Belle: It’s amazing to be able to visit so many different countries, especially when I consider that a lot of people my age haven’t had the opportunity to travel beyond Australia. Competing in different countries has certainly provided me with a greater awareness of the different cultures around the world, and now that I’ve had the opportunity to begin studying sociology at university, I appreciate it even more. From developing a greater awareness of human rights in different countries, to learning the history, to the opportunity to simply take in different landscapes, I am so fortunate to be able to experience the world.
Laura: As one of the faces that helped launch the Principle 6 campaign, what do you think of the International Olympic Committee’s decision to amend the Olympic Charter to include sexual orientation in the revised language of the non-discrimination clause?
Belle: It’s bloody awesome to see that change and movement toward greater equality is happening in real time. While more work remains on gender identity, it is great to see progress and feel like the thousands of people around the world who supported the Athlete Ally & All Out’s Principle 6 campaign made a difference. I think that it is encouraging for younger athletes as well to see a shift in the tone regarding equality and inclusion from the top.
Laura: You mention that more work remains. What do you mean by that, and how would you describe the culture within action sports like snowboard-cross?
Belle: First of all, I think that the action sports community is quite welcoming. I haven’t faced any mean-spirited homophobia. And I think that if anyone faced threats or discrimination, the community would have his or her back. At the same time, I think that we can make progress regarding the language we use. Coaches and athletes need to stop saying, “That’s so gay,” to refer to something that’s bad. I think that it’s a matter of breaking the habit by educating people about why that language is harmful.
Laura: A fourth place finish at your first X Games was a strong debut. What’s next for you?
Belle: I was very excited to finish fourth in my first X Games. I learned a lot, and I had fun. I’m back in Australia for the next month, training on my own and spending time with my family and girlfriend. Unfortunately, the first few World Cup races were called off due to a lack of snow, but I am looking forward to three upcoming races in March.
Laura: I know that you have a particular passion for encouraging youth who are coming out. What message would you want to share with those who may be struggling with the decision?
Belle: I believe that it is important to be yourself and do what makes you happy. Speaking from my own experience, when you’re no longer trapped in the closet, you become better not only in your sport or your studies, but it’s freeing to just be yourself. I know that it can be tricky to say the least, and sometimes it’s both hard and scary. But I would encourage young people to try to find the courage to talk to someone, because you are not alone. There is a community of people who want to support you just as you are.
Laura: Thanks so much for taking the time to catch up. You are a wonderful example of advocacy and allyship.
Belle: It’s my pleasure. It’s exciting to be able to make a difference in partnership with Athlete Ally!