The idea of inclusion in skydiving has been a big topic recently –Dan BC felt compelled to share his experience and opinion…
During my 41 years in our sport I have found skydivers to be an overwhelmingly welcoming, inclusive, loving group. I’ve seen anyone who shares our dream of human flight and is crazy enough to want to jump out of an airplane be invited to join our family regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, political party, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, whatever.
But I’ve recently realized that not everyone has had that same experience.
Our sport is often a shining example of inclusion to the world. It breaks my heart to know that it is ever less than that. We all spend a lot of time working to keep us safe in the sky. Making everyone in our community feel safe on the ground is much the same process.
Most skydivers don’t intentionally make dangerous moves in the air and most don’t intentionally make demeaning, sexist, bigoted, or homophobic comments on the ground. More often they think it’s fun or funny and don’t realize they are being dangerous or offensive. When it is brought to their attention they usually stop.
Case in point, many years ago I started a new skydiving team which will remain nameless, but its initials are AA. During a debrief at our first training week one of my new teammates jokingly used the N word. He had grown up in a community where this was not uncommon. I immediately made it clear to him that it wasn’t funny or cool at all. He assured me he didn’t mean anything by it and immediately agreed to not speak like that again. Minutes later the same teammate told a story about getting a used rig and how he had to “Jew the guy down.” I said “Really, are you kidding me?” He said, “Yup, I am. Gotcha though.” This time it was pretty damn funny and we got quite a good laugh out of it. He is still one of my closest friends in the world and I’ve never heard him say anything offensive like that again in 27 years.
I also remember at the 1986 USPA National Championships, Tom Piras, Captain of the current World Champion 4-way Team, told me at the beginning of the meet, “What are you doing? You’ll never win the Nationals with a chick on your team.” We didn’t win that year. But we did beat Tom and my teammate Marilyn Kempson became the first woman ever to medal in 4-way. Funny, Tommy never brought it up again.
The vast majority of skydivers want to be safe in the air and not harmful or offensive to anyone on the ground. If when they do, it is politely brought to their attention they’ll usually do their best to stop. So if someone says something that sounds degrading or insulting to you, tell them. Skydivers are by definition self reliant, strong individuals. We jump out of airplanes, get ourselves to the ground safely and then do it again! We are a pretty badass group. We are more than capable of standing up for ourselves in uncomfortable social situations. If we do, our friends will be much more likely to stand up for us as well.
For the rare skydiver who refuses to be respectful to everyone and who is actually a bigot of whatever type, the DZ is no place for you. We don’t let people endanger our friends in the air and we won’t put up with hateful actions or speech on the ground. That’s not who we are.
Our skydiving community is strong. Our strength is built on welcoming every person who dreams of flying like a bird to our family. Come one come all. Let’s fly!
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