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GayTies News for April 20, 2018

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Article of the Week

Homophobia Continues to be Football’s (Soccer’s) Big Problem.

See recent video: Two Faces.

Justin Fashanu (pictured left), Britain’s first openly gay professional football player (which Americans call soccer). Subjected to horrid abuse and treated shamefully by his brother John, Justin took his own life in 1998.

Football clubs up and down the UK have this weekend pledged to support Stonewall’s “Rainbow Laces” campaign, in an effort to combat homophobia in the sport. The campaign has grown since beginning in 2013 (when Joey Barton was one of the few vocal leading footballing advocates) to the point where the majority of football clubs in Britain (as well as rugby clubs) are supporting the initiative over the course of the next few days.

However, it’s one thing for the clubs to throw their support behind Stonewall’s campaign (and it’s certainly a start, that goes without saying), but it’s another altogether for the rhetoric to be put into practice in the stands and with the respective clubs’ playing and coaching staff.

According to Stonewall’s figures, 72% of fans have heard anti-LGBT chants or remarks in the stands in the last five years. According to a BBC study in 2016, 8% of fans would stop supporting their club if they found out one of its players was gay.

Think about that for a second – roughly one fan in twelve would give up on the team they had followed for years because it was openly tolerating a gay player. If they do choose to walk away from the game, then good. Frankly, the game doesn’t need “fans” like that and cutting out the roots of that homophobic weed could help the stem to wither and die out.

A big problem is that there is such a great unknown element in terms of gay footballers playing in the UK. There appears to be a vicious circle in play whereby a professional footballer won’t come out unless he knows it’s safe, but he won’t know for sure if it’s safe until he comes out.

The three most prominent examples are Justin Fashanu, Robbie Rogers and Thomas Hitzlsperger, of players coming out in and around the English game.

Fashanu’s story is one of enormous tragedy that ended in his suicide, Rogers felt he had to retire to come out (but thankfully returned to playing with LA Galaxy in the MLS a while later) while Hitzlsperger, who played in the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, UEFA Cup and World Cup, only felt comfortable coming out once he had hung up his boots.

Those stories, Fashanu’s in particular, would have almost certainly discouraged gay players from coming out but the point of campaigns like Stonewall’s is to tell players that the game is moving on, that the 8% are being silenced and such closed-mindedness is being left in the past where it belongs.

But it’s not just the outward homophobes whose minds need changing; the more passive mindset needs to be altered too. It should go without saying that it’s not acceptable to scream anti-gay obscenities at an opposition player, and yet crowd mentality is a powerful thing. They might not even realize what they’re shouting half the time, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be heard.

Those 72% might never even dream of using that kind of language outside of the stands – that doesn’t make it alright, and it’s certainly not “banter.”

Not to turn this into a “rugby vs. football” debate (though who doesn’t enjoy those…) but a sizeable (though thankfully it’s shrinking annually) social media reaction to the above tweet from the Premier League is depressingly negative – especially compared to a similar-themed series of tweets from Premiership Rugby where there is almost universal positivity:

There is also a more insidious group in all of this, of course, those that will masquerade their disapproval under the guise of flippant acceptance. “Why do they need this, I don’t care if they’re gay but why can’t they be quiet about it?” is a slightly (in their eyes anyway) more socially palatable way of saying “please stop reminding me that gay people exist.” Either way, they don’t want this. They might have found a better way of saying it to get the “lefty PC brigade” but they don’t want an out gay player in their team. And that’s a problem.

Why does football need this? Well without wanting to go all “check your privilege” on it, a campaign like this is really not to benefit the majority; they already have their place in football. If you’re so vehemently opposed to the idea of this and can’t fathom why it even exists, maybe step back and consider the alarming possibility that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t about you.

This is about extending the hand and telling that 16-year-old gay teenager, terrified that he will have to give up the game that he loves and would like to devote his life to, because he doesn’t fancy the girl down the road like the rest of his teammates (but does fancy her brother) that he should be free to pursue his dreams both on and off the pitch.

It’s about telling a potential future Ireland or England captain, or the player that could go on to score the winning goal in a Champions League final, that it’s perfectly fine if he celebrates with his husband and kids in the crowd, that football doesn’t have to be the backwards cesspit of modern sport.

It’s about convincing the future Fashanu, Rogers and Hitzlsperger that they can be who they are in the UK (or indeed wherever they play), they shouldn’t have to leave or retire to be at ease with themselves.

It’s about gay or bisexual fans going to matches and not not having to hear the word ‘faggot‘ being shouted by scumbags in the stands – especially within earshot of kids who could come to consider that type of language acceptable as long as there’s a pitch nearby.

This is a battle that still has some way to go, but football is definitely moving in the right direction. (Pub 4/14)
1 comment(s) posted so far. Add yours.

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What to chat about? Well, of course, all your erotic personal stuff. But also about gay clips on Gayties. Gay videos are a hot social network topic here, as well as kink and romance. We ask everyone to be courteous and patient as we all get to learn more about how chat works. Finally, we suggest one other thing, … be adventurous and have fun.

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