Much has been written in the past, much has been said, but little has been done in football to address issues of sexuality.
In the twenty-first century there are many forms of sexuality – as there are genders – spanning well-defined labels such as heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual, and lesser known terms such as pansexual (a person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions) and skoliosexual (attracted to genderqueer and transsexual people and expressions (people who aren’t identified as cisgender)). No-one could blame you for having not heard of the last two terms. Yet they are part of a sexual revolution. Individuals are seeking to set their own sexual parameters and not be constrained by archaic terminology. The It’s pronounced metrosexual site epitomises the complexity of modern day sexuality and our understanding of it by presenting the multiple and various terms used by individuals to define who they are.
Is It Time For The Stonewall F.A. Cup?
Nevertheless, whatever sexuality you are, an individual has a place in society; a person has an identity and categories are being set and broadened so people can better understand who they are and not feel alone. As we are becoming more accepting in society, so are we becoming more inclusive. Yet sport remains a paradigm in itself where sexuality is concerned.
Sport as a whole has a problem. Yet football, as the flag-bearer of entertainment, as the people’s game, as the global game, must play catch up to less popular sports. Sports such as hockey, have embraced all sexualities and it is the norm that players, coaches, and fans do not consign themselves to the three traditional categories. The attitude of those in football remains ingrained in the past and it is time that should change; football must grow up, football must speak out.
In 1998 Justin Fashanu, the first black £1 million footballer and the first footballer to be openly gay, committed suicide. This was following police questioning in regards to sexual assault accusations. Fashanu faced a barrage of abuse and hostility following his public ‘outing’ and it is widely assumed that Fashanu’s experience has prevented other footballers from publicly expressing their sexuality if it differs from heterosexuality. Graeme Le Saux and Sol Campbell were also subjected to taunts and abuse about their perceived homosexuality, yet both are in heterosexual marriages and have children. If the public reaction wasn’t enough to dissuade a player from being honest about who they are, Luis Felipe Scolari came out during Brazil’s 2002 World Cup Campaign saying that he would have thrown out a player of his team if found to be homosexual.
There are organisations attempting to address the subject, yet for all their hard work, it amounts to little more than a whisper. Stonewall have run campaigns with Paddy Power and the Premier League with rainbow laces and publicity. The ‘Right Behind Gay Footballers’ campaign achieved global exposure and 320 million twitter impressions, yet ask a fan on the street to name a homosexual professional footballer and they will come up short. Sexuality remains a taboo subject and unless the Football Association take a stance and stature like that against racism then change is unlikely to come any time soon.
In 2014, Thomas Hitzlsperger became the first openly gay footballer to have played in the Premier League. However he had retired in 2013 following spells with Everton, Aston Villa, West Ham and Chesterfield in England spanning his 12 years as a professional player, including 52 appearances for Germany. It is impossible to assume how his honesty would have been received by players, coaches, and fans alike, but in an era when anti-semitism remains as prominent as racism towards Black and Minority Ethnic players then it can be predicted that Hitzlsperger would have received little support from the terraces and dugout.
The Football Association are too happy to sit back and be blown where the social wind takes them, but imagine if it took on a strong moral guardian role. This refers not to becoming the Political Correctness police, but rather that it should go beyond its duty to instead throw their weight behind an issue that matters to the players and fans, not just what Government tells them to support. The Football Association claims that it is committed to tackling all forms of discrimination and is thus currently running the Football v. Homophobia campaign. It is a great step in the right direction but imagine the message the ‘Stonewall F.A. Cup’ would send to the world – the oldest and most popular club football competition in the world supporting the LGBT community. For at the end of the day, sexuality is a question of identity. Knowing who you are, what you like, and what you are is what makes football special. We come together to support a club or nation because we are proud of our identity and community – of who we are. Identity and sexuality are a matter of understanding, appreciating, and accepting who you are as a person.
Whether you’re heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pan-sexual, transsexual or asexual, you have a place in society, you have a place in sport, you have a place in football.