LGBT Prejudice in Football
27th January 2018
Let’s get straight to the point here; LGBT prejudice exists in football, as it does in life.
**This article contains strong language which some readers may find upsetting.
Let’s get straight to the point here; LGBT prejudice exists in football, as it does in life. If it didn’t, we would know of multiple LGBT footballers at the top level, we would wear their name on the back of our jersey, we would applaud them as they walked onto the pitch and their sexuality wouldn’t act as a stick with which to beat them with every time they took to the field, as experienced by so many LGBT footballers at lower levels of the game. Not only does this prejudice affect players, but it affects fans too.
As a bisexual woman I have faced, what I would describe, as mild homophobic prejudice and with that said the homophobic bile that I heard from three rows behind in the seat that I held in the lower North Stand for six seasons at Celtic Park was not in fact directed at me but at one of our own players who had shied away from a challenge. This inaction justified him to be branded a “fucking poof”. As a Scottish football fan I am well aware of the age old tradition of going “right fucking threw the man” and to do anything less makes you a “shite bag”. I, like many others, have often thought less of players who never stuck to this tradition, who got scared of challenging for the 50/50 ball but can you explain to me why “poof” was the alternative word used to describe the player as less than his opponent? And can you understand why the use of the word “poof” to describe someone as inferior, scared and weak supports and reinforces the idea that to be homosexual is lesser than everyone else?
This homophobic abuse wasn’t directed at me and yet the language used by my fellow Celtic supporter engulfed me in a way that I don’t think language before or since ever has. I did think about standing up from my seat and challenging a member of our Celtic family on the language he had callously used towards one of our own, but I didn’t. Sitting next to my Father, who I hadn’t yet came out to; I slumped back in my seat and continued to watch the game.
Hearing language of this nature on the stands is harmful. I wish I had turned round and gave that man his comeuppance that day, but I never did. Instead I retreated from the language I heard and continued to deny my identity to my friends and family because of the fear that had been placed upon me by a member of my community (the Celtic family) who always assured me I would never walk alone.
Before we move on from this, I would like to put my hands up and confess the guilt I have felt for not reporting the issue. I am the first to admit this is a very difficult thing to do for various reasons. My initial reason was I hadn’t came out to my Dad yet, and walking up to a steward to report an incident would likely end with me having to tell my Dad I’m bi, which I wasn’t ready to do yet. Other reasons include shame, not wanting to be labelled a grass and, the worst, expecting that even if I did report it nothing would be done. I can’t really expect to be angry or disappointed in people (homosexual, heterosexual or otherwise) who don’t report homophobia at football grounds, because I haven’t done it myself. But imagine the weight off my shoulders, and how safe the young 16 year old me would have felt if someone had intervened and told that guy to give it a rest.
Regardless, I have no doubt that I am welcome at Celtic Park. I wish to make that abundantly clear. This was one incident over a 16, going on 17, year relationship with Celtic. But you can’t tell me I’m the only one who has experienced prejudice like this at a football ground.
Since 2015 we have seen the launch of a few LGBT supporters clubs in Scotland. Aberdeen were the first to launch such a supporters group, namely the Proud Dons. Hearts were next and in 2016 they launched their LGBT supporters group Tynecastle Pride. In the summer of 2017 Dundee followed with the Proud Dees and at the end of last year Partick Thistle created their own LGBT supporters group the Proud Jags.
I have read many tweets, fan forums and Facebook posts which are wholeheartedly negative towards the existence of LGBT supporters groups, and don’t want them anywhere near their club. Some believe they are unnecessary, others deduce that they are divisive while others just outright don’t want gay fans or players anywhere near their football club.
Here is my reason why LGBT supporters groups and LGBT friendly football clubs are imperative to football, and British football culture:
LGBT supporters groups and LGBT friendly football clubs are essential because their ability to give a face, a voice, a body and a personality to LGBT people completely destroys the stereotypes, the presumptions and misinterpretations which ultimately lead to the broad misunderstanding that we are somehow less of a human than you. We are the invisible minority, therefore people will always assume they know what a stereotypical gay person looks like, how a stereotypical gay person acts, how a stereotypical gay person talks, how a stereotypical gay person walks and how a stereotypical gay person see’s you. Note: it is because of these stereotypes, and misinterpretations, that some people don’t want to associate or connect with LGBT people in any way.
Look at it this way; in the same way that the police deem you (and me), the Scottish football fan, to be a criminal long before we’ve even entered the ground so to do you judge me (and the entire LGBT community) to be something we’re not, simply based on inaccurate and stereotypical interpretations.
Before people get to know us, we are judged. To explain, from as early as I can remember I was labelled a tom boy. This label had a profound effect on me because it made me different from the other girls in my class. I stood out and not necessarily in a good way. Being a tom boy is synonymous with being masculine and having male characteristics. I have never really been able to shake this label, and I suppose it doesn’t bother me as much as it did then because I’m so used to it by now but let’s explore the significance of why I was labelled as someone who ultimately lacks feminine qualities. Because it is significant.
I was labelled a tom boy because I loved sports (sigh). Anything to do with running, jumping, catching, throwing, kicking, sweating, competing and exercising – I was your girl. My passion for sports justified adults, children, family and friends to question my femininity. Can you imagine how difficult that is for a child (as I was at the time) to comprehend? These are huge issues to be dealing with at primary school but I dealt with it every single day, probably until the day I left high school.
Without going into the demons of my childhood the important point to make here is that from an early age, and simply because I loved sports (a typically male past time), I was stereotyped as something I didn’t necessarily identify as. The stereotype I was labelled with had an enormous effect on my dress sense, the friends I kept, the way people spoke to me, the activities I took part in and so much more. It impacted most of the decisions I made in my young life. This is the exact reason why LGBT supporters groups and LGBT football clubs are completely justified and overwhelmingly necessary.
LGBT supporters groups and LGBT friendly football clubs stop the LGBT community from being the invisible minority at football grounds. There is no doubt that outdated, over exaggerated, inaccurate and stereotypical descriptors of ‘what it means to be gay’ or ‘what it means to be a man/woman’ is the root cause of LGBT prejudice at football grounds among football supporters. It is visibility, and the opportunity that it gives us to integrate, that will bring an end to foolish stereotypes and, most importantly, will allow us to connect on a level that isn’t based on perceived sexuality/gender.
Now I am not writing this in an attempt to attack football or my football club. I was just as proud as anyone, if not more so as a member of the LGBT community, the day Celtic unveiled a rainbow flag banner at Rugby Park. I was immensely proud sitting among friends, drinking a vodka in Blackfriar’s pub at Merchant City after marching in my first ever Pride March in Glasgow. On that day, I showed my colours for the first time, and so did my football club and it will forever fill me with joy. But why not have a lasting connection to the LGBT cause? We are, after-all, A CLUB OPEN TO ALL; let’s cement our vision. Having an LGBT Celtic supporters group is not divisive; it’s celebratory of the diverse football culture that we have sustained since 1887 when Brother Walfrid formed a football club to “encourage social integration”.
If Celtic, and more importantly my fellow supporters, had told me 10 years ago “Lindsay, you can be LGBT and out and proud” then I would have saved many years of painstaking misery.
We are Celtic Football Club; a club open to all. Let’s cement our vision; in a way that only the best fans in the World know how.
Proud Huddle C.S.C is the first ever Celtic LGBT Supporters Club. We are a club open to all.
Lindsay Hamilton is 23 years old and is from Glasgow in Scotland. She supports Celtic Football Club and plays as a midfielder for United Glasgow FC. Lindsay currently writes two sports blogs, namely Sports History & Culture and The Fitbaw Weekly. Lindsay is one of six founding members of Proud Huddle C.S.C.