Homophobia: Through the eyes of those who experience it

During pride month, I’ve seen a lot of comment on how homophobia “doesn’t exist these days”, and that businesses like football clubs should “stay out” of what these people called “politics”.

Supporting minority and underrepresented groups is not a political issue, it’s a human one. It’s about saying “we accept you, we consider you as an equal, and we will not allow discrimination”. Equality is not about left wing or right wing; it’s about morals and compassion.

Below are some comments from people who have shared with me their experiences, which show that we really do have a long way to go. This is a tiny snippet of the struggles people face. Due to the nature of the issue, some contributors wished to remain anonymous:

Last season, the bloke who sits two down from me took exception to the opposition falling over a lot under tough villa tackles. At the top of his voice he bellowed “what are you…a bunch of f***ing faggots?!”. Instinctively, I glared at him. I wish I had said something now but silence fell in our little area of the Doug Ellis, and a few others looked at him quite shocked which restored some faith. His wife whispered something to him and he kept his mouth shut for the rest of the game. Usually a friendly enough bloke but just an example of how this language was just instinctive and probably is for quite a few. Not something that makes you want to wave your lgbt flag about. Not directly discriminated against but felt strange… the rest of that day. It was definitely on my mind. –Anonymous

Reported incidents of homophobia at football are increasing

During the game against Watford the fan who sits one seat over from me spent the entire first half shouting at individual players calling them “faggot” “poof” or “f***ing gay boys”. The guy had been doing it all year but the level of homophobia had ramped up significantly to the point where it was totally unnaceptable. After the game I spoke to a steward about this. I wasn’t sure about mentioning it at first, but I am so glad I did. I was very proud of the response from the club, as I was called the next day by someone at villa, who got the ball rolling with getting this guy banned until he had to go to the club in person and attend a meeting to explain his actions. Also, I’ve seen the response on Facebook to villas support of pride month and it genuinely makes me dispair that people would think celebrating equality is a bad thing. – Joey Fitz

I’ve been fortunate enough not to personally experience homophobia at the football, but seeing people claim it doesn’t really exist in society any more is unbelievable to me. Every time any organisation, including our club, posts anything pride/ LGBT related, there are homophobic responses. I don’t think many people, even progressive people, quite understand how much these comments and slurs can damage LGBT people. Especially those who aren’t fully comfortable in themselves. In my opinion, it contributes a lot to the high mental illness and suicide rates in the LGBT community.

Homophobia still exists, and is more prevalent than people will admit. I’ve personally been verbally and physically assaulted for being gay, and even lost friends and family over it. Theres a lot more that needs to be done. – Anonymous

More crimes are being reported: but action is not being taken

As a gay fan, I have to put on another identity. I have to go there without showing any signals that show that I’m gay. You hear words like poof and queer being thrown around, you begin to feel uncomfortable, and when you’re in a crowd of thousands, you can feel quite isolated. You feel suddenly like this entire environment that should be happy and safe for you comes crashing down and collapsing. – AEC Media: Can football truly be everyone’s game?

I’ve been lucky never to experience much homophobia in my career working in football, but sadly the one and only time I have done, it hit me harder. That’s because it came from a fellow fan of my club, a club that had always supported me and had always given me the freedom to be myself in a working environment. As the club’s press officer I was often the face of the club, but it was more than that. I was also a fan. I still am and had been for years before my job there. My final day at the club was meant to be a memorable one – celebrating my achievements working there whilst looking forward to pastures new – but unfortunately it ended on a sour note. Everyone knew it was me who did the club’s social media, and it was fair to say I was often spoken to directly via the club’s account. At full time on my final game, I tweeted the full time result alongside a sentence saying we were unfortunate to lose. This is when a fellow fan, someone I knew, sent the following: “Shut up Craig you absolutely bender.”

A joke or not, this got to me. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard this particular individual use homophobic language but I’d never expected it to be aimed towards me. He was meant to be a fellow fan. Clearly that didn’t matter. It upset me more than it should, simply because it was emotional day for me and I never expected it to come from someone who was part of my extended “family.” The club came down hard on him and he was given a temporary ban for the rest of the season, which is an action I was pleased with. Big or small, homophobia can really have a huge effect on people, and I’m thankful that it was condemned in the right way. It’s a problem football will always have, and it’s something football has to be ashamed of. – Craig Bratt

Although many think legal equality exists, this isn’t the case. For example, sexually active Gay men cannot give blood.

I am a straight 38 year old man, but I have suffered homophobia for as long as I can remember, and sometimes derogatory comments relating to sexuality.bAt 8 years old I was playing in goal (I was a winger but nobody else was brave enough to do it). 20 mins in a hard shot bent my fingers back. The coach came on and asked if I was ok. I said my hand was poorly but I could play outfield…I scored a hat-trick. My mam called me a fu**ing puff for not staying in goal.

Turned out I’d broken my hand. Moving on to adulthood, I receive homophobic abuse 5-10 times a week online and 3-5 times a week in real life. I have learned to live with this and shrug it off or whatever you want to call it, but I’m not gay. I can’t imagine what those in the LGBT community put up with. People I meet, people I am close to, my relatives, can’t understand why I receive this abuse and neither can I. But that’s not the problem. I imagine that it is a very small fraction of what the LGBT community face. We need to change attitudes and change feelings. The haters need to become the hated. It’s time for change. –Anonymous

The existence of homophobia, in football and wider society, cannot be denied. We must all strive for a society where everyone feels safe. It’s not political: it’s human.

5 thoughts on “Homophobia: Through the eyes of those who experience it

  1. Proud of you, proud of all our tolerant, respectful, loyal Villa family. I don’t feel shame or hate towards those who can’t accept our differences, though. I feel pity for them. I want to teach them. We all bleed the same colour, we all hurt, we all love, we all think of Villa Park as home. And when we’re at home, we deserve to be treated properly. Keep fighting the good fight, brother ✊

  2. Really interesting stuff, Tom, & thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences. Homophobia is still out there & is visible on social media every Rainbow Laces weekend, every time a club embraces rainbow colours for Pride Month – just whenever the subject is ever raised. It’s a slow process but I like to think it’s getting better but also despair a little when I think back to being asked in 2007, when do I think the 1st gay professional player will come out on the English League. 13 years later & still no one feels comfortable enough to do so. If homophobia no longer exists in football, why is that? We’ve still a way to go but we’ll keep fighting til it’s gone for good. Kev Rowe

  3. P.S. I forgot to specify 1st male professional footballer to come out. It seems the women can actually handle it like adults! 👏👏👏

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