Richard Mellor isn’t your typical football fan. He hides a dark and shameful secret. One which has made him an outcast for much of his life. Richard is a Huddersfield Town supporter. He also happens to be gay and here he gives his personal insight into our Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign.
by Richard Mellor
As a gay football fan I was intrigued to see how the RBGF campaign by Stonewall and Paddy Power had gone down with the ‘ordinary’ fan-on-the-street. Like all foolish people, I took to the internet and found I had to challenge some of the assumptions I found.
I rarely visit the online forums for my football team Huddersfield Town, it’s bad enough watching the heavy defeats without having to discuss them for days. But this weekend I wanted to gauge how the Right Behind Gay Footballers campaign had gone down with supporters.
Reading the thread I was filled with a mixture of pride and disbelief. Pride that the campaign has got people discussing homosexuality and disbelief that there were so many saying gay people aren’t discriminated against anymore. Many of them went on to spout the usual slurs and generalisations.
So I decided to write a post to explain why as a gay Huddersfield Town supporter I thought RBGF was valuable. I didn’t want to start telling people off over what can often be homophobic comments meant without hurtful intentions; that would have only detracted from the point I wanted to make. This blog post is a redrafted version of that post, now unhelpfully taken down.
I’m two months shy of my 25th birthday. For a long time I struggled with my sexuality. I knew that I was attracted to men, but to be gay meant I had to be camp and effeminate, didn’t it? I like football, I play sport, I don’t like rom-coms or fashion. So obviously I wasn’t gay…
There has been for a long time very few people in the public eye who are both gay and not stereotypically so. This does two things: firstly, it means that stereotypes get perpetuated. Secondly, it means that people like me who are struggling to understand themselves have no one to draw parallels with.
I didn’t accept being gay till I was 23, I was almost 24 before I acted upon it. I missed out on so much because I was confused, afraid and had no role models to look up to.
Until you have to do it yourself, you will have no idea how hard it is to ‘come out’. When I told my parents they went apeshit. I didn’t speak to them for 2 months. But in that time I received some deeply dark and offensive emails from my Dad. So really don’t say, because we’ve got legal rights and can get married, that gay people don’t suffer. We do.
Now to the campaign itself:
Firstly, there’s been some criticism (see Football vs Homophobia’s comment) of the language used in slogans etc – it’s deliberately controversial to provoke discussion, self-deprecating humour, who doesn’t love a double entendre?
The laces – they’re just a vehicle for the campaign, it doesn’t matter that they’re not visible from Row Z. Everyone’s done the pre-match T-shirts to death. It would just become ‘another’ T-shirt campaign. Who cares if people can’t see them, it’s the thought that counts. And the discussion and media coverage they’ve created.
Is football homophobic? Probably not explicitly. But it does attract people who are more likely to propagate stereotypes (as was born witness on that forum); football fans are less likely to be Guardian-reading, liberal types and may not have gay friends and not understand the difficulties gay people face (as I’ve highlighted here); and it is a much more laddish, macho-cultured arena than everyday society, where it is even harder for people to come out.
And when we talk about people coming out, whilst the campaign explicitly talks about footballers, it’s also about the supporters who are afraid they won’t be accepted by their friends anymore. If you joke about Brighton fans or players being ‘poofters’ or ‘batty boys’, imagine how that would make your mate who’s ‘in the closet ‘ feel – he’s never going to feel safe or comfortable coming out.
The campaign is not the only solution. But it’s prompted a healthy discussion, and encourages people like me and others who aren’t gay to challenge accepted behaviours.
It’s not about political correctness, it’s about people’s lives. If more footballers had been ‘out’, I may have felt more comfortable in being so too at age 16 or 17.
The post prompted some really supportive messages, and hopefully put some context to the campaign. It also generated, ironically, some homophobic abuse, but it’s the internet and it’s easy to hide behind a keyboard. I’d really encourage others supporting the RBGF campaign to visit their team’s forum and challenge some accepted behaviours. Only by discussing this can we solve it.
I’m happy to discuss this further with anyone, you can find me on Twitter @RichfromtheHudd.
Oh and finally, for those worried gay people want to bum you, don’t fret, some of you are f*%#ing ugly…