A young inexperienced England Team crashes out of the 2014 World Cup, Mexican and Brazilian fans chant homophobic abuse, Croatian and Russian fans unfurl neo-Nazi banners and finger-licking FIFA are mired in accusations of palm-greasing over the staging of the 2022 competition in Qatar, a filthy rich absolute monarchy with no football tradition and summertime temperatures in the withering forties. And so, it’s business as usual for the beautiful game. Timely then, to re-post my 2012 piece from a happier time for British sport, Rainbow Sporting Heroes…
As Olympic fever goes into hyperdrive, I was thinking about homophobia in sport, particularly the beautiful game. Even though the likes of David Beckham are in touch with their feminine side and Eric Cantona is prone to writing a poetic line or two, there are no fairies in top flight football, apparently. Why is this, I wonder? Even rugby, the butchest of sports, has the wonderful Gareth Thomas quietly waving his rainbow flag. There was Justin Fashanu a few years back, of course, but his revelation led to excommunication by the soccer establishment, misery and his eventual suicide. It was a shameful episode. More…
Homophobia, like racism and other types of irrational prejudice, takes many forms – from the subtle to the violent, the barely perceptible to the deadly. It’s all around us and we are all guilty of it to a lesser or greater extent. But, it becomes farcical when those who never have and never will experience homophobia get to decide what it is and how it affects those who are its victims. I can think of no better rebuttal of this nonsense than the one delivered by Panti Bliss, an Irish drag queen following her controversial appearance on RTE, the Irish TV broadcaster. It’ caused quite a ruckus – deliciously called ‘Pantigate’. It’s no bad thing to get the bigots running scared. Here’s what the eminently sensible, gloriously eloquent Panti Bliss had to say on the subject:
Many moons ago, I nailed my colours to the mast about the scourge of homophobia, particularly hate crime and bullying in schools. I even banged on about it on the wireless when I did a My Pride Life gig on Future Radio. It still goes on, of course. Hardly a day passes when I don’t hear about some pond life picking on the defenceless. Mercifully, I’m not a lone voice in the wilderness. Who listens to me anyway? There are loads of splendid organisations, charities and talented individuals doing their bit. And, if the message of hope is blended with a little harmless titillation, then that gets my vote every time.
Cue the cute rowers from Warwick University stripping for the cause. Oh, to be the cox.
I thought I might take my clothes off in public to raise a few farthings for the cause but I fear people would only pay me to put them back on again.
Today is IDAHO Day. For the uninitiated, this stands for International Day Against Homophobia (not to be confused with a holiday in the 43rd State of the Union). On this day in 1990, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases. No longer were gay people officially categorised as sick and mentally disordered. IDAHO Day was conceived by the French academic and human rights activist, Louis-Georges Tin, with the aim to raise awareness about the plight of sexual minorities across the globe who live in daily fear of casual discrimination, systematic violence and state-sponsored murder. Some of us are fortunate to live in societies where attitudes have changed radically and where we are protected by a comprehensive body of law. Most are not so fortunate. This does not mean that mindless, sometimes violent, homophobia is no longer with us. Far from it. We must always be on our guard against the knee-jerkers and pond life who mean to do us harm. And we still have a long way to go to effectively eradicate transphobia. But, spare a thought for the brave souls in other lands whose very existence is a crime, where silence and denial are the only instruments of survival. Earlier this week, I had the honour to interview Eric Gitari, a human rights lawyer and activist in Kenya, on Future Radio’s Pride Live Show. Eric is helping to co-ordinate IDAHO Day in his own country and campaigns to abolish the draconian laws inherited from the British Raj. Believe me, his work is no walk in the park but Eric refuses to be silent. Today, ordinary people in many corners of the world will mark IDAHO Day publicly. However, some will do so in private and who can blame them? To be lynched from an olive tree or burned to death by a tyre necklace is nobody’s idea of a gay old time.
PS: The Kenyan Police banned the IDAHO march in Nairobi minutes before it was due to set off. No surprises then.
A Bodrum Belle of our acquaintance recently saw Zenne Dancer, a ground breaking indie movie about a male belly dancer. The film, which has won major awards in Turkey, was inspired by the true story of a Kurdish student who was gunned down by his own father for being openly and unrepentantly gay. As our Turkish remains lamentably poor, we’ll have to wait for the subtitled version before we get to see it.
The film caused quite a stir in the Turkish press and among the chattering classes (us included) – not all of which has been negative. Some of the debate was reported in the Guardian in an article called From Homophobia to a Moving Apology in Turkey*. This demonstrates that Turkey is indeed a complex web of paradoxes and contradictions. This conflict is also illustrated in From Diyarbakir with love: Kurdish, gay and proud, a Pink News article that talks of the double struggle for ethnic and sexual identity among the Kurdish LGBT community in South-east Turkey. Two steps forward, one step back.
*Thank you to Johnny Hogue for sending me this article.