Celtic, a club open to all? | Acceptance over tolerance

This article is from the 8th edition of The Cynical, our free online magazine.

 

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Earlier this year Lindsay Hamilton was one of the founders of Proud Huddle CSC, the first organised group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Celtic fans. In this article she explains why LGBT football supporter groups are necessarily and why Celtic and its fans should go beyond tolerance and work towards achieving acceptance for the LGBT community.

 

REPRESENTATION: It’s so important

As a female football fan, I have always been very aware, from as young as the age of 4, of the lack of female coverage, female pundits, female fans, and female officials – and I’m only now able to watch women’s football regularly being shown on television. Growing up within this seemingly non-female football culture made me think I was the only football-mad girl in the world.

The consequences of this lack of representation made me feel isolated, like I didn’t belong, and I felt like I was the weird lassie in the school playground who’d rather kick a ball than play house or skip rope. It has been a long struggle for women to increase female representation in the game and, despite it being an ongoing struggle, women in football are well ahead of the game compared to LGBT representation.

This in itself underlines the significance of LGBT supporters’ groups. When we don’t have representation on the field we have to look within ourselves to influence change and encourage growth. Not having LGBT representation, role models and as an LGBT person simply not feeling safe, can result in many damaging consequences.

There is a big debate in the LGBT community about a male footballer coming out publicly but I’m not actively encouraging that. I believe that a male player coming out as gay, bisexual or transgender should do so as a result of mass acceptance within society and I wouldn’t want them to be booed,  jeered, or even worse; beaten up and shunned because the LGBT community have forced him out of the closet.

The culture of homophobic abuse on the terrace has to be put to an end before a player puts his reputation, life and family name on the line. Remember Justin Fashanu. It should be a decision made in reflection of a society that has changed for the better; a society that accepts all genders and sexualities across the spectrum.

 

LGBT SUPPORTERS’ GROUPS: Normalising the invisible minority

LGBT supporters’ groups and LGBT-friendly football clubs are what stop the community from being the invisible minority at football grounds. There is no doubt that outdated, overexaggerated, inaccurate and stereotypical descriptors of ‘what it means to be gay’ or ‘what it means to be a man/woman’ are the root cause of LGBT prejudice at football grounds among 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 and/or gender.

There is a reason football fans in England chant “Brighton take it up the bum” when visiting Falmer Stadium and why “we can see you holding hands” is sung as a slur across many English Premier League grounds. Being gay is synonymous with inferiority, and it’s synonymous because large portions of the British population have an unreliable and flawed understanding of LGBT people; their role in society, occupations, lifestyle and overall value. I don’t think the problem in Scotland is as large-scale as it is in England. I personally have never heard large groups of supporters shouting homophobic chants or abuse at Scottish football grounds, but I have certainly heard homophobic language being used to abuse players, referees and opposition fans.

 

LANGUAGE: Ye have a guid Scotch tongue in yer’ heid, use it!

Don’t get me wrong, I honestly believe many people shout these things at managers, players, officials and opposition fans, not because they are homophobic, but because of the close associations these homophobic slurs have to words that define weakness, softness and feebleness. These are words that a typical footballer, football manager, official or indeed a football fan (male or female in every role) would not wish to be branded with. I’m not naïve enough to think that everyone that uses such language is homophobic and hates LGBT people. But it is not okay for anyone to use homophobic language within a football ground or indeed in any walk of life. It is time to adapt our language. Homophobic slurs are no longer acceptable whether you dislike the LGBT community or not.

If an opposition player falls like a sack of spuds, diving in every which way to deceive the referee, call him a ‘prick’, call him a ‘diving bastard’, call him an ‘arsehole’, but don’t call him a ‘poof’ or a ‘bender’ or an ‘arse bandit’. These terms are being used in the same way that ‘nigger’, ‘spaz’ and ’chinky’ have been widely used in the past; in a derogatory, demeaning and disparaging manner towards communities that have been made to feel subordinate, inferior and/or unwelcome in British society over many decades.  ‘Nigger’, ‘spaz’ and ‘chinky’ are no longer in such popular use and we should be thankful for that. So why is ‘poof’ the exception?

 

THE HORRIBLE STATISTICS: The results of homophobic ‘banter’

For anyone who wishes to label this as banter, please let me correct you. The definition of banter is a “playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks”; it’s mickey taking to the highest order and I’m all for it. But banter comes with boundaries. We know our friends have boundaries and we know our own boundaries. The difference between banter and abuse is when you cross that line. Let me be clear: using homophobic language in a derogatory or aggressive way as a heterosexual person, or as an LGBT person, is not banter.

Men are attempting to take their own lives because they are gay, and they are doing this at an increasing rate. I’m going to repeat that so it sinks in. People are committing suicide because they can’t live with the perceived shame of being homosexual, bisexual and/or transgender. Children are skipping school to avoid being bullied for their sexual orientation and/or gender identity; Stonewall’s recent School Report indicated that 48% of LGBT pupils are being bullied in Scotland alone. As much as 20% of Scotland’s LGBT community have experienced a hate crime due to their sexual orientation over the past year.

And here’s the one for those that say LGBT supporters’ groups and LGBT-friendly football teams are ‘not necessary’ in British football:

“More than six in ten (63 per cent) gay and bisexual men and just under four in ten (38 per cent) lesbians and bisexual women expect to experience homophobia if they take part in a team sport and are open about their sexual orientation.”

– Gay in Britain (2013), YouGov survey.

‘Banter’ is the reason LGBT football fans are seeking refuge in the stands by setting up LGBT supporters’ groups. But please know that we are doing this for somebody else too: those who hold stereotypical views of what it means to be queer.

These supporters’ groups setting up all over Scotland, and the UK, want to put an end to misinterpretations and presumptions. The hope is that once you judge someone based on their character alone you will understand why judging them on other stereotypical presumptions were wrong.  Until LGBT people have representation and visibility within football grounds, then inaccurate stereotypes cannot be challenged, and so continues the prejudice that we have experienced since the dawn of time.

 

TOLERANCE: THE UNWANTED BUZZWORD

Tolerance is the term that I wish would fall off the face of the Earth. Given the severity of the consequences of homophobic abuse and language, I really want to focus some attention on the difference between the acceptance of LGBT people and tolerating the same group. Celtic Football Club and its faithful supporters have long claimed the club to be a community open to all.

Let’s be clear: a club open to all cannot be open to intolerance. Furthermore, it should not be open to tolerance either. Allow me to explain.

Tolerance is something you give to your racist uncle at the family Christmas party because he’s your Mum’s brother, he bought you a nice gift, he’s a bit drunk and he’ll be leaving the house by the back of 9.

Tolerance is how you might treat your sexist boss at the Christmas work party because he’s in charge of the drink vouchers and you don’t really care what he thinks anyway.

Tolerance is not saying what you think because you are trying to be polite to the wee auld pensioner on the bus who’s telling you the ‘paki’s are taking all the jobs and the houses’.

Tolerance is not acceptance. If any of the above situations occur in your day-to-day life, then you absolutely should be working to challenge these views/ opinions.

Acceptance is the only way to fight against division, while tolerance is merely another route to it. I can fully appreciate that fighting against intolerance is a positive and necessary step in society but given the huge strides that the LGBT community have made in Scotland (even in my own young life at the age of 23), it’s time we push for acceptance of the LGBT community and all other discriminated-against minority groups within society.

Law, politics, media, sports and many other facets of life have progressed since the days of old. I no longer have time for tolerance, it’s time to be accepting of the human race in all its glorious form; no matter complexion, creed, nationality, sexuality, gender, disability, class or ethnicity.

 

A CLUB OPEN TO ALL: Drop the discriminatory opinions and Celtic will truly be one.

‘A Club Open to All’. This well-versed, commonplace club statement, worn as a medal by the Celtic faithful, cannot exist as a platitude. This ethos behind the statement needs to be pursued, it must be practiced and, importantly, it should be accurate.

We have to accept that ALL means ALL, while acknowledging that discriminatory opinions cannot play a part in this sentiment. How can they? Let’s call it what it is. If you use someone’s sexuality, class, gender, race, religious background, disability and/or ethnicity to exclude, oppress, abuse and/or mistreat a person, then you are a bigot.

When forming Proud Huddle CSC, I was asked many times about ‘the Catholic element’. That wasn’t my term, but it was genuinely used when asking me if Catholicism had impacted my decision to help co-found the first LGBT Celtic supporters group.

I am a Catholic and I am bi-sexual. Can the two co-exist? Well I suppose, proven by my own existence, that yes, they can. However, I do know that the church doesn’t yet accept gay marriage.

I also know that the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has been incredibly accepting of homosexuality. In May this year the Vatican released official documents that stated the term ‘LGBT’ for the first time, in place of the commonly used ‘homosexual’ or ‘homosexual inclinations’, traditionally used to describe the LGBT population. It was a sign of great respect and a move in the right direction in the treatment of LGBT Catholics such as myself. If the Vatican and the Pope himself can adapt, then there is no reason why both Catholicism and the LGBT community cannot co-exist. If you’re a Celtic fan and your Catholic faith is important to you, please look to your leader; he is your example and he is showing you the way.

To my mind Catholicism is about love, compassion and forgiveness; that’s my very basic understanding from many years playing the guitar in the Church band (we were fucking awesome). My Nana, God love her, often tells me I don’t let God into my life anymore because I don’t attend weekly mass as I used to. But I must say I’ve never felt closer to the teachings of the Catholic Church (my understanding of them anyway) than through my work with Proud Huddle and United Glasgow FC (the team I play for).

Both organisations were set up to show acceptance, compassion and love to communities who are often discarded and undesirable in British society. In many ways, I feel I am doing God’s work. I am laughing while I’m writing this and it’s all being written in good humour. However, there is also a serious message in that I am doing all of the positive things that the Catholic Church told me to do in my formative years. Yet I cannot be married to a woman, if I so desire, in my local Chapel. I must say there is something incredibly sad and hypocritical about that. If you wish to use God to justify your own prejudice, then you’re doing your religion an injustice.

Many people pass judgment about the Proud Huddle CSC and believe that LGBT supporters’ groups are unnecessary at football clubs and grounds all over the world, even at Celtic Park. I was so proud the day Celtic unveiled a rainbow flag banner at Rugby Park last year. I was immensely proud sitting among friends, drinking a vodka in Blackfriars 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? 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.

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.

 

This article is from the 8th edition of The Cynical, our free online magazine.

 

DOWNLOAD THE CYNICAL HERE:

EPUB FORMAT  (great for iBooks and other e-readers)

PDF FORMAT


Lindsay is a Celtic season ticket holder, plays fitba’ for United Glasgow FC (at least she tries), is a tour guide at the Scottish Football Museum and one of six founding members of Proud Huddle C.S.C. Lindsay is an unapologetic stadium hopper and is completely incapable of visiting a new city without checking out the local sports ground. She is an avid writer and football blogger, you can find her work here. You can also follow her on Twitter @LindsayH19.


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