A lot of us would not realise the importance of the month before us. For many of us it is merely February, the month of love perhaps, with many people buying gifts for the people in their lives that they love. But for a lot of people, February is not merely the month of Valentine’s day, but the month that signifies a huge part of their individual identities, a month that signifies changes in society that allow them to love whomever they want to love and be whoever they want to be. Of course, its LGBT+ history month, a month to celebrate the massive steps that society has made to accept that love has no heterosexual boundary, that gender isn’t just male or female, that people are more than who they are and who they love.
We can often be mistaken to think that individuals of the LGBT+ society don’t suffer social injutices any more; society has evolved in such a way that many of us don’t even think twice about those who may differ from ourselves in whichever way they feel. Because most of us can open our minds to the differences between individuals of our society, quite often we forget the struggles that many of our friends, colleagues, family members or idols may face.
A lot of you will be interested in football, and quite rightly so it, it is often named ‘The Beautiful Game’, it brings joy to many people’s lives, it brings people together, and it works at improving fitness in young children as well as providing opportunities for young children to further their footballing skills. It has many positives, but football is also deeply flawed. The animosity between teams can often even cause physical injury, but more commonly than that, football fans not only taunt one another, but the 22 players on the pitch. Football is known for its imposed, even toxic, heterosexuality.
Present is the assumption that every man on the pitch is going to have a ‘wife’ waiting for him after the game, and as there are no openly gay players in the top 3 tiers of English male football, you could be right to assume that the players are simply playing up to expectations.
But why? These players could move the entire game forward, they could inspire children to be who they want to be and to have no shame in who they are, so why don’t these players come out? Why do they hold their identity back? Most famously, Justin Fashnu came out and 8 years later he committed suicide. Fashnu, the first black player to demand a £1 million transfer fee, a skilful player of the game, yet he feared that due to his sexuality, he would not be treated fairly in court. This was only 21 years ago, and since, no more gay players have come to the public eye.
But this marginalisation doesn’t stop at football, or sport in general. Marginalisation of the LGBT+ community is also a huge problem in the mainstream media. When Olympic gold medallist Tom Daley married his husband Dustin, The Sun reported the story with the word ‘marry’ portrayed in inverted commas, suggesting that the event was not as legitimate as a heterosexual relationship. Most recently, the Big Brother winner, Cameron Cole, came out as gay on national television when before he had only revealed his homosexuality to a handful of people.
At 19 years of age, the same age as many of us reading this, he was receiving abusive messages on the internet, phone calls, text messages as well as intimidating and upsetting face to face interaction, really impacting on his daily life. The media has always been a starting point for LGBT+ issues, for example the rise of homosexual musicians, David Bowie, George Michael, Freddie Mercury, all individuals who changed the face of their art, and made incredible changes for the LGBT+ community, yet all faced backlash from the worldwide media. Even when George Michael had passed away, the homophobic remarks did not end, the tabloids were eager to suggest that his partner Fadi Fawaz was a possible reason for his death, even though the police had already cleared his name. The mass media needs to change before societal views can continue to move forward in the right direction.
It can be hard to spot if the issues don’t directly affect your life, if you don’t suffer daily from societal views that don’t allow you to freely love who you want to love and to be who you want to be without limits. But with the barriers of societal prejudice and misconceptions, it is simply not that easy. Despite many of us believing that society has moved forward, both media and sport, as well as many other examples of where LGBT+ is given a negative image, rather than something to embrace and to be proud of.