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13th Jul, 2022

There's nothing wrong with being a lesbian

Kick It Out trustee Chris Paouros responds to Owen Slot's recent Times article.

In his concurring opinion to the ruling on Roe v Wade, Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas said “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,”…

Griswold is about contraception, Lawrence about homosexuality and Obergefell about equal marriage.  Make no mistake. They’re coming for us all. 

You might be thinking, ‘But that’s America!’ which is a fair point, until you glance at the battle lines currently being drawn in the Conservative Party leadership election.

In a country where we have the deepest cost of living crisis for generations and a pandemic that is reigniting a severe threat to both public health and our health care system, the fact that rolling back Trans rights is so high on the agenda illustrates that we are not far behind.  

And that’s why I found Owen Slot’s Times article on Saturday so alarming.

On the face of it, it’s an inclusive piece about lesbians in the Women’s game.

And although it finishes strongly, in the middle it asks what it frames as a reasonable question: “Will celebrating the fact that your sport is so inclusive potentially alienate young women who may be questioning whether they can find a place in a sport associated with lesbians?"

It concerned me for several reasons:

  • There’s nothing wrong with being a lesbian.
  • The question was buried in a ‘positive’ piece which gives it legitimacy.
  • It adds fuel to the ‘ideology’ wars that are raging around trans rights. Like being trans, being a lesbian isn’t an ideology; it’s who we are; playing football isn’t going to make anyone ‘catch’ lesbianism. 
  • We don’t know how many lesbians there are in the women’s game; yes, there are probably more lesbians in women’s football than other walks of life, due to societal gender norms and the way football is seen as a man’s game. But do we make up the majority of players? Unlikely, yet it’s presented as fact.
  • We have built a more inclusive game and that should be celebrated not denigrated.
  • This feels like another way to police women and our bodies; it’s about gender norms rather than sexual orientation. Women’s physicality is being questioned as women footballers often confound the constructs of so-called ‘femininity’, and because that threat is real, shouting ‘lesbian’ can limit that desire for physicality. At 14, girls are twice as likely to drop out of sports than boys.

It’s great that women’s football can be a safe place to be out, but it doesn’t mean everyone is a lesbian and if they are; I’d ask you to consider why that’s a threat?  

Let’s also not forget that women’s football was banned for fifty years and confined to the margins.

Would it be so surprising then if women on the margins of society itself were the champions of the sport during this time?

Now women’s football is being mainstreamed, let’s not start to question the women who have worked with little acclaim to grow the sport for years. 

Women footballers have been getting on with being themselves, whoever they are, for years and we know that being your authentic self ‘at work’ means you perform better.

Now there is a spotlight on the women’s game, we have to be careful that we don’t let it fuel lesbophobia. Let’s just get on with building a joyful, inclusive and successful game.

You never know, we might even win something!