There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about why there aren’t more out athletes - in any sport, not just soccer. If one athlete in one of the “big” male sports declares that he’s gay, the thinking goes, the dam will burst and more athletes will feel comfortable being who they are in public as well as in private. That’s true, as far as it goes - and it’s a shame that more athletes don’t feel comfortable making such a declaration.
However, Dave Raval, the chairman of the Gay Gooners supporters group, is asking a different question, which is:
'when are the fans going to come out?' How can you expect one man, right in the middle of this pitch, surrounded by 60,000 people, to put his hand up and say, 'Hey, I'm the gay one,' when not a single other person has done so?"
Which is an excellent point. The Gay Gooners SG is both the first of its kind in England and the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, and a place where LGBT Arsenal fans can feel at home and included. More importantly, the group helps to create an environment where, for example, things like the gross “puto” chant don’t exist any more, and where people don’t use gender-based demeaning language when talking/singing/chanting about players; in short, a place where anyone who wants to go to a game can feel like they’re welcome.
Groups like Gay Gooners and the Proud Canaries, a Norwich City supporters group, have also done a lot of work at the national level, establishing presences at England games, which often feel like more intimidating events for LGBTQ folks than club games do. Several of the gay SG’s have established the Pride in Football Alliance, which has worked pretty closely with the FA:
"The FA have given us tickets [to England national team games]," says Cunningham. "We go to games in groups and take pictures outside, and then you have this mass of LGBT people sitting together." Sitting in a group at a game both provides a feeling of safety to fans who might otherwise otherwise be nervous to attend, and helps make queer fans visible. Di Cunningham, of the Proud Canaries, said:
"The FA have given us tickets [to England national team games]," says Cunningham. "We go to games in groups and take pictures outside, and then you have this mass of LGBT people sitting together." Sitting in a group at a game both provides a feeling of safety to fans who might otherwise otherwise be nervous to attend, and helps make queer fans visible.
I’m really happy that Gay Gooners exists, that they’re so large, and that they’re working with other LGBTQ supporter groups to make football an inclusive place for any fan that wants to be a part of it. You can read a ton more about Gay Gooners and the other groups and their work here, and I would strongly encourage you to do so.