The Gay Sports Report: Why are we cool with lesbians playing football unlike with gay men?

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 coming to a close in Canada, the consensus seems to be that this has been a good tournament.

However one of the things that has struck me about this Women’s World Cup has been that this has probably been the world’s biggest sporting event where lesbian and bisexual players have not only been accepted but celebrated.

As part of their pre-tournament coverage, Gay Star News (an international news service focusing on LGBTI stories) counted 14 openly gay or bisexual women who would be playing at the Women’s World Cup 2015.

These were:

  • Nadine Angerer from Germany;
  • Lisa Dahlkvist from Sweden;
  • Katie Duncan from New Zealand;
  • Nilla Fischer from Sweden;
  • Isabell Herlovsen from Norway;
  • Michelle Heyman from Australia;
  • Hedvig Lindahl from Sweden;
  • Erin McLeod from Canada;
  • Megan Rapinoe from the United States;
  • Trine Ronning from Norway;
  • Lianne Sanderson from England;
  • Caroline Seger from Sweden;
  • Casey Stoney from England; and
  • Abby Wambach from the United States.

You can also add to that list Ramona Bachmann from Switzerland who subsequently confirmed that she was in a relationship with a woman.

While you would expect the gay press to be focusing on the lesbian and bisexual players competing at the tournament, what surprised me was the coverage from the Daily Mail in the UK. The Daily Mail isn’t renowned for its balanced or sensitive reporting, but in its preview of the Women’s World Cup 2015 it offered a round-up of the HABS and WAGS who would be there supporting the players. There were no bad-taste headlines or homophobic puns, it was just simply presented as here are some of the players to watch out for and here are their partners who will be there to support them – some of them are guys, some of them are women.

The obvious response is that this seems all very grown up and sensible. We know that a proportion of the population are lesbian or bisexual, and to a certain extent you would expect any event to reflect the makeup of the wider population. It’s no big deal.

What makes it interesting is when you compare what we’re seeing in the Women’s World Cup to what we see in the men’s competition. The gay players are either pretending to be invisible, or for some reason footballers that are gay are not making it to the elite levels of the game.


Does it matter?

It’s undeniable that some of the best players at the Women’s World Cup 2015 are lesbian or bisexual. From a football purist’s point of view, you would have to wonder if the game is perhaps missing something by not recognising and celebrating gay players. If elite players are gay and being forced for whatever reason to be invisible, would they actually be better players if they could confidently be themselves? Are there talented gay players who for some reason are not making it to the elite levels of the game?

What are we missing by not being mature enough to recognise and celebrate diversity of sexuality in the way that the women’s game seems to have mastered?

Football isn’t an equal opportunity sport, but football needs elite athletes who can perform at their absolute best. It seems that we haven’t quite worked out how to help gay footballers to realise their full potential. If we can figure that out, it’s the game of football that will benefit.


Written by Gareth Johnson

Follow Gareth on Twitter @GTV_Champion

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