I’m a big fat lesbian.
Before anyone misinterprets who I am or what I’m about to say, know that.
Earlier this year, a member of Backline Soccer’s staff wrote an opinion piece about Jaelene Hinkle. The article was neither supportive of Hinkle’s views nor homophobic. It was immediately received as such, though, and knowing what a light trigger some communities of US women’s soccer fans have about Hinkle, some members of staff and I did express hesitation about publishing it.
But we value our writers’ opinions, and we value their work. Our writer had something she wanted to say, and we support her. We continue to support her.
The backlash has been interesting, coming and going in waves. Now, every time someone doesn’t like what a member of staff says in an article or on one of our social media accounts, they’ll throw “homophobic” at us, or re-share that piece, reigniting the conflict they see in it.
But what was actually in that piece?
What was actually expressed?
One of our writers explained that having been raised in a conservative Christian household herself, she could understand how Hinkle had come to believe what has been inferred from her social media posts. She could put herself in Hinkle’s shoes because she had once been in them herself. She knows the growth and the journey it takes to become an open-minded person who accepts and celebrates people of all identities into her life. Because she has taken that journey herself.
Our writer then said she didn’t support Hinkle’s beliefs but believed that in certain ways, with certain criteria, she could respect Hinkle: her skill as a football player, her dedication to her sport, and the part that most of you seem to have misunderstood, her loyalty to her convictions. Not her convictions, but how strongly she believes in them. To our writer, that is admirable.
This, from what I can tell, is what people have objected to and misinterpreted. I get that. When Hinkle was mysteriously absent in Europe, I ugly-laughed (the ugly-side of me did, anyway, the side that is small and bitter and petty; the side I’m never proud of). Because as an out and proud queer woman, I’m pretty much not a fan of those who don’t believe I should be able to live as I live and love as I love. And the thing is, we would never ask anyone to respect someone or something that goes against their own convictions.
The sad fact of life is that there are people in the nation who believe that LGBTQIA+ folk don’t deserve equal rights or respect or even human decency. They exist, and would that I could, I’d wave my magic wand and change that, make the world a better place for all of us. But it seems that I was probably daydreaming when the announcement for wand distribution went out because I still don’t have one.
What I have, and what our writer was trying to get at, is a love of soccer. An international sport that transcends boundaries, languages, political ideologies, and all of the things that get in the way of human beings loving and celebrating each other.
Soccer is a common ground where people come together. We’ve all seen the pictures–the young boys comforting a grown man after their team won against his, the child in Afghanistan whose homemade Messi jersey made us all “awww” a little (or a lot) on the inside. Soccer, football, our love for it, it makes the world smaller. It makes friends of strangers.
And this was our writer’s purpose, to remind us of the power of soccer.
We live in a time unimaginable once. When there are men and women who are willing and able to come out as LGBTQIA+ publicly and live openly. They are role models and inspirational and heroes, all of them. Every time an athlete takes that brave step (every time anyone takes that brave step) a big gay rainbow sparkles inside my heart. And though the world is becoming more and more open, more and more accepting, there is still work to be done. Our world isn’t finished yet.
And neither is our work.
I could tell you the percentage of Backline Soccer members who identify as LGBTQIA+, but for those who have already made up their minds that we’re homophobic, that we believe in injustice and inequality, I don’t think it would matter.
I could tell you that the writer of the article, the editor, haven’t a homophobic bone in their bodies, but those who have already made up their minds wouldn’t care.
What I can tell you is this.
We love soccer. We love soccer fans. We love what we do.
We don’t ask that anyone agree with us. We encourage debate–with our articles, with our opinions.
Because we want Women’s Soccer to grow. And we know it’s a platform for change, for progress.
Because we love the beautiful game.
Which is why we need to talk about this:
This was sent to a member of our staff today, on her personal account.
I don’t care what you believe. I don’t care what you think.
This is unacceptable.
The kind of person who does this doesn’t get to call themselves a fan of the beautiful game. Bullying isn’t a strong enough word for what this is, but whatever you call it, whoever sent it should take a step back and think long and hard about what kind of person they want to be in this world.
Take it from me, this kind of negativity, this kind of hatred? It’s a poison.
In the end, I can’t change your mind, no more than I could change Hinkle’s. But I wish I could.
But if you’re going to spread that kind of hatred around? If there’s something that dark inside of you?
Send your poison my way.
I can take it.