Love and Soccer: A Queer Writer at Backline Soccer

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I’m gay.

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:


Threats 1

Threats 2


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.

 

5 thoughts on “Love and Soccer: A Queer Writer at Backline Soccer

  1. Obviously, people getting death threats is unacceptable and the fact that it happened at all is abhorrent. I want to say that off the top because I think it’s somewhere pretty much everyone can agree.

    That being said, I haven’t heard a single thing from anyone at Backline that has made me interested in giving the site anything close to a second chance. I understand that many members of your staff are members of the LGBT community. I understand your instinct to protect your writers. I understand why I, as a queer woman, should want media outlets with writers like me. But the fact remains, there are (pardon me) a metric fuckton of terrible takes made by woso journalists, and when these writers and outlets continue to make them, it does me no good as a consumer of this media if I can relate to the person that produced it.

    I honestly have no idea why I’m even writing this, because it’s already been spelled out for you dozens of times by people more eloquent than me. You write that you wish you had a magic wand that would end homophobia. I do too. In the absence of that, I will settle for making sure homophobia is not seen as an opinion or belief that should be given a platform or entertained as possibly defensible position in a free society. If we agree that, at its mildest, homophobia is a belief that people who are attracted to people of the same gender are somehow less human, or wrong, then the tolerance of that belief inherently undermines the opinions and lives of everyone in that category. I can’t sit here and have an intelligent debate on the issues if the position of the person I’m debating is that I shouldn’t exist, or that I should go to hell, or that violence perpetrated against me is the act of a just God.

    The Hinkle editorial positions Hinkle as someone who has misguided beliefs, but whose adherence to them is somehow noble. This is bad because it entertains the beliefs as if they are not dangerous. The article argues that Hinkle is made respectable by her lack of respect for us. Besides just being a stupid argument, it lends people with homophobic views respectability and it makes space in the woso community for people that hate us. As long as Backline continues to support that, they won’t have my support.

    1. I appreciate your feelings on the matter, and you make very good points.

      I’d like to invite you to write a piece for Backline Soccer on the topic, why it shouldn’t have been published. Because I can promise you that we share your opinion on the dangers of homophobia. Please consider the offer, because I am 100% serious about it.

  2. Honestly I disagree with many of your thoughts on soccer but I stand with you fully on this point. Humanity has lost its way and finding our way back starts with love not hate.

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