I’ve not always been proud of Charlton over the past two years or so. Always a proud supporter, but sometimes disillusionment, apathy or embarrassment have taken over.
This week, however, I should be feeling incredibly proud. The club’s decision to promote the newly formed Proud Valiants LGBT fans’ group is an excellent one, and I’m certainly proud to support a club willing to actively offer its support to such a group.
Alas, I’m not. Instead, I’m angry, disappointed and baffled by elements of the reaction to both the group forming and Charlton’s acknowledgement of it.
In truth, some of that anger has been quelled. The way the club dealt with the now banned supporter for his foul Tweets, the worst of which have been deleted, reaffirmed the earlier feeling of pride, while almost every supporter I converse with is supportive.
Nonetheless, the reaction, in parts, has been incredibly depressing. A search of the hashtag will show incredible ignorance, a read of the comments on Charlton’s Facebook page will leave you infuriated, and I’ve opted not to check the debate on CharltonLife.
I wouldn’t bother doing this if it was just a couple of supporters being a bit ignorant. I’ve got exams to worry about, a flat to find, and the County Championship is taken up most of my sporting attention.
But that more than just a handful are expressing extreme levels of ignorance, and in some cases hate, means I feel like I must express my disappointment.
Wasting far too much time staring at photos of Yann Kermorgant aside, I’m not gay. But I couldn’t possibly feel any stronger about the need for complete equality for those who are LGBT. In football or otherwise.
In fact, despite not being gay, my support of LGBT individuals has meant I’ve suffered from homophobic abuse in a football environment.
While officiating an U16 League Cup semi-final this year, the rainbow laces that I wear on my boots all year round were spotted by a group of parents on the touchline. It sparked a prolonged and quite intense period of abuse, split between the sort of stuff you’d hear on a playground by 12-year-olds thinking they’re hilarious and really quite nasty comments to the extent that, were it not for my old man loitering behind them, I’d have felt threatened.
Such comments were justified because, apparently, by wearing the laces I was “inviting” it, and, in the view of the team’s manager, the parents were “not like that”.
I was one of the assistant referees that day, and I forwarded my complaints onto the referee, but I have never been informed if anything was done about it.
Combine that personal experience with homophobic chants being passed off as ‘banter’ inside football grounds each week of the season, and it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest there is no need for a Charlton LGBT supporters group. Football still isn’t accepting enough.
In fact, the comments suggesting a group isn’t needed show why it is. If so many can’t see that football is still not a completely welcome place for LGBT supporters, players and staff, then LGBT groups must be formed to raise awareness.
And they must also be formed to give the individual LGBT supporters a greater sense of belonging. To meet likeminded people. To be able to go to football without fear they will be victimised.
It’s not about sectioning off gay Addicks from the rest of supporters. It’s not about creating divisions. It’s about creating a group that will allow LGBT fans to be more accepted and feel a greater part of the collective Charlton support.
Nor is there a need to respond with a straight male Charlton supporters group, as a worrying amount have implied. Are we victimised? Nope. Some of us are the ones making sure others are victimised. The creation of the group doesn’t isolate or threaten you.
Nor is it aiming to make Charlton exclusively supported by LGBT fans.
I’m just looking at the aims of the Proud Valiants, here, and nowhere does it say they’re looking to enforce homosexuality onto every single Charlton fan who walks through The Valley’s turnstiles this season.
In fact, their aims are completely inoffensive and won’t impact those who don’t wish to be involved. The amount of comments I’ve seen that suggest the individual is in some way threatened by this group is baffling.
And then there’s this religious argument. I have as much interest in religion as I do in taking the bins out this evening, so I sincerely apologise if I myself am about to make a comment which could be considered ignorant.
I fully appreciate that some religions are not accepting of homosexuals. I don’t agree with it, but I appreciate why people have faith and why they follow it so strongly. That’s all fine.
But I cannot understand how that overrides logical thought to such an extent you feel the need to openly hate and discriminate against LGBT individuals, Charlton fans or otherwise. No religious practice justifies making life a misery for someone who has had absolutely no impact on your life whatsoever.
Likewise, Charlton ‘siding’ with the Proud Valiants doesn’t mean they’re discriminating against religious groups and their beliefs.
Nor does their decision to ban the abusive support show a sign that they’re preventing free speech. This idea that free speech covers being disgusting abusive makes me want to bang my head against a brick wall.
Oh, and finally, if you’re not actually ignorant and just full of homophobic hatred, just stop. Nothing is more ridiculous than the ‘you’re attracted to the same sex as yourself so I’m going to send abusive messages and threaten you’ principle. The sale of Kermorgant makes more sense, especially when compared with those who are being abusive and believe they’re doing nothing wrong.
Heaven forbid if any of our players ever came out.
Not the cleanest piece of writing you’ll ever read from me. It is just a rant. A bit of an angry one. But a rant that I hope corrects at least a small amount of ignorance.
Good luck to the Proud Valiants. They, obviously, have my full support.