This feature was written for true faith in Issue 88 back in the season 2010/11. The author did not want to be named and that remains the case. That maybe tells us something about why the Rainbow Flag is important and hopefully this article will aid understanding.
Name with-held at writer’s request
There’s nothing particularly unusual about me I don’t think. I was born and bred on Tyneside, with a Dad who worked in the shipyards (remember them?) and my mother was a school dinner lady. I had two brothers (one older, one younger) and a sister. I’m the second youngest son and my sister is a year older.
Growing up, I had the same interests as my two brothers, namely football but I was also keen on karate and was dutifully taken to the local leisure centre every week for a couple of hours. I was mad on computer games and had one of those commodore (?) consoles which I played through a portable telly. Normal.
Newcastle United were massive in our house. Dad supported them as he had all of his life and so did our Grand-dad. All of our family on either side of the family are Black & White. My Dad was on United’s books when he was younger but never got a run out for the first team and contented himself with being a handy player in the Northern League. Nobody was ever going to follow any other club other than Newcastle United in our family. Nowadays my three nephews are all season ticket holders. With my brothers and a few friends we went up to St James’ Park on our own from about 1985 to 1990 until I went away to University. Up until then, I was considered an average Tyneside kid – football daft and I got into as many scrapes as any one else.
In all but one exception, I’m no different to those lads I went to all those home games and a few away ones as well over that period.
I’d taken a few girls out. I was considered decent looking, had a bit of chat and my older sister gave me all the tips any boy could need about how to get a girl to go out you with you. I took a few of her friends out and yes, I did the wild thing on a number of occasions. But I’ll be honest, It didn’t feel right. As I had gone through puberty, I’d done everything lads with raging hormones did. Continuous masturbation and porn mags. But it wasn’t me. I came to the slow realisation, I was gay.
If I’m honest, I’ll say I regarded it as a curse. I hated it and if I could have taken a pill to be straight, I’d have downed the whole bottle. I hated it and up until the time I went away to Uni, I was every inch the self-loathing, repressed homosexual.
I didn’t act or behave anything like the typical screaming queen of popular media creation. I didn’t even like Princess Diana and neither was/am I particularly adept with interior design. I liked going to the match with brothers and my mates and having a pint or two down the club with my Dad and back home for Sunday dinner and I played for my local pool team. I played 5-a-side twice a week. And of course I was going to the match, like everyone pissed off we were selling our best players (Gascoigne had just gone to Spurs and we were going through our relegation spasms). I heard all the insults directed at gays and the abuse. Faggots, huckles, shirt-lifters, fruits, queers, sausage jockeys and on and on. I even joined in. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be one of the lads.
But when I got to University, I couldn’t pretend any longer. Away from Tyneside’s wagging tongues and confident I could keep my shame secret hundreds of miles from home, I jumped in. Met men, did the gay scene (discovered I didn’t really like hearing I Will Survive on permanent loop) had fulfilling sex and entered into a long term same sex relationship. I found with my new partner I was as much hiding my love of football and United in particular as much as I was hiding my homosexuality from my friends and family back home. Confused? You bet.
After University, I decided to stay away from the NE and got a job in my chosen profession in the NHS, moved in with my partner and decided to tell my family I was gay. On the morning before I drove back home I was shaking with fear and vomited with nerves. It is to date, the single most traumatic event in my life. My older brother and sister were shocked but really supportive. My mother likewise but my Dad looked at me as though I’d missed the penalty in the Champions League Final for The Mags which meant Sunderland were European Champions. For years he wondered what he’d done “wrong” but he’s come round and he’s been great. My younger brother has had the biggest problem. Mainly because of the vicious piss-taking he had to endure from school-friends and I’m sorry for him. He’s remains stand-offish and that hurts.
For years, I never went to the match. In part it was because I didn’t want to be spotted by anyone I knew from back home who well, had somewhat unreconstructured views of sexuality and contented myself to watching our games on TV. I always loved the club but felt because I fancied men I didn’t feel part of the crowd. Mistaken or not, that’s how I felt.
About ten years ago when that long term relationship fizzled out and died, I moved back home having gotten a better job in the North East. I’d never thought about going to the match but one afternoon, I got a call from my older brother who asked if I fancied going to the game. We were playing Partizan Belgrade at SJP and you don’t need me to tell you how that turned out. But for me it provided an epiphany. I realised there weren’t people waiting there for me with pitch-forks and a bonfire to burn the puff on. I’ve had a season ticket since and done a few aways. I still hear the abuse and the anti-gay abuse around football. I try and block it out. Friends get more worked up about it than I do. I don’t want to be defined by where I put my cock. That’s just one part of me. I’m a Mag, I’m an NHS professional, I’m a son, I’m a brother, I like films and I do a bit of rock climbing. I like a pint and I still play pool. I’m not just a puff.
If I’d been good enough, would I have come out if I’d made it as a professional footballer? Absolutely not. It took me all of my time as a fan and I packed in playing 5-a-side when I got to Uni because it just wasn’t something gay men would do. I’m just a face in the crowd, I’m not effeminate and as a homophobic bully in Manchester once discovered, I can land a decent punch. I think lads who are gay and good footballers tend to drift out of the game at any level because of the prejudice but I’ve no doubt there are men playing football professionally who are gay. Apologies I don’t have any secrets. Who would have wanted a faggot playing for their team? I know all of the conversations, the fear and all of the rest of it. Who would put themselves through the kind of abuse Graeme Le Saux and Sol Campbell endured? And they aren’t even gay!
Things have changed over the last twenty five years. But not that much. I’m a Mag but I know I’ll never really be part of it in the way my brothers and you reading this are. I go to games and then go home. There’s none of the camaraderie I know others have in the pubs before and after. I miss out on that I suppose. I don’t feel sorry for myself, its just the way things are and things are changing albeit slowly. There will be openly gay footballers at some point in the future I’m sure but It will come when there are openly gay fans too.
The original lay out of the article in true faith (TF 88) is enclosed minority_report_tf88
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