Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Gay footballers – love that dare not speak its name

It's hard to make anything stand out media-wise these days – so diverse are all the publishing platforms and digital variations ...

So banal are most people’s takes on popular culture ...

We're all awash with information, and flooded with images too. Constantly we are being invited to download, follow or share things.

Quite frankly, half the time I can’t be arsed.

But there are still some nuggets of quality on TV which deserve praise, and which are profoundly counter-cultural and commanding of our attention.

Last night I watched one such example - Britain’s Gay Footballers on BBC3 (which, incidentally, is by far the best of the digital channels).

The programme tried to get to the truth of why no professional footballer in Britain is ‘out’ publicly as a homosexual. Some are ‘out’ in a restricted way, in that they’ll bring their same sex partners to social functions attended by team-mates, but don't feel they can tell fans or the wider world that they are gay. Or so this programme intimated ...

This quandary is an interesting one. After all, homosexuality is quite rightly nowadays considered not a problem by most decent-minded people. I have some gay friends, and to be honest their sexual orientation is irrelevant to me. I like them because they are good, kind, funny people, as indeed are most of my straight friends.

What really matters in this world, and what's always deserving of respect, regardless of any other factors, is human life in all its glorious diversity.

I appreciated this documentary, which was carried out with graceful determination by Amal Fashanu, niece of footballer Justin Fashanu, who came out publicly in 1990, leading to all sorts of criticism and rifts within the Fashanu family. Tragically Justin hanged himself in 1998.

There was and still is a great deal of evasion about gay sexuality in football, and the programme tackled it in a dignified manner. For that matter, the family rifts about Justin Fashanu were also handled well.

And most impressive perhaps were the comments by the game’s former bad boy, now turned Twitter philosopher, Joey Barton. He told Amal about his own gay uncle, and said: “For a lot of years he was in turmoil and was resenting himself for the fact that he had these feelings.

"I was like, ‘I love you for you – not for the fact that you are straight or bisexual or all different manner of things. I love you because you’re you.’” Quite so.

Barton also slammed “archaic” bosses in the game who are frightened of homosexuality.

Well said, Joey. Hope your comments prick some consciences and do some good. I won’t be holding my breath though.

Well done to Amal Fashanu and all connected with Britain's Gay Footballers. You tackled this subject superbly.