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©2017 by Marching Out Together.
 

Photography by Alex Easton

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"Do we really need this?"

October 4, 2017

 

There's little worse than the things you care about not being taken seriously, is there?

 

Has anybody ever reacted to your passion for football - your frustration, your joy -  with their patronising insistence ‘it’s only a game’?

 

Have you felt convincing them otherwise was a pointless exercise because they ‘just don’t understand’?

 

That’s how it felt spotting that somewhat short-sighted, yet not unexpected, question lurking amid the positivity when Leeds United announced this LGBT+ group was forming.

 

"Do we really need this?"

 

It’s not ‘only a game’ and this is not needless box-ticking.

 

The ups and downs we experience at Elland Road barely scratch the surface of the personal battles some supporters face every day. Coming out as gay was the most anxious, terrifying experience of my life but with perspective, I fully appreciate quite how fortunate I am to avoid the hatred and violence many people face.

 

The idea that “these days” it’s easy for an LGBT+ person to be open about who they are is of no comfort. It’s hollow consolation when you’re churning over the prospect of losing your family and friends should they react badly to who you are or, in many desperate cases, the genuine reality of being beaten, imprisoned or killed.

 

No doubt you wince as someone splutters ‘faggot’ at a player from somewhere behind your shoulder. LGBT+ supporters may recall having it spat at them for holding their partner’s hand in public. Their family may have muttered it. Strangers may have hissed it at them as they passed in the street simply because of their appearance.

 

Robbie Rogers felt forced into retiring before coming out because he was convinced the total lack of role models meant being openly gay and a professional footballer were mutually exclusive. This sport has vast work to do before the weight of that fear is lifted.

 

If somebody questions the necessity of a society for LGBT+ supporters, they should consider the fundamental aim of this group: inclusivity. It's about bringing us all together. The club saw an opportunity to welcome communities who are shamefully marginalised and have taken it.

 

If just one person finds support within this community of fans, then it's been worth it.

 

Those who complain that the club's endorsement of this supporters’ group is political are not being asked to join a march or wave a flag. This is uniting people the Marching On Together way with the understanding that Leeds United means more than just a football club to so many thousands of supporters’ regardless of their gender, race or sexuality.

 

“Do we really need this?” 

 

The answer will always be yes, and I am proud of my club for endorsing Marching Out Together.

 

There is more to be done. There always will be;

 

“at least until the world stops going ‘round”.

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