Among the various forms of discrimination that modern Human Rights culture and law particularly emphasise as needing of zero tolerance is, so it would seem, the realm of sexual discrimination. Especially on the football fields and terraces, those former exclusive zones of macho expression the homophobic has become expressly forbidden. I once asked a policeman at what point when policing a football game would they take action in the wake of foul or abusive language. Police attend football games to ensure peace is maintained and public order offences are not committed. Any conduct that might cause anyone harassment, distress or alarm is capable of falling foul of the many layered anti-public disorder legislation. It would not be practical for the police to take action against every use of a four letter word or all potentially insulting behaviour. Chanting at Dagenham and Redbridge or Leyton Orient fans, that they are ‘a poor man’s West Ham’ may be intentionally insulting but is highly unlikely that the targets of such disparaging behaviour will be ‘harassed, distressed or alarmed’, or , more fundamentally, that a court is likely to consider such taunting worthy of judicial reproof. Sometimes my own football team has performed at a level that definitely causes its supporters distress, but still does not lead to police action against the offending players, committing such in a public realm.
The policeman I asked said they usually let most things go except racist comments and the like. It would seem that homophobic comments would be treated the same. If a player is subject to racist comments that is not in any way justifiable and should rightly be deplored and if necessary dealt with by the police. Similarly an attack on someone’s sexuality is, to my mind, inappropriate anywhere. It can be ugly, distasteful and, presumably, devastating to the target.
The thinking goes that a person’s sexual preferences should not be used as a weapon against them or as grounds to mock or undermine them. This is the rationale for the outlawing of homophobic comments in public or football games.
Yet there are two other forms of sexual orientation, or preference that appear to be perfectly acceptable subjects for pillorying players, fans or officials at football games, or, presumably, other public events. Players who have been exposed by the press as predatory, promiscuous or unfaithful are often hissed at. Now I have no desire to defend their behaviour. We should all try to be better than we are and if our society had or ascribed to moral standards of any sort, that would be a wonderful thing. Why should these studs be attacked for what amounts to the seeking of expression of their sexual desires? Why should anyone be allowed to attack the sexual tastes of a philandering or overeager heterosexual? Surely that is discrimination? Even though heterosexuals have not suffered the same victimization as homosexuals, philanderers and adulterers have not always enjoyed the same moral or social acceptance. There are double standards here somewhere.
There is one other area of ubiquitous sexual victimization. I have never been to a football match where there has not been an attack on the alleged sexuality of the officials, almost always the referee, and often one or more of his assistants as well. Players and coaching staff are also occasionally attacked on this level. Yet I doubt it has entered the mind of any police official on duty to take action against this form of insult or taunting. One cannot imagine the FA or some other agency launching a campaign against this form of persecution of those who express their sexuality in this manner. It is undoubtedly a form of sexual behaviour that many may indulge in within the private realm, yet one about which no significant movement has yet emerged to seek the acceptance of its identity and the right of persons to practise it, or to seek legal or social recognition and promotion of the rights of its practitioners. It would definitely fall within behaviour proscribed by many religions as sinful, and despite its apparent popularity it remains hidden, unmentioned and still remains reluctant to utter its name.
These victims are taunted, often in response to perceived errors in judgement in applying the laws of the game, and very often when they have done no more than applied the laws of the game properly and correctly to the best of their ability. Even if the official has been absolutely right in his (or her, but probably his in this context) interpretation of the rules, they are inevitably attacked for being of autoerotic tendencies and practise. Whole sections of a crowd join in repeated chanting of this accusation, which targets the victim for his alleged sexual expression. Nobody gets arrested. The club is not fined or docked points or forced to play games behind closed doors. No television or radio chat shows ensue. Yet if anyone were to pillory an official as being homosexual instead of heterosexual or auto sexual then the police and all official agencies step in.
Why is no one concerned with those who may be autoerotic and their feelings? Perhaps referees are by nature masochistic, but why should an attack, even if made in alleged good nature and as ‘part of the package’ be acceptable, if it targets any alleged sexual conduct, especially if that is a form of conduct where by social convention people do not usually feel comfortable and able to publicly declare that they may do it themselves? Why have they no voice nor hidden shame that hankers for acceptance as normal? Where is the lobby?
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