Words by Smiley Team
Historically, LGBTQ+ professional sports persons have faced abuse and discrimination for being open about their identity. Thankfully, in recent years attitudes have improved, allowing progressively more players to be open, without fearing for their safety.
Despite this, there is more that must be done to raise visibility for LGBTQ+ players, which is where the Women’s European Football Championships come in.
According to Dr Bullingham, the Women’s Euros will be instrumental in increasing visibility for LGBTQ+ women in sport. The tournament, which kicks off on Wednesday, 6 July at Old Trafford, Manchester, will feature a number of openly LGBTQ+ players on the England team.
LGBTQ+ members of the England team this year include 35-year-old midfielder Jill Scott in her 10th major England tournament, 27-year-old Arsenal forward Beth Mead, 30-year-old right-back/midfielder Rachel Daly, 24-year-old Chelsea left-back, Jess Carter, 30-year-old left-back for Manchester City Demi Stokes, and 28-year-old Chelsea forward Fran Kirby.
“Euro 2022 offers LGBTQ+ players visibility on an unprecedented international platform,” said Dr Bullingham, who co-authored Out in Sport: The Experiences of Openly Gay and Lesbian Athletes in Competitive Sport. “Unlike previous points in history, female athletes now coming out publicly receive very little backlash, enabling others to follow their lead more easily. This is allowing more players to be open about their sexuality.”
“In the past sport has been very hostile to lesbian athletes, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, but this is no longer the case,” said Dr Bullingham, whose research has found that female LGBTQ+ athletes tend to be happier, with significantly improved wellbeing after they come out.
The 2022 Women’s European Football Championships are set to smash attendance records set by the previous Euros in 2017 as enthusiasm for women’s football grows.
“I am excited by what is possible for this group,” said Sarina Wiegman, the manager of England’s women’s football team. “We all know this is a huge opportunity and it is one we have to grab with both hands.”
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SUPPORT: Get involved with Pride Sports, a charity which intends to educate people in sport on how to stamp out LGBTQ+phobia and how to be more inclusive as a community.