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Thomas Hitzlsperger discusses reports of two gay Premier League players considering coming out

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Thomas Hitzlsperger

Amid reports that two Premier League footballers are considering revealing they are homosexual, Thomas Hitzlsperger, arguably the most high profile former player to have come out as gay, has spoken about the difficulties they may face.

Reports have been circulating that two high-profile players playing in England’s top-flight of football are close to revealing their sexual orientation.

How any such announcement will be received is uncertain, with only a handful of footballers revealing their sexuality and in nearly all cases after their retirement from the game. There is currently just one openly gay professional or semi-professional footballer in Great Britain, non-league player Liam Davis.

Former Aston Villa player Hitzlsperger came out last year andspeaking exclusively to 888sport.com admitted there could be unknown repercussions for any players who follow his decision.

“You have to think of the players first. If they can handle it and if it will improve their lives that’s great,” said Hitzlsperger, who played 52 games for Germany.

“You just hope there is no change in how they look at the game and no disruption to the career they wanted.

“You also have to think of who you can support and help by coming out. A lot of people thanked me for doing so and said I inspired them to come out. That’s a big deal.”

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Thomas Hitzlsperger during a spell at West Ham

Hitzlsperger, who in his interview with 888sport.com spoke about the appointment of Remi Garde at Aston Villa, revealed being openly gay comes with difficulties but he is happy with his decision to be open.

“It’s not just in football, but in society; you are part of a minority, so I don’t think it will ever be a non-issue. But I’m very comfortable in my own skin and I’m comfortable going to games and meeting fans who know I’ve come out. I’m really delighted in how it is going. My life has changed, of course, but for the better.”

 

Read the full and frank interview with Hitzlsperger here.

Yes, England has openly gay footballers. And it's totally irrelevant

 

 

England is obsessed with footballers WAGs and now the Women’s World Cup has sparked an interest in HABs (yep, that’s husbands and boyfriends). But, says Radhika Sanghani, it’s not so easy to slap labels on the women’s game

Casey Stoney and Megan Harris

England footballer Casey Stoney with her partner Megan Harris Photo: Rex

It’s hard to ignore England’s obsession with WAGs. Every time the World Cup rolls around, the media and the public can’t get enough of our footballers’ wives and girlfriends, with their glamorous outfits, manicured talons and coiffed manes.

WAG-mania seemed to start with the TV series Footballers Wives (RIP). But it really went mainstream during the 2006 World Cup, and at every tournament since, WAG-watching has basically become a spectator sport.

So it’s no big surprise that this year, the Women’s World Cup has sparked a similar interest in the England team’s HABs (yep, that’s husbands and boyfriends).

HABs have already made the headlines, and there’s even a Twitter account dedicated to “the husbands, boyfriends and partners of female athletes.”

Unsurprisingly it’s called @Sports_HABS and for the next month, it has dedicated itself to tweeting about the Women’s World Cup and the best HABs around.

There’s just one tiny little thing – not all of England’s women team have HABs. Some of them are single, and some of them have girlfriends or wives.

This is something that football has not traditionally been open to – in the men’s game anyway. There are hardly any openly gay male footballers at international level, and it was only last year that a Premier League footballer came out as gay for the first time.

Thomas Hitzlsperger, a German former West Ham United player, revealed his sexuality to “move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards.”

Before him, the most high profile footballer to come out in Britain was Justin Fashanu, who suffered years of homophobic abuse before he took his own life in 1998, at the age of 37.

Thomas Hitzlsperger came out last year (Getty images)

The Women’s World Cup is now throwing a spotlight on just how backwards men’s football can be when it comes to homosexuality.

Outsports estimates there are 17 women involved in this year’s tournament, who are either gay or bisexual – compared to the handful in the Men’s World Cup.

England has two openly gay players, Lianne Sanderson and former captain, Casey Stoney, 33, who came out last year and revealed she was in a relationship with former team-mate Megan Harris (the couple now have twins together).

Lianne Sanderson is openly gay (Getty Images)

Homosexuality is not taboo in the women’s game. It is, quite rightly, seen as entirely irrelevant to the football they play.

Many of women who have come out have spoken about how “positive” the experience has been for them.

It’s a far cry to the men’s game. Only last year Roy Hodgson revealed he had no idea what LGBT stood for (it’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans), and Arsene Wenger said: “[Tackling homophobia] is a [value] here maybe we are a bit behind and we have to work on it, of course.”

There is a lot that needs to change in the men’s game before players can come out as confidently as their female counterparts; from managerial attitudes to acceptance from fans.

But terms such as WAG don’t help either.

They might be three seemingly harmless letters, but I’d argue it’s unconscious homophobia. What’s worse, I’ve been using it for years without a second thought.

But the absurdity of the HABs label in the context of the Women’s World Cup has proved just how outdated these terms – and our views – really are. Not only are we ignoring the real stars of the game by focusing on their partners, we’re making assumptions that aren’t just blind but offensive.

It’s why this World Cup, I’m steering clear of all three-letter acronyms. Who’s with me?

Why GLBT Books Are Important

Editorial:  Over the last week The Crescent Arts Centre has held its 5th annual Belfast Book Festival.  We in NIGRA have been extremely pleased to support this festival and to be involved in two of its events:

and

  • photo of BBF15: Thomas HitzlspergerTHOMAS HITZLSPERGER – who became the most high-profile footballer to come out as gay following his retirement from football, and his international career.

Both events highlighted just how important role models are to all of our community, but in particular to thos who are coming to terms with being gay.  In today’s society positive role models are rarely provided, and books and good movies are a natural provider of these.

However, with budget cuts, and with book providers not looking outside the norm for their sales, and also with gay magazines being prohibitively expensive and not freely accessible in libraries etc. todays LGBT youth has been and is being short changed.

I am reprinting an article from GLBT News on The Importance of GLBT Book Month written by Peter Coyl to support my comments:

The Importance of GLBT Book Month

As a teenager, I was such an avid library user I got a job shelving books at the library in the Children’s section. On my breaks, I would roam the stacks of the second floor adult fiction area looking for something new to read. One day, a book caught my eye, and I started flipping through it. It was about gay people. Young and scared, I put the book away and quickly checked to see if someone had seen me looking at this book. I then went back to work, my brain reeling.

A week or so later, I realized that if I accidentally found a book with gay people in it, maybe I could “on purpose” find one. So I looked in the library catalog and voila: we had some. In fact, we had a book in the Young Adult section that had gay characters in it.

So at age 15, that is how I came to read Entries from a Hot Pink Notebook by Todd Brown. This was the first book to show me that I was normal. That yes, other teenagers felt like I did. Despite it being on the shelf and being accessible, I was scared to read it and scared others would find out I was reading it.

This is why GLBT Book Month is important.

GLBT Book Month is important because it gives readers exposure to the works of authors and topics they may not have known existed.

The GLBTRT Executive Board often is contacted (collectively and individually) by library staff or librarians about problems at their library relating to GLBT materials: books cataloged so kids can’t find them, displays that are not allowed to be put up, programs that are cancelled, and the numerous other issues that come up when librarians try to provide equitable service.

This past week, a library an 75 miles away from me made headlines because of a cancelled author appearance (the author has written a book about coming out as a Christian) and the removal of a PFLAG display that had been constructed to coincide with the visit. In the end, the appearance was reinstatedand the display put back up. Things like this shouldn’t happen. But they will continue to happen as long as we do not speak up and promote what we do.

I am not encouraging civil disobedience or actions that would put employment in peril. I am encouraging promoting of GLBT Book Month in whatever way you can in your institution. We have a book month, let’s use it.

That being said, though, it’s time GLBT books, especially those in libraries, came out of the closet.

Libraries and librarians need to stop being afraid of what is on their shelves. It’s been said that a good library should have something in it to offend everyone. Let that be the case.

GLBT Book Month is for everyone. It isn’t just about highlighting books for the GLBT community, it’s about exposing every reader to a new idea, a new story, a new author. In the same way National Poetry Month isn’t just for the poets, GLBT Book Month isn’t just for “the gays.”

So dust off those display ideas you’ve had squirreled way. Order a poster and bookmarks from ALA Graphics. Cut out those rainbow letters. Tack up a flag in the corner. Put out some books from theStonewall Book Awards, Rainbow Book List or Over the Rainbow Book list. Let your community know that you are proud to serve everyone. And if you have a copy of Entries from a Hot Pink Notebook in your collection, maybe you can put it in your display for the kid who shelves your children’s books to see. He may need it.

Belfast Book Festival 2015

Belfast Has A Book Festival!

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Festival Director, Keith Acheson said: “Every year the Belfast Book Festival provides an opportunity for authors, poets and performers, to showcase their work. Yet again we reveal another packed programme of events which we hope will appeal to everyone – no matter what age or level of interest in literature.

Kate Newman reading from poetry anthology 'Grim'

Kate Newman reading from poetry anthology ‘Grim’

“Whilst we are delighted to welcome returning supporters we are keen to reach out to those who have never participated in our festival before and encourage them to join us in trying something new. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our key funders the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council for their continued support as well as all of our many festival sponsors and partners.”
Kate Newmann, read from her wonderfully atmospheric collection of poetry , Grim.

Conor Maguire performing from his one man show of Moby Dick

Conor Maguire performing from his one man show of Moby Dick

 

Conor Maguire, also performed an extract from his one man representation of ‘Moby Dick’, which was atmospheric and riveting. Herman Melville’s epic prose From 1851 still has much to tell us about the nature of man and is brought to the stage by Conor Maguire, who has performed Oscar Wilde in ‘De Profundis’ and Brendan Behan in ‘The Confirmation Suit’ for the Belfast Book Festival.
The festival is of course about books, and central to its ethos is that of bringing books to schools through it Writers in Schools workshops in creative writing, from short stories to poetry and even the odd Haiku! – all supported by featured artists.

 

Thomas Hitzlsperger in his Everton days

Thomas Hitzlsperger in his Everton days. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

 

But, for the LGBT community we have a treat, NIGRA has been working with Keith Acheson to introduce an LGBT element into the festival, and indeed a first, in that Thomas Hitzlsperbger, a former German footballer who played the early part of his career with Aston Villa, before returning to Germany to play for Stuttgart. Following a series of injuries, he retired from football in 2013, and he announced that he was gay.

We welcome this inclusion, and hope that the community will make every effort to support the night by coming along.  I for one am looking forward to hearing his conversation with Denise Watson.


…He had thought about coming out while still playing for Wolfsburg in 2011-12 but then listened to people who warned him of the negative consequences. “They all said ‘don’t do it, a big wave will crash on you’,” he says…
I urge everyone to come along to as many events as you can, there is something for everyone, of every age, gender, colour or creed. I have already picked my events.

Belfast Book Festival 2015

Belfast Book Festival 2015

Further reading:

LGBT HISTORY MONTH: SPORTING HEROES

Swimming - Tom Daley Diving Academy Launch - Aquatics Centre

Reprinted from    so so GAY  by ANDY WALKER20 FEB 2015

To celebrate LGBT History Month, we’ve compiled a list of our Sporting Heroes; those people who came out and paved the way for every lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person who followed with a dream of becoming a professional footballer, rugby player – or even MMA star.

Justin Fashanu

Justin Fashanu was a football player who made history both in his personal and professional life. When Nottingham Forrest bought Fashanu from Norwich City in 1981, he became the first black footballer to break the £1 million transfer fee. It wasn’t until 1990 that Fashanu came out publicly. He was the first footballer to ever come out. However, it all ended tragically in 1998 when he committed suicide following accusations of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old male.

Thomas Hitzlsperger

Former Aston Villa and West Ham midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger came out at the start of 2014, five months after retiring from football. The 31-year-old, who won 52 caps for Germany, said: ‘I’m coming out about my homosexuality because I want to move the discussion about homosexuality among professional sportspeople forwards.’

Robbie Rogers

Two years ago, in a post on his own blog, Robbie Rogers wrote, ‘Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.

‘I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always be thankful for my career.’

Rogers posted this after initially retiring from the game due to injury but soon after he signed for LA Galaxy, coming out of retirement to become the highest profile openly gay footballer in the world.

Amelie Mauresmo

Amelie Mauresmo is a Grand Slam winning former tennis player who came out early on in her career, at just 19. Mauresmo went on to become the number one ranked player and win Wimbledon and the French Open. Mauresmo is now Andy Murray’s coach making him the highest profile male player with a female coach.

Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas was a fixture of the Welsh Rugby side’s starting lineup for over a decade, representing his country 100 times. In 2009 he came out in a national newspaper whilst still playing for the Cardiff Blues making him the first openly gay professional rugby player.

Thomas announced his retirement after a short spell playing Rugby League in the Super League.

Fallon Fox

Fallon Fox became the first transgender athlete in MMA history and has won five of her six matches. After coming out Fox faced fierce criticism with some, not least UFC commentator Joe Rogan who attacked Fox in a rant on his podcast.

Rogan said ‘She calls herself a woman but… I tend to disagree. And, uh, she, um… she used to be a man but now she has had, she’s a transgender which is (the) official term that means you’ve gone through it, right? And she wants to be able to fight women in MMA. I say no f***ing way.

‘I say if you had a dick at one point in time, you also have all the bone structure that comes with having a dick. You have bigger hands, you have bigger shoulder joints. You’re a f***ing man. That’s a man, OK? You can’t have… that’s… I don’t care if you don’t have a dick any more…’

Greg Louganis

Greg Louganis was one of the most famous divers in the world. He was the Tom Daley of his era; talented, tanned and a sight for sore eyes in a pair of Speedos. He dominated in both the 3m springboard and 10m platform event for several years and he still holds the record for being the only male diver to win gold in both events at two consecutive Olympic Games. Louganis came out in 1994, six years after his last Olympics.

Matthew Mitcham

Matthew Mitcham, on the other hand, came out at the start of his career. In 2008, in an interview prior to the Beijing games, Mitcham mentioned in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that he was gay. Mitcham would go on to win gold at the Beijing games, denying the Chinese divers a clean sweep of the medals.

Tom Daley

Tom Daley was the poster boy of the London 2012 Olympics. His good looks, tanned skin and perfect smile had the gays and the girls up and down the country transfixed as he fought his way to a bronze medal. 18 months later Daley posted a video on YouTube where he came out saying ‘Of course I still fancy girls, but right now I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier. I just feel safe. And it just really does feel right.’ Five months later Daley said ‘I am a gay man now’.