Apparently, there’s a school of thought that if you hide something under a rock or you stick a head in the sand, the problem goes away.
Except it doesn’t.
So this week there’s been a lot of talk about banning homophobes from sports’ arenas and stadiums if they shout anti-gay, homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse and I’m flabbergasted. Since when did banning anything actually solve any problem?
And who exactly is the banishment going to help?
Whilst I agree that something must be done to solve the anti-gay culture that you’ll find on many of the UK’s sports’ grounds. This toxic environment means that gay or bisexual sports stars and athletes find it impossible to come out – why are there so few openly gay or bisexual sportsmen and women?
But isn’t this part of the problem? There’s a complete dearth of out and proud athletes in sport, particularly men. There’s a handful of noteworthy sports professionals in diving, a sprinkle in rugby and absolutely none in football. Perhaps if we had more out and proud players homophobic fans would be exposed to other types of gay or bisexual men – not just the overtly camp fodder that entertainment formats on TV rely on to provide entertainment. Some could argue that stereotyping feeds into a homophobic mind frame. Gay and bisexual men, still in 2017 aren’t seen by some as “real men” but campy, effeminate and weak and these people need education. We are all types, shapes, sizes, colours and creeds – and all of us are worth protecting.
Organisations that own the grounds have a responsibility to keep its patrons safe but it does not, I believe, hold the remit to educate or punish people with bigotted opinions. That responsibility lies with the police and society. Homophobes need education. Not the naughty step and time out.
That’s why I would advocate an anti-discrimination workshop for those who are found guilty of hate speech – whether it’s gay, religious, race or other hate speech. These classes could run just like the speed awareness classes – when you’re caught speeding.
You’d pay £100 for the class, money which could be ploughed into running the courses. On that course, you’d be given the opportunity to learn about discrimination and it’s damaging effects. You’d learn about equality and other lifestyles. Once you’ve completed the course you’d be allowed back.
Surely this would be a better option than banning a homophobe indefinitely and letting him fester in his own hatred, as he watches the match in front of his TV. How does this help the LGBT+ community?
It doesn’t. Instead, he’ll continue to live in his own echo chamber, feeding his own negativity.
I agree with MP Damian Collins, who chaired the Culture, Media and Sport Committee who found that there should be “a zero-tolerance approach to the use of all homophobic language and behaviours”, but the sanctions that are implemented against those who are homophobic must be thought out as to not exacerbate the problem.
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