Haven’t we been fighting to get rid of both unequal and separate but equal treatment of LGBTs for decades now? But here come a group of Polish soccer fans who want the 2012 European Championship to provide a seating section for gay and lesbian fans only — to keep them safe.
There are plenty of reasons for gay soccer fans (let alone gay players) to be scared of attending games, for the same reason gay Yankees fans might think twice about buying tickets: rampant homophobia among fans means harassment is directed at gays in the stands in addition to “faggot” being screamed at the opposing team’s players.
So what to do?
Teczowa Trybuna 2012, or Rainbow Stand 2012, calls itself the first-ever gay fan club for Poland’s national team. It says on its website that its members fear aggression from other fans and want to feel safe during the tournament in Poland and neighboring Ukraine. “During trips to matches of our beloved clubs … we unfortunately are often faced with unpleasantness, harassment and violence from the ‘real’ fans,” it said. “We dream of being able to relax in the stands — we can’t imagine not being at the Euro 2012 matches, which will be held in our country!”
But does creating separate seating equal safer seating? Instead of gay fans being dispersed evenly throughout the stadium, they’ll be corralled together and more easily targeted. (Then again: safety in numbers.) Meanwhile, does purposefully separating ourselves from other fans do much toward fostering greater acceptance? Hardly. The solution isn’t separate but equal seating — it’s the league recognizing homophobia is a problem, and beefing up security at (and anti-homophobia campaigns before) the big game.
That, and throwing the sport a giant coming out party.