- Leicester City’s HR Director discusses his story as part of Football v Homophobia’s month of action
- He also talks about Foxes Pride, the role of an ally and creating an inclusive culture at the Club
- Football v Homophobia challenges discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression at all levels in football
Liam - who came out to his family when he was 30 years old - talks about the importance of supporting campaigns such as Football v Homophobia, which aims to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression at all levels in football.
He also praises the work of the Club’s LGBTQ+ supporter group - Foxes Pride - while highlighting the efforts being made at LCFC to create a culture and an environment where people can be their true selves, regardless of their sexuality.
Here’s Liam’s story…
When did you first come out?
That’s actually a really hard question to answer. I told my family I was gay when I was 30 years old, and for many people I guess this is quite late in life, but I knew I was gay when I was seven, and I had some close friends who knew in my 20s. It took me time to let my family know because I was more concerned about their reaction than my own happiness.
Like I say I knew I was gay from a young age, and I remember being bullied at school for it. I wasn’t ‘out’ then, I didn’t know anyone who was, but I was a non-conformist and really outspoken in supporting anyone who was ‘different’, so the bullies thought I was gay because of that. I used to have kids throwing bricks at me and chasing me home from school, but I just tried to ignore all of that and bury it. I was a good runner, though!
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, and being from a very ultra conservative family, any mention of ‘those people’ was always negative. We all had to behave and act in a certain way and not draw attention to ourselves. My only reference points in those days were Larry Grayson from the Generation Game or John Inman from Are You Being Served, and I used to watch them and think “Is that what being gay is? Maybe I can’t be gay”, yet I knew I was. It’s fair to say it was a difficult childhood and there was lots of suppression going on until I got the confidence in my own skin to say “you know what, don’t worry” I am who I am.
How did you feel when you came out? Did you feel relief?
I don’t think you ever stop ‘coming out’. I left home at 18 and as I said, in my 20s I was out to friends. Having their friendship and support was a relief, but it was never a big thing. By the time I came out to my family they weren’t that important in terms of my decision making. The world hadn’t stopped turning and I still had to go to work the next day, and to be honest nobody was really that bothered. And I think today, society is very different. There is still hate out there, still the brick throwers, but there is also more people who care and who can support and stand up for you. Coming out is about taking control and standing up for who you are. I wish I had done it sooner!
Football v Homophobia
LCFC continues to support Football v Homophobia.
How important are campaigns like Football v Homophobia?
Football has an important role in educating our community. Bringing everyone together to support the game, and to show that everyone is welcome and included no matter your background is such an important message. I’m so proud of the Club for doing the things they do to raise awareness of campaigns such as Football v Homophobia. There is still a long way to go, but little by little we’re showing people that it’s okay to be you and that life goes on and that there are people around you who you can hopefully aspire to and take some comfort from to give you that sense of protection and support. For us to be able to highlight this campaign and show people that we won’t tolerate hate is great.
Have you felt supported at LCFC?
Totally. Early on, my partner Alex came along with me to a game shortly after I’d started working here and there was never any eyebrows raised or any questions asked, it was just absolutely fine and that’s how it should be. I hope, and I know, that people measure me by my job and as a human being because anything else is irrelevant.
What message would you give to any staff member who is LGBTQ+ or thinking about coming out?
Own who you are. Being gay is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ or a ‘preference’ - it is who you are. The sooner you can embrace that with confidence the happier you will be. But I absolutely understand why someone would feel cautious, nervous, or afraid of coming out. But when you make that decision, please know that from a work point of view, and more importantly a human being’s point of view, there are people out there, including myself, who are here to help and support you with that process.
There’s a home for you at Leicester City and you will be protected and supported, and we’ll do everything we can for you.
How important are Foxes Pride?
They are hugely important. Having them championing and being a visible support for the Football Club, while also being supported by us as well, is incredible. They have been immensely powerful in changing perceptions and giving us insights, and I remember the interview a couple of the members did after they’d met James Maddison and Ben Chilwell as part of Rainbow Laces, and it was just amazing. The resonance that had, not just at our Club, but across the Premier League and further afield in Europe was fantastic. For us to be able to give them the opportunity to talk to the players and for them to explain what it is like to be an LGBTQ+ supporter broke down so many barriers. That’s what it is all about. That’s what Pride is about. It’s not about being confrontational or anything like that, it’s about helping people to understand that together we are far stronger.
Foxes Pride offer an environment for all to follow the Club.
Can you tell us how important the role of an ally is?
I think it is really important to have friends, colleagues and people who understand that difference should be celebrated and that you can contribute as a fully functioning member of society despite who you are. To have somebody in your corner giving you that backing is massive, because it can be so incredibly difficult for someone who is LGBTQ+ to feel accepted. The more allies we have who understand and appreciate the message we’re trying to get across the better. We’re all here together and every little bit helps. You will never know the impact an ally can have on a person and being that friend to them.
What more can we do to support equality?
We’re never equal until everybody is equal. It’s wrong, but some people judge others because they are different. Until we get to the point where it really doesn’t matter that we have openly gay footballers celebrated for kicking the ball and nothing else, until we can hold hands and not have to think we may have our heads kicked in… we have a long way to go. We are doing some great work at the Club, and the Equality Working Group and HR team will continue to broaden that work. We want to get to a point where equality and inclusion is owned by everyone: we are together, we do what is right.
What would your final message be?
My message to everyone at the Club doing work this month to support Football v Homophobia would be to thank them for making me feel so welcome and supported. I hope in some way that I can inspire somebody to feel a bit more comfortable about coming out and that they know that I’ve got their back.
Please click HERE for more information about Football v Homophobia.
For further details about Foxes Pride, please click HERE.
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