When a flag is more than a flag

 

There's a LGBT flag at White Hart Lane. It's the one in the corner with the rainbow on it. It appears to have kicked up a fuss with some supporters that have concluded the flag represents unwarranted segregation and special treatment for a supporters group and that it's contradictory to the clubs stance on other flags of a political nature that are not allowed within the stadium.

The crux of the argument against it from some asks 'where does it stop?' and if one flag representative of one group is permitted is the club guilty of affording select groups they feel are more deserving and ignoring others and therefore setting a precedence they might not be able to honour?

As for LGBT themselves, are they paradoxical with their intentions or is it far more complex than simply suggesting that there is hypocrisy if a group are immersing themselves with the requirement of special treatment whilst seeking to break down social barriers? It's important to point out that Tottenham are being supportive and the criteria for being recognised is worthy of said attention.

I think context here is everything. If it was easy to blend in without the fear of being subjected to homophobic behaviour they'd do just that. Having to group together and display a flag is a transition that appears to be the only way to raise awareness and to do so with strength in unity. Some might prefer not to and sit wherever they wish within the ground. There is choice.

As for segregation, how is it an issue if there are people wishing to actively sit together? It's no different to people wanting to stand next to each and sing for 90 minutes. You might argue the latter is purely about the football, but go and have a discussion about the impact of 1882 and some are passionately against it, to the point of belittlement. It's segregation if you wish to perceive it as such. They don't. They see it as a positive. We should respect that.

Modern crowds are diverse, be it predominately male. There isn't a prototype for the perfect supporter. We are all individuals and behaviourally have one thing in common on the day of a football match - we suffer agonisingly together watching our beloved team play. It still isn't as simplistic as suggesting 'we're all Tottenham so there's no need to single yourself out as something different because the football is the one thing that is bringing us together'. If it was this uncomplicated they'd be no rainbow flag.

If you're straight you're in pretty much the perfect position to frequent a match. For the most part it's a blokes domain where men get to be men at their lowest common denominator. Sweary and pseudo punchy, pumped full of testosterone. Although some prefer to stand with their iPhone aloft or drink beer during the game and miss most of it. You can basically enjoy the game as you choose to.

The reality is, the experience is far more placid. Most stadia are made up of family and kids and women and men that actually prefer to sit in silence whilst others might occasionally break healthy and safety regulations by standing up. It's not the 1980s and although atmosphere has degraded in a variety of ways thanks to being over policed and the corruption of consumerism, it's improved in other ways. It's an open house to more or less anyone that wishes to watch their team play as long as they have a fat enough wallet. Almost anyone.

It's still perceived as this heterosexual escapism, you know, with all the hugging and kissing and looking into each others eyes when Spurs have scored a goal. Like I said, it's a blokes domain.

There are many that want to go to the football but don't feel comfortable because of some elements, like homophobic chanting. Others go and tolerate it (remember, once upon a time it was bananas being chucked onto the pitch). Thanks to the tribal gathering within the ground, normal social rules can sometimes be stretched thanks to the sheer numbers of supporters saying something in unison - although not to the point where people are completely accepting of certain language and behaviour.

Those that want to attend or do so (and tolerate) want to be able to blend in and if they feel they wouldn't be accepted if those around them knew they were gay then this pretty much stops them from being themselves at the Lane. Something that most in attendance take completely for granted and never give a seconds thought about it. So they have to be more forward, blatant about it. Those that take this particular choice.

It's easier said than done to suggest that '...if they want to be considered equals (I'm paraphrasing what is being said by others) they should just get on with it and be treated like everyone else'. How do you think two men in a relationship and behaving like so will be received in the stands if you ever witness it because I'm certain they won't be ignored the same way a traditional boy/girl couple would be.

We can be who we want to be. We don't need a flag. They can't. The fact there's a we and a they further highlights the point. It might not matter to you but then you have no reason to feel marginalised or socially isolated within this particular context. It might be that other areas of our society are more accepting but that's not the case in football. Which is why there's a supporters group and a flag. A call to arms, a 'we're here, so deal with it' stance. Maybe the point, in the long term, is that people will stop caring about being bothered about any of this and with it discrimination will slowly die away. Sadly I think that's for a future generation to enjoy long after we've all left this life.

LGBT want to make people aware. Not that sexual orientation is important to the experience of the game itself but let me know how many gay footballers have come out and how accepting supporters are of the ones rumoured to be.

Not sure you can really compare any of this to a political endorsement, like the Cypriot flag that is no longer on show and to suggest a 'Hetro group and flag' is bordering on parody. The fact we have tags and labels is because on the whole we are uncomfortable with sexuality as our social evolution continues its struggle from crawl to walk.

When this discussion first kicked off, I've got to be honest, I did think 'what's the point?' I made light of it citing the Cypriot flag (removed apparently by its owner after a disagreement with another gentlemen) and why anyone has to feel the need to shout out about who they are above and beyond being Spurs. And then I realised, it's a positive for those that want it and that it doesn't bother me in a negative way. I don't care. Not in a detached disparaging way, but it's none of my business how you live your life but if there's a group that wants to shout about it then the likelihood is that they need to shout about it.

Football is not a forgiving or understanding environment. Even with all its modern characteristics. Society in general is in its infancy with so many things relating to not only sexuality but race and cultures and religion.

If you're not homophobic then why should any of this bother you? If you're not and you're still bothered, what is actually intrusive about it? How is it actually harming you and your own experience and personal expression to be free to be whatever you are? If it's about wanting football to be just about the football, well let's be honest, if it was just about the football we'd all drown in each others misery.

Are some supporters more equal than others?

No.

Giving a flag to LGBT doesn't put them on a level pegging with the rest of us. It's actually showing how far they have to go before a flag isn't a necessity and nobody has hang ups over people's choice of sleeping partners.