LGBTQ rights exhausting

It’s an exhausting time to be LGBTQ+, and the World Cup debates are just the start

Stop branding a human rights issue as a cultural difference we should quietly respect

I’m tired. I’m tired of watching people who call themselves an ally choose football over supporting our rights. I’m tired of straight women like Coleen Nolan on Loose Women brushing off World Cup boycotts as “Everyone thinks they’re a politician these days.” I’m tired of straight TV shows singing “satirical” songs about our heads on spikes. I’m tired of the American far-right murdering us in our safe spaces, like what happened in Colorado this last weekend. Being LGBTQ+ right now and seeing our rights to exist freely being debated is absolutely, overwhelmingly exhausting.

World Cup > LGBTQ+ rights

I can’t remember the exact moment I came to the conclusion that my family cared more about football than they did about me. I think it was around when my dad told me the only thing he’d ever cried about was footie – and not either his wedding or the weddings of his daughters, death of loved ones or birth of children. Not that I’d ever waste my breath asking, but I think if I asked my parents to come and support their gay son at a Pride event and it meant missing a Manchester City game I’d be laughed out of the room before I even finished my sentence.

It’s really hard to watch people you care about bury their head in the sand when you raise the issue to them that perhaps they should be boycotting the World Cup when it’s being held in a country with the worst human rights record for LGBTQ+ people imaginable. I feel like we’re in a place where I don’t have the energy to call out my football mad family on being bad allies for plastering the World Cup all over their social media – because is it worth it? Is it worth being shouted down over a meal? Is it worth being told we have a victim mentality? Is it worth being told we’re a snowflake? It feels hopeless knowing your words constantly fall on deaf ears and that your points are skipped over.

The World Cup being held in Qatar has put the cat amongst the pigeons, for me at least. It’s really made me think about what it actually is to be an ally. Being an ally isn’t just wishing me well on my merry gay way. Being an ally isn’t patting yourself on the back because you referred to someone with the correct pronouns unprompted. It’s standing with us even when it impacts something you want to enjoy. If you aren’t willing to do that for something like the World Cup, when are you willing to? When it’s too late?

It’s not up for panel show ‘debate’

Coleen Nolan really lived up to her reputation as the most insufferable woman on television earlier this week. When the Loose Women decided to debate if they’d be watching the World Cup, Nolan gleefully told of how she couldn’t wait to watch it and how in Qatar, their policies are “their culture.” “People have a right to believe in what they believe in”, she says – like she’s talking about someone believing that prawn cocktail is the best flavour of crisps and not whether LGBTQ+ people should be sentenced to death. Coleen Nolan and her comments on LGBTQ+ rights never get any less exhausting – I’ve not forgotten when she equated gay rights and ISIS in the homophobic bakery debate, and her comments on adoption.

“I hate the way everyone thinks they’re a politician now, I just wanna watch football”, Coleen says – like that’s not all LGBTQ+ people want too. That, and to not be murdered or persecuted for who we are – which isn’t just an issue faced by our Qatari queer brothers and sisters but one that still happens to us in the supposedly tolerant west. It’s not everyone thinking they’re a politician for standing up for human rights. This is a human rights issue, an issue about compassion. Politics doesn’t even come into it.

This morning, GMB invited John Fashanu on to tell us all how we need to not moan about One Love armbands not being worn and respect Qatari culture, end of. I don’t know why GMB thought it fit that the person we needed to hear this from was a man who disowned his brother after he came out, and then went on to kill himself. Fashanu then said in 2012 that his brother wasn’t gay, merely attention seeking. Yes, let’s get him on to tell us all we need to shut up and follow Qatar rules.

Because that’s what this keeps coming back to. Human rights are not a cultural difference, they are a right. LGBTQ+ people have a global right to safety – this isn’t a debate. “Wouldn’t it be easier to not go to Qatar then?”, says Esther Krakue in this tweet. Everyone just wants us to shut up, to stop moaning. Is football not for everyone? Doesn’t everyone have to right to follow the World Cup if they wish? It’s beyond belief at this point. Replies like this, comments like Nolan’s and Fashanu’s make me feel like they think LGBTQ+ rights are a granted privilege that we have and not a right – you tell me that isn’t at best exhausting, at worst wholly depressing.

Even when trying to be on our side, the mark is missed completely


The Last Leg aired what they called “their World Cup anthem”. It’s a jauntily sang rewrite of Three Lions, where instead of football coming home, they chant “it’s becoming home-ophobic”. Under the safety net blanket of ‘dark humour’, the show sings about dead workers and then lists “If Alan Carr toured and was joined by Boy George and then even RuPaul, they could end up three heads on a spike!” Dark humour works when it’s funny, but there are no laughs to be found here.

Five LGBTQ+ people were shot dead in Colorado Springs this weekend, and you can imagine how exhausting it is to have to tell people why songs like this being sang by straight people on national TV is utterly exhausting and just plain sad.

But don’t worry guys, Fairytale Of New York discourse is lurking round the corner!

When December pops up next week, the first thing we get behind the door of our advent calendars is straight people debating on whether the word f*ggot gets to be played on the radio all in the spirit of Christmas. I personally am not offended by the word in that song – it’s sang by characters who are not presented as heroes. What does offend me is how badly straight people want to say it, how badly they want to sing it at the top of their lungs in pubs. We have fun don’t we!

I appreciate and acknowledge my privilege that I feel like my life as an LGBTQ+ person right now is exhausting rather than dangerous, and I do not sleep in my bed nervous and fearful for my rights. But the issues that we’re all talking about right now are exhausting as we tell people why they should be an LGBTQ+ ally throughout the World Cup not for me, but for queer people in Qatar. Now is the chance to stand with us and action your allyship.

Or are you going to continue to prioritise pints, goals and glory?

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• All the British politicians who have spoken out against the World Cup in Qatar

• Meet the WAGs of this year’s England World Cup squad who are hoping to bring football home

• Explained: This is why so many people are boycotting this year’s World Cup in Qatar