Quiz Night – 23rd October 2019

Pride Of Irons Quiz 23-Oct-2019

Fancy yourself as a quiz mastermind? Think you can take on the best? Then join us at the Pride Of Irons Quiz!

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Call It Out 2019 at the London Stadium

6th September marked the kick off of Call It Out 2019 – a Europe-Wide convention addressing LGBT-phobia in football and it was co-hosted at the London Stadium by West Ham United and yours truly, Pride Of Irons!

Call It Out is an annual event coordinated by Pride In Football (PiF) – the UK affiliation for LGBT Football Fan Groups – and 2019 marked the third year of the event. What made it even more special is that PiF were in partnership with Football Supporters Europe (FSE) to combine the event with their very own Project Out!; an EU-funded initiative to fight homophobia and empower LGBT+ stakeholders in football.

With so many stakeholders, increased reach and more participation than ever before, the event needed a venue to do the occasion justice. Enter West Ham United and Pride Of Irons. Our partnership has been recognised as one of the best between a football club and its LGBT fan group and so it was a natural choice to hand us the responsibility of co-hosting the event.

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Now by this point you’re probably thinking we’re done with the names of organisations involved, but you’d be wrong. Another party came to the table to make this event happen and that’s the Attitude Magazine Foundation who work to enable organisations to make positive change for the LGBT community. Their help in coordinating the event cannot be underestimated and we offer them so much thanks and appreciation.

Friday 6th September kicked the event off with welcome drinks sponsored by Attitude. With so many attendees travelling not just across the country, but across Europe to attend, the evening gave attendees of the conference a chance to meet, chat and get to know each other. The wine and conversation flowed and there was plenty of chat about shared experience, challenges and lessons to be shared. Speeches from PiF Chair Di Cunningham, publisher and owner of Attitude Darren Styles, Sky Sports’ very own Mark McAdam and our co-chair Jim Dolan.

A few more glasses were drained before the close of the evening and the merriment was taken to the road for the more energetic attendees while the rest of us headed home for a good night’s sleep ahead of the main event the next day.

7th September was the day of the main event – the full conference of Call It Out 2019 and the launch of Project Out! The days kicked off with a presentation from Rory Magrath, PhD (Senior Lecturer and Football Studies & Business Course Leader at Solent University, Southampton) who launched the first ever study speaking exclusively to LGBT football fans. He gave an overview of his findings to date which were extremely interesting. Keep an eye on his Twitter for when the finished paper is released.

The morning and afternoon workshop sessions were broken up by networking sessions and stadium tours during which fans from other clubs showed a begrudging admiration for the London Stadium, though naturally always finished with “But I wouldn’t want my team to play here every week”.

 

The workshops were conducted by LGBT fans, for LGBT fans and included advice on how to run sustainable LGBT groups, presented by Ian from Newcastle’s United with Pride, discussion around Managing Social Media and Trolling by Pride Of Irons’ Jim Dolan and a discussion on Toxic International Competition Hosts by Joe White of Gay Gooners.

With PiF now boasting 50 LGBT football groups (in fact the 50th – Proud Rovers – was kicked off on the day), it’s so very important for us to not only share good practice and lessons learnt, but to try to drive for all of our clubs to work with us to make football a more inclusive place, not just for LGBT fans, but for everyone!

Alongside all of this action, Project Out! was going on with representatives from all over Europe speaking about fan/club interaction and giving recommendations around standards that could make up part of a handbook for clubs and governing bodies. West Ham and Pride Of Irons were represented by Supporter Services Manager Jake Heath and POI Treasurer Al Holmes who impressed everyone with the close relationship we have.

The end to a truly fantastic day was provided by a veritable smorgasbord of celebrity guests in a round table discussion chaired very kindly by Mark McAdam who stepped in at the last minute to cover Jess Creighton who was unable to make it.

Mark was joined by actor Charlie Condou, journalist Nicky Bandini, wrestler Brad Slayer, Olympic boxer Anthony Ogogo and our very own Alisha Lehmann.

Charlie spoke of the changing environment in football and how he feels as a parent taking his young children to games. Nicky spoke of her career in football journalism and the difference in atmosphere in stadiums and league across the continent. Brad had a very positive message about the acceptance of LGBT people in wrestling and Anthony told us his story of being an ally and officiating his sister’s wedding to her wife. Alisha spoke of the difference in women’s football and how different attitudes are.

As the weekend drew to a close, many selfies were taken, numbers exchanges and promises made to help lift each other up and make changes for the good of football. We may be rivals on the pitch, but outside of match days we are a community that supports each other.

Some fans departed for the long journey home while others strolled over to Hackney Wick together to watch the England game. The day was over but the work continues. Football is changing for the better and we’ll keep doing what we do until we’ve succeeded in making football accessible to everyone – as it should be.

To see more from the day, head over to the West Ham website.

If you don’t support West Ham and you’re wondering if your club has a group, you can find the full list here.

Maybe your club doesn’t have a group? If so, get in touch with Pride In Football who can help you start one.

 

Help LGBT Chechens Flee Persecution

Our close friend Joe White from Gay Gooners travelled to Russia in 2018 for the World Cup and during his travels met many LGBT Russians. He learned a lot about the persecution they face but also the stories of LGBT people in Chechenya who were disappearing. Word from those in the country said that LGBT Chechens were being rounded up in concentration camps and executed. LGBT people and allies are mobilising to help these people flee to safety and you can help.

Joe’s story below:

After the horrors we’ve already heard that have happened in Chechnya, the start of 2019 confirmed our fears – it has begun again.

At least two people have already been killed, around 40 have been detained that the Russian LGBT Network are currently aware of.

Given that Friday 1st February marks the start of LGBT+ History Month (and is a Friday close to payday) we are asking people, LGBT+ friendly venues and groups to help raise funds to assist those affected by the Chechnya atrocities. The more that join in, whether to raise funds or awareness, the better. It is time to stand up against the hatred against the community across the world, especially from our privileged position.

LGBT+ History Month often is used as a way of reflecting how far we have come, and to celebrate those who fought for our rights we now largely enjoy. However across the world, our past is many people’s present. Without our support and our solidarity, they might not have the future we all deserve.

One of the main ways we can support the Russian LGBT Network in their work is through fundraising. It costs €4,000 (£3,513/$4,562) per person to help them escape and place them in secure accommodation. This is the most urgent need to help those suffering in Chechnya.

If you want to help, whether as a venue or by shaking a bucket and raising awareness, please get in touch.

https://lgbtnet.org/en/newseng/new-wave-persecution-against-lgbt-people-chechnya-around-40-people-detained-least-two-killed

You Can’t See Us Holding Hands

You Can’t See Us Holding Hands

On Friday night West Ham travelled away to Brighton and Hove Albion where we suffered a dejecting 1-0 defeat. Despite playing the better football and having plenty of chances to equalise, we just couldn’t break through their 11 men and so the Hammers’ travelling faithful all returned home disappointed. None so much as the members of Pride Of Irons.

If you’re from abroad or just not particularly familiar with Brighton, it’s a town on the South Coast of England with a traditionally large population of LGBT people. Because of this, the Brighton and Hove Albion football team and their fans have, for some time, been targeted by other football fans with chants and songs about…well…being gay. Chants such as “We can see you holding hands” and “Does your boyfriend know you’re here?” are on the softer end of the spectrum, but BHA have heard worse over the years.

During Friday’s match, those two chants made an appearance. Not really a surprise. Last season a few lads behind us tried to get one of the chants going. A few of us turned around, politely asked them to leave it out and it was over. Done. No aggro, no arguing and we carried on watching the game. Not that the game was particularly enjoyable (what is it about that team? Third loss on the bounce now!). This time though, it was different. It wasn’t a small group of lads. We were surrounded by a wall of noise both in front and behind us. From where we were standing, it felt like the whole away end was joining in.

Now despite what some might think looking at some of the comments on social media, our precious snowflake hearts didn’t melt. We didn’t run out crying or contact the stewards to grass anyone up. We looked at each other, rolled our eyes and shook our heads. Sure it was disappointing, but as LGBT people, we’ve ALL dealt with much worse. At that particular moment I was most concerned about the young lad who was with us. He’s approaching ten and as you can imagine is football mad. He told me on Friday that Issa Diop is his favourite defender because he’s a defender at school and Diop is his inspiration. He’s like all kids at that age who are mad about football and having the opportunity to go to a Friday night game at that age and stay up late was almost too much excitement to take. The reason I was concerned about him though is he has two Dads. Did he know what the chants meant? Was he okay? Looking at his expression I could tell he’d heard and he understood, but importantly he was okay. You see, kids from LGBT families aren’t sensitive snowflakes either.

After the match, one of our committee, Dave, Tweeted from our account:

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 19.27.26That’s it. Disappointing. No one claimed to be the victim of a hate crime or anything extreme. Just the general feeling amongst our group. Whilst I know there are plenty of people out there just gagging to tell me exactly how I should feel about the chants – and many have – or to tell me that it’s “just banter”, let’s be clear; calling someone gay or insinuating that they are as a form of insult isn’t “just banter”. The intention is to insult and by using us as the insult, we’re made to feel we’re less than. If you’re reading this and you disagree, then have the courage of your convictions and go speak to a gay friend or family member. Tell them you think the song is banter and then convince them. After all, if it’s not a problem they won’t have an issue with it, right? Don’t have any gay friends to talk to about it? Maybe that’s something to think about.

What followed the tweet was something that Dave (ironically a straight guy) hadn’t anticipated. From the backlash, anyone would think we’d been the ones chanting something about a marginalised group.

I’ve omitted the usernames from the below as I’ve got no interest in digging anyone out or trying to stir trouble for them. I simply want to highlight the kind of stuff we’ve received.

“Are we allowed to still sing come on you irons? Making a mountain out of a molehill as it was aimed at 1 fan in particular who was attempting to give it to us.”

“Disappointing” is making a mountain out of a molehill? And I thought we were supposed to be the dramatic ones.

“I think it’s about time we had a group for overweight, middle aged, white, male fans, we are totally unrepresented & I’d like something to be offended by. Or perhaps I’ll just stop being stupid ”

Ah yes, the truly marginalised community.

“I’m only 27 and since I’ve left school you can no longer say “you’ve dropped your gay card”, “ is that your best mate or your boyfriend”. Actually you better not call yourself “pride of Irons” because Irons is slang for poofs. To think Jesus died for this fucking generation..”

I’m sure the Messiah would be horrified to find out that he gave his life and yet poor 27 year olds can’t go around mocking gay people.

“Do you know what, I find people that wear make up offensive, shall we ban all women from wearing make up because it offends me? Actually whilst we are at it there’s plenty of words I’d like banned too, “on point”, “vibes”, and that’s just for starters.”

Yeah, fair point. The two things are totally comparable.

“I do believe that political & rights activists groups should be kept out of football! Why does sexuality have to be constantly defined? You’re just humans attracted to other humans. You’re not special or hated… that taboo is long gone!”

Keep an eye out for our party manifesto.

“I think you’re right there mate. It was a molehill turned into a mountain by a group of our own fans, @PrideOfIrons – I’d say this group will cause trouble for all our chants as time goes on, such is the overly PC culture of such organisations.”

Yeah. We’re going after Bubbles next.

Honestly though. It’s a little ironic that we’re the snowflakes for being disappointed by a chant that makes us out to be less than, yet overreacting to our disappointment is totally reasonable.

I’ve met so many West Ham fans over the years and none have ever had an issue with me being gay. Not to my face anyway. I don’t think our fans are bigots and I’m confident the vast majority of those singing the chants aren’t homophobic. They probably had a few beers and got swept up in the moment. And that’s why we’re disappointed. Because we know what it means to be West Ham. We know that’s not what our club is about. “West Ham Family” remember? Let’s just hope next time we face Brighton, the rest of the family remember us.

It’s strange. We’re often told that we shouldn’t bring sexuality into football. Groups like Pride Of Irons are regularly criticised for speaking out and told we’d be respected and left alone if we’re quiet and don’t draw attention to ourselves. Yet when LGBT people are dragged into football’s spotlight through stuff like this, we’re still the villains. We literally can’t win. I guess the ultimate irony of this whole episode is that with the current attitudes towards us in football, you really can’t see us holding hands. Most of us wouldn’t dare.

 

~ Jim Dolan, Co-Chair

Pride in London 2018 – A quick thank you.

We will no doubt follow this up with multiple blog posts from those who attended, but for now a quick thank you for all involved.

In the summer of 2015, Pride Of Irons attended our first ever Pride In London. To my recollection, there were seven of us. A year later and we had around fifteen. Last year we had 25 and our club mascot, Hammerhead. The first football mascot to attend Pride I hasten to add. This year? Sixty!

Now it’s true we had wristbands for 90, but given England were playing in a World Cup semifinal, a two-thirds attendance is mightily impressive. Add to that Hammerhead and a ruddy open top, West Ham-branded route master bus and the progress is hard to comprehend.

A few times yesterday I climbed the stairs to the top deck to see the mass of West Ham shirts, the smiles and the rainbow and glitter-painted faces and it brought a lump to my throat.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for giving up your time to come and show your colours and your pride.

In particular we’d like to thank;

Our final shout out goes to Kenzie – the young man who captured the hearts of everyone who saw him – and his two proud Dads Ian and Andy who encourage the little guy to be himself. Kenzie is the little boy so many of us wish we could have been.

A final request please, if you took any pictures of yesterday’s events, we’d really appreciate copies. You can share them with us by emailing them to info@prideofirons.com or tweet us @prideofirons.

Thanks once again and we hope to see you soon.