It’s Pride Month, and certain behavior is nothing to be proud of
Homophobic chants during a soccer match at Soldier Field and an anti-Pride protest by some Tampa Bay Rays players show we have a long way to go.
Welcome to LGBTQ+ Pride Month, sports fans. Tolerance is fun, isn’t it?
I’m speaking, specifically, to fans at the Mexico-Ecuador game at Soldier Field on Sunday night, the ones who chanted a homophobic slur at Ecuadorian goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez as he attempted a kick late in the game.
This wasn’t about Dominguez being gay or anything like that. The 6-5, 35-year-old veteran is straight, for all we know. But that’s not relevant anyway.
This was about Mexico’s fans chanting a nasty, homophobic word in Spanish that they have been warned many times not to use. And it’s not just that one word, either.
Soccer fans around the world have been told by governing body FIFA to knock off all sexual, racial and ethnic chants aimed at foes. And the use of a three-step warning system — with the third tier being cancellation of the game — is the penalty for such behavior.
The Mexico-Ecuador game, a friendly, by the way, was paused in the 81st minute while a warning flashed on the scoreboard.
“STEP #1,’’ it read. “ANY INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPATING IN THE DISCRIMINATORY CHANT WILL BE EJECTED FROM THE STADIUM.”
Players from both teams gathered peacefully in the center circle, the crowd tamed, and shortly the game continued.
But we still have a gay thing going on in this world, and demeaning an opponent with a homophobic slur is the time-honored way of attacking not just a foe’s abilities but his or her status as a human being.
Even as we see rainbow colors throughout Chicago, and even as our city prepares for its annual Pride Parade on June 26, the forces against acceptance remain.
Clearly, these are troubling, confusing times for us all. It seems every minority or oppressed person or group has abruptly demanded equality as fast as possible. Sometimes, even faster than possible.
But this is how things change. This is how turbulence leads to equity, to fairness. And to hold out against such change is to fall behind history and, ultimately, to be humiliated.
That kind of reluctance was at the root of the nasty chant that rocked 61,000 fans at Soldier Field. Of course, we can’t rule out the effect of alcohol here, either. It’s probably no coincidence the slurs came after the crowd had hours of warm-weather drinking under its belt.
Yet there was no boozing among Rays players who refused to wear the rainbow cap and sleeve decals designed by their team for the club’s 16th Pride Night held Saturday at Tropicana Field.
The Rays played the White Sox, and fans watching probably barely noticed anything unusual about any of the uniforms because players wear camouflage, pink, retro and hybrid outfits almost as often as regular ones.
So why bother to consciously remove a little rainbow sleeve starburst or a barely altered cap?
Rays pitcher Jason Adam pointed to his religious objections, saying, “It’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage [gay behavior] if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior.’’
So there’s that. Maybe Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his crackdown on sexual-orientation teachings in the first years of grade school were a subtle part of this, too.
But it’s Pride Month in the United States, no matter what, and attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ citizens of our country will keep changing, always for the better, we must hope.
Myself, I am not convinced that mature transgender women — that is, females who went through puberty and have trained as males — should be allowed to compete at the highest levels with cisgender females.
My mind could change. I don’t know. Information is key. As is science. Lia Thomas — 6-3, broad-shouldered and a male for 21 years — winning a women’s NCAA swimming championship made me dubious. But we’ll see.
Remember this: According to a recent Gallup poll, 71% of Americans now support gay marriage. In 1996, only 27% did. That’s pretty fast change.
There’s also the weariness that comes from resisting something that is personal, inevitable, applies only to others and should not affect our private lives at all. I often chuckle at a poem by late British writer Dorothy Sayers, admiring its wisdom:
As I grow older and older
And totter towards the tomb
I find I care less and less
Who goes to bed with whom.