Today marks the start of Lesbian Visibility Week and GiveMeSport Women looks at just a few of the many icons within football who are paving the way for a fairer world.
Football has never been a black and white sport. With the recent rise in online abuse and discrimination, it’s vital that now more than ever, those in the spotlight help fight back against the injustice and hatred.
Whilst there’s still work to be done to combat the ongoing homophobia within sport, there are players and professionals playing their part in tackling the stigma that still surrounds same-sex relationships.
The US star isn’t just a beacon of light on the pitch for her country but she is equally, if not more influential outside of football.
Megan Rapinoe is arguably the sport’s leading personality when it comes to fighting for equality. The 35-year-old has been continuously vocal on pushing for equal pay for the USWNT and was recently invited to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden.
But Rapinoe’s biggest strength lies in her effortless push for queer visibility. Both she and her partner Sue Bird are extremely open when it comes to their relationship – with their engagement in Antigua last year widely documented across the globe.
As one of the biggest footballing names on the planet, Rapinoe’s stage is huge. But it’s how the US icon uses her platform that really makes her a credit to both her country and to the LGBTQ+ community. For women struggling with their sexuality, Rapinoe is the ideal role model for them to find the strength to feel comfortable being who they are.
Pernille Harder and Magdalena Eriksson
During the 2019 World Cup, an image of the Women’s Super League power couple went viral. Magdalena Eriksson had just helped Sweden progress into the quarter-finals of the competition and went straight to Pernille Harder at full time, who was sporting the yellow and blue of her partner’s home nation.
The two shared a celebratory kiss, which would go on to become one of the most iconic women’s football images on the internet.
For Eriksson and Harder, the embrace couldn’t have been a more normal reaction to the game’s result. The response that followed was a complete surprise for the couple, who in that moment, realised they had become two of the sport’s biggest LGBTQ+ icons.
“I think that’s when I felt the demand for role models in that way, because of how big it was and how many people wrote to me on Instagram saying they looked up to us and how much we’d helped them,” Eriksson commented. “That’s when I understood that we’re really powerful together. Before, we hadn’t really seen ourselves as that.”
The two now play together at Chelsea and are adored by thousands of fans across the globe. Their normalisation of same-sex relationships has been game-changing for LGBTQ+ supporters everywhere.
Jess Fishlock is one of the UK’s most adored footballers. Despite leaving to pursue a career in the US back in 2013, Wales’ most capped player continues to be a leading voice for those back home.
In 2018, the Welsh international was given an MBE for her services to football and the LGBTQ+ community. Fishlock works tirelessly off the pitch to help make sport a more even playing field.
Like OL Reign teammate Rapinoe, the 34-year-old is very open about her sexuality and is very aware of her position as a role model to many. She recently admitted that there was no one within the industry to look up to when she was growing up, which is why she uses her platform to make ‘coming out’ a lot less daunting and encourage those to embrace who they are and never be afraid to be themselves.
Ali Krieger & Ashlyn Harris
Like Eriksson and Harder, the two USWNT stars are doing wonders for the representation of LGBTQ+ individuals within sport.
The two welcomed their first child into the world earlier this year, following the adoption of their daughter. The birth of baby Sloane Phillips was a widely celebrated occasion which sparked one of football’s most iconic celebrations. Rapinoe dedicated her goal against Brazil back in February to the new parents – ‘rocking the baby’ and blowing kisses to the camera to show her love and support.
Since Krieger and Harris’ beautiful wedding in 2019, the two have become even bigger queer icons. Similar to their good friend and teammate Rapinoe, they are using their status to squash the stigma around LGBTQ+ relationships.
Casey Stoney continues to be one of England’s most treasured football personalities. After her career as a player, the former Lioness is now spearheading the newly formed Manchester United team to huge heights. The 38-year-old got stuck straight into her coaching role and led the Reds to a Championship title after their first season in action.
Stoney is now challenging the country’s heavyweights in the WSL, all whilst being a devoted partner and mum.
The ex-Arsenal and Liverpool star has three children with former Lincoln player Megan Harris and the five of them paint a picture of the perfect family. She continues to show that balancing a career within football whilst being a parent is manageable, which is encouraging for anyone doubting they can do the same.
Stoney is also vocal on LGBTQ+ rights and is constantly pushing to promote equality and serve as a role model for those who need it most.