I am, indeed, a very Proud Lilywhite.

Well, its pretty great being a Spurs fan at the moment… And for the last year and a half its been pretty great too to be a Proud Lilywhite.

Explaining football and the love and passion you have for it isn’t always easy and that’s why watching a game with those that ‘get it’ is always a lot more fun. Having loved football, both playing it and Spurs, for as long as I can remember, I get the community of a fan base, of wearing the same colours. Having more recently been able to acknowledge my sexuality and be OK with it, I’ve also been able to really appreciate the importance of an LGBT community and support. So, combining these has been wonderful. Moreover, bridging activism, social change and football has been special bringing my two greatest passions together in a sense of united community.

I’m an LGBT woman and so sometimes when you then say you love football, people aren’t surprised you are. Let me tell you now, this has never made me comfortable or more accepted. It only accentuates stereotypes and discrimination. I’ve known I was a Spurs fan since day dot. I didn’t know that about who I do or don’t love and want to be with. That’s for me to decide, for me to work out and no-one else.

I went to an event quite early on after Proud Lilywhites formed after meeting some members at a Stonewall LGBT Women in Sport event. It was at White Hart Lane, in the Bill Nicholson suite, and I felt excited and I felt safe. It would have been great to have seen more women in the room (something I’ll come back to) but I felt welcomed and embraced by many people on the committee and especially by some hilarious women. I didn’t really tell anyone I was going to this (I said I was going to a fan group’s thing) because I still struggled with pride. That is a big reason why I’m writing this piece because Proud Lilywhites supported me and created the space where I was able to feel more proud. The more I was struck by how amazing the group was and by how much they were able to influence things at the club with their hard work, the prouder I became. I told my Mum, my Dad and my brother that I was a Proud Lilywhite and wore the badge proudly. Seriously, what a fantastic badge. I put it in my bio and I was able to talk about it. My brother came for a drink with us before we went to a match one Saturday.

In some conversations that were said light heartedly, there was the point raised – ‘What about a fan’s group for non LGBT people?’ to which I responded, ‘oh you mean like the other 35,000 people at a football match?’ They have their majority and their voice is loud. Sadly, so is, far too often, their homophobia. This is a serious point – the reason Proud Lilywhites exists is to make it feel safer for people like me, for us to have a community and for us to ultimately work to change things and make things better for the game and fans overall. Proud Lilywhites have certainly done that.

Another significant part of being in Proud Lilywhites for me was being able to raise concerns about the idea that to be a ‘proper fan’ you have to be a season ticket holder. I love Tottenham Hotspur but even if I somehow could afford the large amounts of money for a season ticket and match day miscellaneous costs, it’s a seven year wait for one at White Hart Lane. That shouldn’t be used to question my loyalty to or love of the club. Prod Lilywhites welcome this reminder.

In our cup final last season, I joined Proud Lilywhites at someone’s house who I hadn’t actually met – we had so much fun (despite the score). Another incredible highlight was the trip to Wembley. The FA had given LGBT fan groups tickets to see the England game and there we were with some of the best seats in the house. Our flags were up. I remember being very aware that the photos being taken would be shared and people may see them who I hadn’t spoken to about my sexuality. I was okay. I stood there, grinning, delighted to see the the Spurs cockerel and the rainbow flag, and to be stood beside it at Wembley Stadium. It was slightly surreal but it felt wonderful. I felt safe and confident because I was stood with people like me, people who loved Tottenham, who loved football, who wanted to be themselves and who wanted to be able to be proud and loud.

I am fully aware there is only one team in North London, the Pride of North London…

I will say that the commitment from Proud Lilywhites to make the world of football better for the LGBT community has been demonstrated with the collaboration of fan groups, across North London and the rest of the country. We are united by our love of the game and our goal to smash homophobia, bi-phobia and transphobia from the game. That is special and something that has been inspiring to see.

Football, sadly, is still dominated by men.  Being involved in Proud Lilywhites, I’ve become more convinced of the need for women’s groups and action against sexism in the game and in the industry. More positively, I’ve been able to watch incredibly inspiring women in Proud Liliywhites stand up for what’s right and calling out all forms of discrimination. That has made me feel safe and feel encouraged.

I’m currently living in Spain but am always keeping up to date with Spurs (what a season!). When I watch MOTD and see the flag flying, I grin and I show friends. When I see the Spurs lads warming up in their Football against Homophobia shirts (and then support for which is tweeted by Tottenham Hotspur Official), I get a warm fuzzy feeling because I know the people who have made that happen and because I know how important and how progressive that really is. I keep up to date with Proud Lilywhites because I am proud. I am a proud LGBT woman. I am proud of all the work Proud Lilywhites do; they are hitting the back of the net time and time again and it’s fab to see how they’ve grown and how they support fans across the country to be proud.

I am, indeed, a very Proud Lilywhite.

Written by Maggie Hayes, resident of Spain and Proud Lilywhite.

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