A high profile footballer has revealed she has suffered online homophobic abuse and has called for respect and understanding.
Jess Fishlock, who played for Glasgow City in 2013 and has won 87 international caps for Wales, opened up while speaking to the BBC’s Staffan Garrero about her eventful sporting career and the challenges she has experienced because of her sexuality.
Fishlock, 28, who currently plays professionally in the USA’s National Women’s Soccer League for Seattle Reign alongside Scots Kim Little and Rachel Corsie, has an FA Cup runners-up medal (won with Bristol Academy) and two NWSL runners-up medals. She also won the Champions League with FFC Frankfurt and was voted the Wales Player of the Year in four successive seasons. However, she has found that homophobia is no respecter of sporting success and that her relatively high profile has actually increased instances of abuse towards her.
Fishlock told the BBC that she is keen to protect her private life after being targeted on social media. Addressing the issue of her sexual orientation, she said: “It’s my life and it’s a huge part of who I am. I have a girlfriend who is exceptional and who I spend a lot of my time with.
“People can be cruel at times and what I don’t want is for a crazy fan ending up abusing her for no apparent reason.”
She has no intention of covering up her identity, but bluntly acknowledged that prejudices not only exist but are frequently directed towards public figures who are “out”.
“We don’t hide it and I certainly don’t hide it. My family are fine and extremely supportive,” she continued. “As much as we’re fine, not everybody is fine with that situation and we’re aware of that. We’re extremely respectful people and we will respect those who are close to us who are not, at this moment, OK with everything.”
During the interview Fishlock also addressed misconceptions about the women’s game. Casey Stoney, the England captain who came out publicly in February last year, claimed with some justification that homosexuality was seen as more acceptable in women’s football than in the men’s game – but Fishlock’s revelations suggest a lot of progress has still to be made to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in all forms of football.
“There’s a stereotype that everyone that plays a women’s sport is gay, which is obscene” she said. “[Sexual orientation] really shouldn’t be a reason why someone doesn’t play a sport and it certainly shouldn’t be a reason why someone gets abused for playing a sport.”
Fishlock is now collaborating with Athlete Ally, an American not-for-profit organisation seeking to combat prejudice and make sport genuinely inclusive through education. Athlete Ally already has several well-known ambassadors including retired tennis star Martina Navratilova, and Fishlock is delighted to be involved. “Athlete Ally is a great thing and I’m proud of being an ambassador for it because homophobia in all sports and all genders is a terrible thing,” she said.
Andrew is KaleidoScot's sports editor and photographer.
An experienced blogger, Andrew was raised in the Hebrides and currently lives in Renfrewshire.
Andrew became an active equality campaigner at the time of the Section 28 debate, and has particular interests in faith issues and promoting LGBTI equality in sport.
Andrew was shortlisted for the Icon Award's 2015 Journalist of the Year.