Pride, Soccer, Identity

Over the weekend I was at Pride Toronto, celebrating my community and the people in my life, many of which represent the spectrum of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) that the festival honours every year. My schedule was pretty jam packed: Friday was the Trans March followed by dancing at the Two-Spirit Rainbow Pow Wow, some sleep time, and then the next day brunch, Dyke March, 519 Beer Garden, sleep time, rest time, and Sunday night at Black is Black: Blockorama 18 with a final night cap at the 519 Beer Garden. All in all it was fabulous.

In between all this I watched the weekend quarter-final games of the UEFA Euro 2016 – Italy vs Germany and France vs Iceland – the former being so intense I could barely watch the penalty shoot out. As an Italian-Canadian, when men’s international soccer tournaments take place my allegiance is always with the Azzurri. I love it when they win and I love it even more when I get to gloat about their dynasty. The Azzurri are one of the most accomplished and decorated national team in the history of soccer. That is no easy feat.

(I have yet to watch Italy’s women’s national team and this is one of the things I hope for: that they will qualify for the next Women’s World Cup or that I will make the journey to Italy some day soon to see them live in action. For a brief moment I had an arms length experience of this when Carolina Morace was the head coach of Canada’s women’s national team).

However it was also strange to be ‘so Italian’ in and amongst being ‘so gay’. Sometimes this doesn’t make any sense to me, to be Italian, to be Canadian, to be openly lesbian, to be an athlete, to be a soccer fan, to be a woman, to be an ally with marginalized groups, to be living all these things. Sport is already hard enough when you are a woman or transgender, sport becomes even harder when you recognize the layers and layers of politics, oppression, joy, pride, corruption, complexity and stereotype that govern your body.

Sport and sexuality as a topic has made huge gains in the mainstream over the last five years – some elite athletes who are part of the LGBTQ community are becoming more open about their sexuality and leading by example, others are providing advocacy at the grassroots level. This is refreshing. I love it. And I understand how hard it is to occupy this space.