We've dedicated episode 3 of our 'Proud To Be' series to celebrating and sharing some of the thoughts and experiences of our black LGBT+ members. A moving read that hopes to shine a light on their experiences and provide greater visibility of proudly black and LGBT+ role models within the game.
To start, do you mind sharing how you both identify (if comfortable) and what your preferred pronouns are?
Roland - My name is Roland and I identify as a gay man and use the pronouns he/him/his.
Betty - I’m a black queer woman, my preferred pronouns are she/her.
Tell us a bit about you and your heritage and what it means to you?
Rolly - I’m originally from Cameroon so my heritage is African. I’m really proud of where I’m from - it’s where I was born and it’s a special place that means a lot to me.
Betty - I’m a proud British Born Zambian. My heritage and culture has shaped me into the person I am today.
"If you hear racist language or micro aggressions, don’t just brush it off - challenge people, correct people."
As a club, we know marginalised groups exist within our own community and the important role visibility and representation plays in elevating the lived experiences of others. Do you think black LGBT+ culture is represented and visible enough?
Rolly - No it’s not visible enough - we need more role models within mainstream culture. Talent like Lil Nas X and Todrick Hall are great examples of people bravely creating more LGBT+ visibility but we need more!
Betty - Not at all. I was brought up outside of London in a predominantly white area. As a young impressionable person - if you’re told that black isn’t beautiful enough times, you tend to believe that. I didn’t see black LGBT+ people anywhere. Not in my social circle, not in my town, not in the media, books, nothing. It affected how I saw myself and who I dated. Moving to London was the making of me because of representation. I realised that being black and gay was a beautiful combination. Organisations like black pride, people like Nana and Rose who create safe spaces for black queers to be their authentic selves are so important.
What would you like to see more of to increase black LGBT+ visibility (could be in sport/society/business)?
Betty - People using their privilege. If you’re in a position of power, hire black LGBT+ people. If you’ve been offered to speak on a panel about black LGBT+ issues and you don’t identify as such - offer your spot to someone who does. The more we see, the better.
"I try to explain what a great place it is, the values of the club, what it represents and how great it is at supporting members of the LGBT+ community. Ultimately, it’s a collection of people who just love sport and it’s offered me a great space to be myself. "
Black History Month has rightfully gained more awareness in recent year's. For you, why is it important to celebrate the period?
Rolly - It’s a time of the year where a lot of people actively spend time wanting to learn, listen and educate themselves about black culture and history. I know the USA celebrates it later (February I think), but I think it’s good that it’s becoming recognised as a global event.
Betty - It’s important to learn, celebrate, and appreciate our history. It allows us to celebrate black people in all forms and helps us to create a new narrative. Representation is super important. The visibility encourages people to keep striving and to break boundaries because for that little black baby that has just been born, we are their history.
Are there any things you would want the LGBT+ community to start doing more of and to stop doing, to better support black folks all year round?
Rolly - I think that on the whole the LGBT+ community tends to be more progressive than wider society. I do think however, that broader LGBT+ representation outside of key cities like London needs to improve so that members of the black LGBT+ community can be encouraged to love who they love, without fear. I don’t think there is anything in particular the LGBT+ community should stop doing.
Betty - Listen! Always listen. Listen to your black friends, colleagues, acquaintances, family members. Read! There’s plenty of information readily available online, for free. Challenge! If you hear racist language or micro aggression's, don’t just brush it off - challenge people, correct people.
Looking back now as an out and proud black person - if you could go back in time, what advice would you have for your younger self?
Rolly - I’d tell myself to not hold back and hide in the dark. To try and find information about the LGBT+ community and to seek help to support how I feel. I’d explain that it will be a struggle and hard, but don’t shy away from people who could help. If you do it now, you’ll be in a much better place when you’re older.
Betty - We do exist, you are valid.
Is there anything that you would recommend people eat, read/listen or watch to celebrate black culture?
Rolly - For me I enjoyed the British Museum - they had sculptures from periods of black history. I found it a great place and it provided me with a sense of admiration and curiosity for those before me and filled me with pride.
Betty - Explore new foods! Try out an African restaurant - whether it’s southern, western, Eastern or Northern. Try something you’ve never tried before.
In terms of the club, how did you get involved & how long have you been playing at the club?
Rolly - I got involved back in 2018 through an ex who was a close friend of someone in the club. They passed my number onto one of the managers and I joined pretty much the following week. Three years on and I’m still here enjoying it.
Betty - since the W&NB team came into play in May of this year and it’s honestly one of the best things I’ve done. We have gone from strength to strength and watching the players flourish has been amazing.
Lastly, you’ve a friend interested in joining a football team… How are you selling them SFC in a sentence?
Rolly - I’ve already had to do this recently! I try to explain what a great place it is, the values of the club, what it represents and how great it is at supporting members of the LGBT+ community. Ultimately, it’s a collection of people who just love sport and it’s offered me a great space to be myself.
Betty - If you want to play competitive football for a friendly, welcoming, inclusive club with players from a range of backgrounds, genders and ethnicities then stonewall is the club for you.
If you or anyone you know might like to get involved with the club, get in touch here: www.stonewallfc.com/join-us