United with Pride (UWP) is the LGBTQ + support group for NUFC.
To say the past few days have been a roller coaster ride for UWP would be an understatement.
First and foremost, we are Newcastle United supporters (a fact some seem to be forgetting). However, we also represent the LGBTQ + community and are aware that this comes with a responsibility.
After a Saudi Arabia-led consortium took over Newcastle United, it has to be said that it put us between a rock and a tough place. Damn it if we do or damn if we don’t – celebrate the end of 14 LONG years of stagnation, two relegations and new owners who now actually use the word “ambition”, or acknowledge that the major shareholder is with one terrifying human rights record?
So what should we do? The keyword here has to be diplomacy?
As we realize that [LGBTQ+] Human rights violations are abhorred; It must be recognized that UWP is neither Amnesty International nor Human Rights Watch (both respectable organizations that rightly incite atrocities against the LGBTQ + community). UWP is a collection of dedicated toon fans who have volunteered to help make St James Park a more inclusive place to watch football. It seems that in the last few days there has been an (unfair) burden of expectation on our shoulders, which has been quite stressful at times.
Our main weapon in the fight against discrimination is visibility. Is it wrong to ask the new owners to continue that message as we did before under the United as One brand? With success comes more visibility. Shouldn’t we use this to show the world that SJP is open to everyone by continuing to hoist our rainbow flag at the start of the games?
Human Rights Watch produced a report entitled “Audacity in Adversity” highlighting the struggles of LGBTQ + activists in the Middle East and North Africa. Parts of it are harrowing and, in places, gloomy readings. But it also highlights the problem such activists face when they are recognized by the Western media.
Quote from the report:
Speaking to Human Rights Watch, several LGBT activists from the Middle East and North Africa expressed frustration at the one-dimensional international media coverage that portrayed the region as a black hole for LGBT rights. Such reporting misjudges the activities of LGBT activists from the region or makes them completely invisible. “We no longer want the image of just being victims,” an activist from Algeria told Human Rights Watch. “We want to talk about reality, talk about violence, but also [show what is] positive.”
Our question is simple; Don’t we owe it to these activists to continue our role of inclusion, which in time will be seen by wider audiences around the world? Isn’t this a bigger responsibility not just for us but for all LGBTQ + support groups across the UK to do their best to be as visible as possible?
Pride in Football, the umbrella organization for UK LGBTQ + supporters groups, issued a press release condemning the Directors’ eligibility and proper testing process. We understand and in some ways agree, but let’s not ignore the obvious; LGBTQ + support groups have no say in who their club belongs to, nor do they currently have support groups. We play with the cards that are dealt to us (we also can’t help the fact that we might now have a royal flush!).
We also need to be given a factual context. One of our members served in the RAF between the Gulf Wars in Saudi Arabia and was kicked out on his return for being gay! This says two things; First, we need to look at our own records on LGBTQ + rights, and second, things can change. The LGBTQ + community can now actively serve in the British Armed Forces.
Incidentally, the same Human Rights Watch report also states that many of the laws that persecute the LGBTQ + community in the (MENA) region are based on laws by former colonial powers. And which colonial powers were they? The French and the British!
So what do we do [UWP] do, cut ties and pack up and go home and enjoy the future success of our rejuvenated club or keep doing what we did before, flying our flag at games, engaging with the club to promote inclusion (including accountability). such issues) and make SJP a safer and more inclusive place to watch football? We do not apologize for continuing to try to do the latter.
We don’t believe we can get a sovereign nation to change its ways overnight, but I’ll leave with a quote from what is now hopefully a relic of the past: “We don’t ask a team that wins, we do want an association that tries. ”
We will commit to try, we will continue to be visible, we will support the Toon and the LGBTQ + community, we are united with pride.
Pete Hocking – United With Pride committee member