Members of Chilliwack FC’s premier women’s team put this patch on their jersey to recognize the LGBTQI2S+ and BIPOC communities. (Submitted photo)

Members of Chilliwack FC’s premier women’s team put this patch on their jersey to recognize the LGBTQI2S+ and BIPOC communities. (Submitted photo)

LETTER: Canadian athlete living in Germany responds to Chilliwack FC LGBTQ patch controversy

‘Suspending players for advocating human rights is scandalous’

I would like to comment on “Chilliwack FC women’s players create stir adding unsanctioned patch to jerseys.” As a former Canadian national athlete, fourth in the world and representative of my province in three Canada Games in three different sports, I can attest to the fact that organized sport was one of the most homophobic sites of my youth.

READ MORE: Chilliwack FC women’s players create stir adding unsanctioned patch to jerseys

Until today, especially in soccer, it is nearly impossible for male players to come out. Female gymnast, track athletes, etc. are to wear over-emphasized feminine garments, to look pretty and petite and feminine even when their sport demands muscles and sinew. The sexism and heterosexism is hardly diminished in sport since my heyday in the 1970s and 1980s.

But thankfully, society at large has changed. Laws and public opinion have changed and so the FC women’s soccer players have made a compassionate attempt to show solidarity with a still discriminated against group of athletes. “Respect for all” though well-intended unfortunately has a ring of “All lives matter.” It smacks of not being able to say the real words. Heterosexual athletes have respect. LGBTQI2S+ and BIPOC athletes often do not. Over and over in the discussion about a rainbow crosswalk for Chilliwack, we saw the same sentiments expressed as quoted here: “It’s not incumbent on the executive to impose our political and personal beliefs on the membership.” LGBTQI2S+ and BIPOC right to equality is not a “political and personal belief.” It is in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is human rights. It is about supporting a group of athletes who daily experience discrimination on and off the field.

Suspending players for advocating human rights is scandalous and sends a very wrong message to these young people. Chilliwack isn’t ready for human rights expressed on a soccer jersey? I think it is. These young women have proved that. I was asked recently at a talk who my mentors are. I can tell you…they are the Chilliwack FC women’s soccer players who dared to take a stand. I wish I had been as courageous as you during my sports career. I did not even know at the time I would have been fighting for my own life choices. So let me say some decades later, thank you to the women soccer players of Chilliwack FC for trying to make your community a better place for everyone.

Carolyn Gammon

Berlin, Germany (frequent visitor to Chilliwack)

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