Those of you who know me, or have read my work, know how much I have believed in having TFC involved and engaged with Toronto's vast LGBT community. I had been left disappointed before, but yesterday -- I feel my voice has finally been heard.
I had been left disappointed when Gay4Soccer's Ally List was barren of any Reds (until push came to shove, that is -- thanks to Efrain, Logan and even Earl for stepping up), and I was left more disappointed when DC United was the first team to jump onto the You Can Play project. I was almost on the verge of being bitter and jaded when MLS W.O.R.K.S.'s "Don't Cross The Line" anti-homophobia video contained no TFC players (okay, so maybe that wasn't their fault, but still!). And I admit I showed a tinge of green when Sporting KC and Houston announced Pride Nights at their stadiums (ironically, both teams held them on nights when they were playing TFC).
But when I kept pressing, the answer I got was, "something big is coming up." -- it seemed as though nothing, not even the founding of You Can Play by a member of a sister MLSE property, would get them to budge. But yesterday, my calls have been answered. So it took a bit of time, and a little bit of encouragement -- but it's a victory nevertheless. Aside from the fact that a kid living in Toronto who may be struggling with his or her identity can now see the calming voices of Torsten Frings, Eric Hassli, Luis Silva and others reminding them, that you can be who you can be, and that it's all right.
I started the coming out process in a time when there were very little good role models for me -- Queer as Folk (both the British and American versions) was absolutely no help, given the fact that it was a whitewashing of the whole demographic and taught me nothing (screw you, Russell T. Davies!), while sports, which even at that time I loved to watch, was the arena for the heterosexual male. I sure as hell didn't get to grow up with Milos Kocic telling me that it was all right to be who I was -- and it's a process that I'm still working on, over fifteen years later. Would it have made a difference in my life back then? Perhaps. But it certainly could have made it a bit easier.
Still, a win is a win -- and Toronto, you lucked out. No team (or their supporters) in my neck of the woods are so openly friendly to the LGBT community. Sure, the Flames may have been part of the last Pride Parade, but to me it was a bit of a token gesture, a nod. But here, you have a TFC that is willing to take a stand, and be firmly in support of a wonderful program that's homegrown, too. And as a supporter, I have been blessed to be so loved and accepted by not only my fellow supporters in the Red Patch Boys, the North End Elite and others, but also by my fellow bloggers and readers here at Waking the Red -- not forgetting the fact it was Duncan who put WTR as the first TFC ally on the G4S list.
So in a way, TFC's support of You Can Play is the cherry on top of the proverbial love sundae. And being the first team in Canada, even before the 'Caps and the Impact? That's like extra hot fudge for no extra charge!
Now I know there are bound to be the doubters, those who think politics should be kept out of sport. To that I say, think of the young man or young woman who may be subjected to the locker room banter; and think of the fan who is struggling with their identity wondering if it's right to come out to their fellow supporters. Would you say no if MLS or TFC jumped behind an anti-poverty movement? It may be comparing apples to oranges to you, but to me the concept is almost identical. It's our heroes (and sometimes zeroes) making a stand. Sure, it might not sound good to you, but hey -- they're human, too.
Am I angry that it took so long? Frustrated, maybe. But not angry. Am I happy with this move? Yes -- but just one PSA will not do. My hope is still the same: that TFC will start (and will continue to) actively engage the LGBT community in Toronto (and also across the country) -- expand outside the sporting sphere, and truly live what Toronto is all about: diversity. But then again, Rome wasn't built in a day -- just don't expect me to lower my expectations for anything. I will still continue to insist on engagement; as words are cheap -- actions are what matter. This won't change attitudes overnight, nor will it turn the world into a complete love-in, but it certainly helps in that process.
I can't believe I'm saying this: we are in a blue moon situation -- for once, the TFC actually do something right. And for me, this moment is almost as sweet as an MLS Cup win, and for that...thank you.