Kimberly is Co-President and North American Referee Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA), has refereed at several IGLFA World Championships, an ex-goalkeeper, referee mentor and has been working as a Physical Education and English Coordinator at a Human Rights school in Mexico. Kimberly has lived in Mexico City for over 1 year, originally from Alberta, Canada, and is in the process of moving back. She is actively involved with the LGBT Sports Coalition Group which was formed during the recent Nike LGBT Sports Summit in Portland, Oregon.
Interviewby Jack Little and Karenina Osnaya and was published in issue 32 of The Ofi Press.
1. Please tell us about the IGLFA World Championship
The competition is held every 2 years and has been held in numerous countries in the world. Clubs compete from the USA, Canada, South America, Mexico, Australia, Africa, Japan and Europe. It is a gay friendly event with socializing but of course, with some excellent matches of football! The competition is “no discrimination” and is open to all players and referees both gay and straight. It is recognized by FIFA however their intervention of introducing a maximum of 3 subs rather than rolling substitutions has led to some issues with participation among players.
The next edition will be the XXI IGLFA World Championships which will be held in Cleveland/Akron, Ohio in August 2014 as part of the Gay Games (a multi sport event that occurs every 4 years and has more participants than the Olympics).
2. Do you think that world football still has a lot of homophobia and discrimination?
There has been some progress as players are starting to come out openly as gay and organizations are very very slowly making some changes but there is still a long long way to go. Homophobic chanting can still be heard on the terraces at professional football matches mostly due to a mob mentality but referees will not call off a game. They have been given the instruction to deal with it accordingly but the referees are more concerned with keeping their jobs rather than abandoning the match and consequentially costing the clubs potentially millions of $'s through lost revenue of tv adverts, ticket sales etc.
More needs to be done. Recently the Nigerian FA banned lesbian players from representing Nigeria, Joey Barton made some terrible tweets about transgender player, and the World Cup was recently awarded to a country which is openly homophobic - Qatar. Sepp Blatter (the head of FIFA) was even quoted in an interview with the BBC as saying "Gay fans going to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, should "refrain from sexual activity". So, yes, I believe that homophobia and discrimination are still rife in football.
3. What is being done at the moment to promote acceptance within the sport?
There has been a proposal to FIFA to put together a committee specific to homophobia in the sport who would look at ways to promoting acceptance of diversity. FIFA needs to be fair, hard and consistent on the subject yet when a serious incident occurs (such as the Nigerian situation) nothing is done about it nor are our concerns ever acknowledged or addressed. Instead, they allow the Nigerian Federation to continue on as if nothing ever happened.
What could work more than going directly to FIFA would be a bottom-up approach as individual clubs change their philosophies, professional players coming out openly and sharing this about themselves.
In wider society we now see African American and Latino groups now openly supporting LGBT groups. In the sport itself, we’ll see teams participating in various tournaments while working with government in regards to HIV prevention or supporting their local community (gay and straight) in various ways. Also there’ll be the Gay Games 2018 with London, Paris and Limerick among the bidders as well as the Out Games 2017 in Miami Beach.
While progress is always being made, our organization will always be necessary to assist players with coming out for the fear of losing what they have due to society’s reactions. We also provide them a safe environment where they can play the game they love.
4. What has been your proudest moment in football?
For me, this was probably at the IGLFA World Championship men’s second division final in Argentina in which I refereed in front of approximately 7000 spectators. The match even featured in around 150 media outlets! This was the first competition of its kind in Latin America too which made it even more special. It was fantastic to see the interest shown and ultimately proved that these fans came to watch the "beautiful game" they loved.....and it didn't matter that it was an LGBT tournament. It was a World Championship!
I have refereed for going on 36 years now and have over 8000 matches over my career. I have dealt with many challenges, particularly from the machismo perspective as well as others too. I have been open about my sexuality and have not experienced any prejudism to that nature aside from 1 incident. My soccer federation supported me during this time and does not condone any kind of discrimination.
5. What are the challenges for the future?
In our international football tournaments, participation is almost 100% men.
We need a huge shift in society. Some progress has been made but there is a lot more to do. Sport can be a vehicle against homophobia. It is popular, fun and everyone takes part. School can play a big role in changing people’s lives and breaking down fear of people who are different. Teaching tolerance can be a stepping stone towards acceptance.