by Konstantin Felkner
Thomas Hitzlsberger is gay! This news went virally through the social media discussion and dominated the European newspapers last week. The homepage of the German magazine which published the interview was unavailable for some hours and #Hitzlsberger electrified twitter. He was one of the first male soccer-professionals who made his homosexuality public. The 31 years old German just finished his career a few months ago in the English premier-league, where he got his nickname “the hammer” because of his hard shots. Hitzlsberger sees his public coming-out not as a political statement. For him it is just a natural fact and he criticized the world of competitive sport and especially soccer, the most popular sport worldwide, for the ignorance about this topic. Soccer as the epitome for maleness, aggression and fighting-spirit still seems to be incompatible with the public picture about homosexuality of huge parts of the society. As a reaction Hitzlsberger got a lot of support from politicians, journalists, artists and other homosexual sportsmen like the former NBA-basketball player John Amaechi, who welcomed him to the club.
On the first sight it’s a big step to break the wall of silence in the world of sport and to encourage other lesbians, gays, trans- and bisexuals to follow their sexual feelings also against the predominant public opinion if necessary. But at the same time, it shows how difficult it is, just to be yourself because non-hetero sexuality is still a taboo full with stigma. As in the antiquity like also in many other cultural areas homosexual love was and is regarded neither morally offensive nor diseased but rather as a variety of an unadulterated human sexuality. The churchly and worldly jurisdiction ranked homosexuality besides other allegedly unnatural sexual actions under the generic term sodomy during the European Middle Ages. With the end of the French-Revolution, a lot of European countries abolished the death-penalty against unnatural sexual actions but introduced prison sentences. At the same time the scientific discussion relabeled homosexuality from a criminal act to a psychological disorder.
In the 20th century, both the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the WHO listed homosexuality until 1974 and respectively 1992 as a sickness within their registration catalogues, what led to a controversial discussions in the scientific community and the society similar to the upcoming AIDS epidemic in the US in the 80ies and the publication of the gay-gene linked to male homosexuality by Dr.Hamer and his team in 1993. But however the scientific evidence will show if sexual orientation is more determined by genetic, hormonal or social factors, the most important thing is that everybody is treated equally independently of his sexual disposition.
Today homosexual practices are illegal in 78 countries and in Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Saudi-Arabian, Mauretania, parts of Nigeria and Somalia, homosexuals have to fear for their lives because of the death penalty. Furthermore a radicalization of anti-homosexual laws can be monitored in Russia and other Eastern-European countries as well as in EU member states like Poland or Latvia, where demonstrations for homosexuals are officially forbidden and the Catholic Church together with nationalistic tendencies are poking intolerant and even homophobe climate. In Russia the so called “law against homosexual propaganda” should be valid during the Olympic winter games starting this weekend, even if it’s violating the Olympic idea as well as fundamental human rights. The Gulf-States want to go further by planning a medical test for foreigners in order to detect homosexual persons and withdraw their residence and work permit.
In the light of the allocation of the FIFA World Cup to Qatar in 2022 an open atmosphere for homosexual players is more than unlikely, because of its illegality. Hitz the hammer can be considered as a lucky man as he is not playing for the German national team anymore. And for all supporters the controversial CEO of the FIFA Sepp Blatter has a helpful advice: out of respect towards the host nation Qatar, homosexuals should abstain from sex during the championship.
But nobody has to point the finger at Moscow, Doha or Abuja to get an idea about homophobic tension within a society. Currently a German middle-school teacher set up an online-petition against the plans of the red/green government of Northrhine-Westfalia. These plans want to implement the EU legislation which aims to make the GLTB to a topic within the school-schedule. The so called “no education below the ideology of the rainbow” petition got already the necessary signs of over 100.000 people not at least by the support of the Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox Church as well the conservative party CDU. Fortunately there is some hope, as few days ago a petition against this petition was published and got already 70.000 signs within only one week!