Beatrice (FvH Youth Panel Co-Coordinator) and Dia met through a mutual friend around 4 years ago. They bonded over a mutual love of football/soccer and baking. They also discovered they were both asexual, which was very exciting for them both as they had never met another asexual person before! They’ve teamed up to share their experiences of football and asexuality.
Beatrice: My uncle rang me up before my 5th birthday and told me that he was going to buy me an Arsenal shirt and that meant I would have to start supporting them. As an eager six year old, I didn’t really know what he was on about, but was very enthusiastic about it. At Primary School I played football with my classmates. I was rubbish and barely kicked a ball, but it was a space where I could be social, develop friendships and just laugh a whole lot. That’s where the love of football began!
For almost 20 years, football has been a space for me to socialise and build connections. Whether that’s with old friends, new friends or family. It’s a place where I can focus on viewing the game or playing the game and just exist in that moment.
Dia: Football (or soccer over here in the US) is definitely a place that helps foster those connections in society. That’s one of the things I love about being a supporter of the Portland Thorns. When you go to a game, it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from or what your day at work was like; the only thing that matters is you supporting the Thorns along with the 16K other fans in the stadium. Whether it is cheering for a goal, groaning at a missed opportunity, or booing the referees, there is this overwhelming sense that you aren’t alone. For the 2+ hours I’m in that stadium, I’m a part of something bigger than myself.
Beatrice: As a 15/16 year old I joined a team, alongside weekly trips to my non league club with Dad. I quickly felt daunted by the team environment. Here was a group of girls all talking about who fancied who at their school, who they were flirting with and whispers about who was a lesbian in the team. None of these topics were interesting to me. I just wanted to talk about football or talk about other hobbies and interests. Potential partners were not on my list of interests.
Dia: High School was an equally rough time for me as well. I didn’t make our high school football team, but my best friend did, so it was really challenging to not have football be a part of my identity at school but to still be supportive of my friend. It was also super confusing because I still had romantic attraction for a couple of guys (and a couple of girls, but I didn’t recognize that until after college) but had absolutely zero interest in any type of physical intimacy.
Beatrice: I joined training sessions for the university football team, but encountered a similar situation. This time, the team was also bonding outside of training and matches, during nights out. I had no desire to go to clubs, so felt a little isolated from the team each week, as there would be new friendships formed and new gossip to share. I know I had the power to form friendships in a different space, but I was falling out of love with playing the game and so this experience helped me drop out quicker. I felt very different from the rest of the team; as though I was missing something.
Dia: Just not having the words to describe what you’re feeling is so isolating. In high school, all of my female friends were getting in and out of relationships, so I knew I was different for not wanting the same things, but it was actually pretty easy to pretend that I did. I got really good at passing as straight and allo in high school to the point where I was even fooling myself. “Oh, I’m not in a relationship with anyone because no one here meets my standards, but the second I’m in college with so many new people, I’m sure I’ll find someone and that’s when I’ll enjoy and want all the physical acts as well.” I’m an avid reader, I knew what sex was and I knew it was supposed to feel awesome, but it took me a really long time to recognize the fact that I had never been physically turned on by anyone. And still haven’t.
Dia: As sad as it is, Tumblr was what introduced me to the idea of asexuality, and that’s when the lightbulb went on. Yes, I was able to learn about it eventually, but how awesome would it have been to know about it in high school? Or middle school? (Primary school, I think, for the UK.) Give people as many opportunities to learn about the LBGTQIA+ spectrum as you possibly can, that way baby queers don’t grow up feeling broken for not being ‘normal’ and allies know how to be supporting and accepting.
Beatrice: I was never out when I was playing football. This is mostly because I didn’t have a language for being asexual until much more recently. I was definitely uncomfortable being in an environment where teammates were talking about their partners and hook ups. I constantly feared being asked about my relationship status, because I feared ridicule. I would rehearse lines to respond with. “Oh, not looking for anything at the moment” or “Not interested in anything casual”. If I were to play football now, I would feel more comfortable sharing my asexual identity with people, although still do fade into the sidelines when groups are talking about their partners/love interests. It isn’t a conversation I have any connection with, so I leave them to it.
Dia: For a sexually repressed society, everyone certainly does care a whole lot about who and how you have sex with someone. But again, this does make it REALLY easy to pass as allo. Is that a good thing? No, probably not, but it’s how I survived high school and college.
Beatrice: I absolutely struggle with taking up space in the queer community. I can move through society unquestioned to an extent- I just look like a person not in a relationship and to people who knew me long term, maybe that was a weird concept before I came out to them. But that invisibility you refer to is really the issue. I didn’t know there was an actual name for what I was experiencing. I matured into an adult looking around at everyone else, wondering when that would happen for me. If I had had a language for my experiences sooner, maybe I could feel more confident and at peace with my asexuality.
Dia: When I came out as ace, I learned very quickly who understood what asexuality was and who didn’t. And, to be perfectly honest, MOST people I came out to had absolutely no idea what it was. That was definitely a test, because not only am I feeling super vulnerable just by coming out but I also have to explain what asexuality is and why I identify as ace, and then answer all of their questions which basically is just defending who I am and what I feel. Being gay or lesbian or transgender is almost easier to understand, because it’s choosing one thing over another. “I don’t love them/hetero, I love them/homo.” “I am not this gender identity, I am that one.” Asexuality (and bisexuality and pansexuality and all the other ones I don’t even know because I still need to learn about them) is constantly being erased from the narrative because it is about the lack of something. So by coming out as ace, you have to defend it’s very existence.
Dia: As every LGBTQIA+ person can tell you, you don’t come out once. You have to keep coming out because our society is still stupidly heteronormative. Having a good support group definitely helps – I am supremely lucky that my family and a couple of close friends help to ‘spread the word’ when I’m either not there physically or too tired mentally. But every time I do come out, I remind myself that this is one more person who has the potential to help and support some other baby ace in a way that I wasn’t supported. If I could help just one kid not feel broken and isolated, then that’s good enough for me.
Beatrice: My advice to universities and adult football teams is to consider the social spaces you create for team bonding. I’m absolutely not suggesting stopping going out clubbing, but I think it’s important to create a more varied social activity calendar. This is more inclusive of people who don’t drink or don’t want to go out and also gives the whole team an opportunity to socialise in a different way which could help strengthen your team atmosphere. Some people want to
Dia: As weird as it sounds, being ace is kind of like being offside. Everyone knows that offsides is a thing that exists in football, but no one really fully understands it, especially during a game. Oh, you can look up the rules all you want, but half the time you will be incredibly confused because “how was that offsides” and then the other half of the time you will be super frustrated because “HOW WASN’T THAT OFFSIDES”. Or vice versa. No one actually fully comprehends how it works, because it’s weird and confusing and very situational, but football wouldn’t be the game we love without it. And that’s asexuality in a nutshell.
Dia: The asexual community is so incredibly amazing. I mean, come on. We’ve got cake, garlic bread, AND F***ING DRAGONS. Sign me the fuck up.
Beatrice: Can’t go too far wrong with that!