As far as Queer stereotypes go, I can safely say I have never been quite the ‘sporty’ type. Artsy gay? Perhaps. I might even go so far as the trope of the ‘Queer Academic’, but a Sporty Spice Lesbian I have never been. This past summer, lockdown and all, came full of surprises. Not only with regard to my capacity for watching heterosexual reality television (Love Island, eh?), but apparently the post-lockdown haze had wet my appetite for a dabble into the heterosexual world of sport. Could this be, you ask because some lesbian I fancy fancied watching the match? Absolutely. Nevertheless, I found myself watching the UEFA #Euros2020 for the first time in my little artsy quare life.
There were several factors at play here. Not only was I pining after someone who was pining after England to lose in the final, but I was also put on the spot at work. “Are you interested in going in on the work raffle?” I was asked one unassuming day. “It’s only a fiver like. Just for the Euros, y’know yourself. Nothing major.” Like a gay deer caught in headlights, I glanced around me. Surely, I thought, they weren’t talking to me. “Oh, haha. Yeah, of course!” I blurted out.
At the very least it would give me something to talk about with the Sporty Spice Lesbian I was talking to… So, off I went immediately to send them a text: “heyy! I’ve been roped into this work raffle yoke for the Euros in work… any tips on who to bet on?? haha”
And so began my journey into what the Art Gays might describe as the straightest of straight culture, and what to the Sporty Spice and Co. Queers is nothing other than gay culture at its best; its campest if you will.
Perhaps, as I soon began to realise, watching the #Euros2020 could be a kind of camp experiment. Which very much heterosexual, cisgender male footballers could I convince myself were lesbians? Perhaps Griezmann, or as he became more affectionately known amongst my friends, “the wee lesbian.” In a kind of ode to Derry Girls and their comedic rendition of Irish lesbianism, my wee french lesbian footballer became the star of the show as I followed eagerly along with each match. Sporty Spice and I even ventured into pub-land to watch a match or two, at her behest of course. I began obsessively tweeting about my “wee French lesbian.” “I should probably stop referring to Griezmann as ‘the wee lesbian’ every time he comes into view of the cameras”, I tweeted during one such match, having received my fair share of funny looks in the pub. I had even sported a bit of a ‘Jack Grealish’ myself after a trip to the barbers. If I tried hard enough, I could pretend I were at least watching the US Women’s team play, and not the reality that I was participating in something fair harsher on the ol’ lesbian eye than that.
Soon, I began offering to write up articles in work on the goings-on of the championship. “Does anyone know anything about the Euros?” various section editors would ask during content meetings. When no one else perked up, given the Queer demographic of the workplace, I would find myself saying, “Oh, yeah, I actually did watch that match last night.” In fact, I had actually quite enjoyed my time spent masquerading as a Sporty Spice Queer. If I ignored the countless instances of queerphobia on the part of the UEFA and their stellar neoliberal ability to ignore, and at times borderline endorse, the homophobic behaviour of various different competing countries, I could almost bring myself around to the whole culture. Join in conversations at work, at social events… A kind of queer assimilation, if you will.
And so, the championship was coming to an end. Thankfully without England at its helm. I watched the final in a small, local pub in West Cork. Quite the spectacle— not only that, I had managed to wrangle my queer group of friends into watching the final with me, but we had also managed to stumble into the only pub in the country not showing the final. As each table of punters watched the live-streamed match, we all began to cheer. Sticking out from the crowd enough already, we well and truly distinguished ourselves from the rest of the pub when we began chanting, fist-banging and all; England had lost. This was about the moment that we realised our live-stream was a good fifty seconds ahead of everyone else’s. Not only were we the only Queers in the village, but we were also the gaudy people who ruined the fun of watching the Brits fail at bringing it home. “Well”, I thought, “perhaps we’ll save assimilation for another day.”