Rainbow Laces: ‘You are the only you there will ever be’

Fifty of us kitted out in the navy and yellow of the Manchester Laces. Belting out in front of the thousands gathered for Manchester pride. The Laces is a club that prides itself on inclusion. And boy does it deliver. Women, both trans and cis, men again on all spectrums and us non-binary folks. 

Manchester Laces is the brainchild of Helen Hardy. If you don’t know who Helen is do you really follow women’s football? Founder of Foudy’s talking head for the BBC. You can pay me later Helen. 

Women’s football specifically and sport in general has been more open in accepting LGBTQI folks. From grassroots to mainstream professional the game is leaps and bounds above its male counterparts. We have our role models in both sexuality and gender identity with Canada’s Quinn coming out as non-binary a couple of years ago. 

Years gone by it would have been a huge announcement for a player to come out. Now it’s as simple as posting a photo of your holiday and letting others do the maths. 

Women’s sport has felt like a sort of a cocoon of love and acceptance. Those from all walks of life coming together for one common goal. To smash the enemy, ok maybe just to play the sport we love. In an environment that allows us to be who we want to be. 

We are starting to see homophobia creeping in. As we have opened the fan base of the women’s game whilst 90 percent have embraced it. 10 percent however are bringing in behaviours which are less than desirable. Poor Brighton seems to be getting the brunt of it as we see with their men’s team. 

An incident between a West Ham fan and Chelsea using the infamous ‘ rent boy’ chant. It makes your heart sick! 

You only have to see the comments under any supportive Twitter post. Be for it for pride month of this weekend’s rainbow laces. You can see we still have a long way to go. 

Playing instead of watching the game has led to me seeing more of the ugly side. Training on a pitch near a park has led to a level of general ickiness on several occasions. 

From abuse from passing gentlemen telling us that we won’t get far being girls and that. To the perving telling us they liked seeing us run in shorts.  To one lovely ‘gentleman’ videoing us on the pretence he was going to help us train.

But that’s not what that Saturday was about. Saturday was about embracing who we are and what laces stand for. Marching for the hour and half we did felt magical. 

Janine my team mate summed it up beautifully, “I first marched in Manchester Pride in 2010, in 2014 ‘same sex marriage’ was legalised. This year, 2022, I proudly marched with my wife of one month!

For me, the march (and Pride) is a celebration of what has changed for the better, but also a reminder of how much more work there is to be done, for equality in the LGBTQ+ community.’

We blessed the crowd with three songs. Freed from desire with various players on fire. Sweet Caroline and of course three lions. 

Catching the eyes of the youngsters as we marched. You couldn’t help but feel pride. That you might be a small flame of hope of what they could be when they grow. 

This weekend is rainbow laces and it makes me think about this day. For years being told the game is not for deviants like us. To feel so accepted is a beautiful thing. 

So chin up, head held pride and remember there is nothing wrong with being you. As you are the only you there will ever be. 

Photo: @ManchesterLaces