Proud Doonhamers: “It will get that visibility out there as well for local people to see that other gay people do exist where they live.”

When Queen of the South hosted Edinburgh in the Scottish League One yesterday afternoon, there was an extra visitor in the Palmerston Park terraces – a pride flag.

It is the brainchild of the newly-formed LGBTQIA+ supporters’ group Proud Doonhamers, which got up and running just a couple of months ago in November.

A Facebook group has already seen membership hit double digits, a very solid start for a club in a town whose population is less than 50,000.

Proud Doonhamers was created by Daniel Nordkil off the back of high profile comings out in Scottish men’s football last year, and it could not have come at a better time just a couple of months before the Football v Homophobia month of action.

“In October time, I thought it was a good idea to actually try and form a group like this just because of people in Scottish football coming out recently,” Nordkil said.

“We had Zander Murray, Craig Napier and Lloyd Wilson, and all that inspired me to create a visibility of LGBTQ+ people at Queens of the South.

Referee Lloyd Wilson, who came out last year, is originally from Dumfries.

“In the first few months I’ve just been taking things slow, just trying to get members to join, and it’s going well. We’ve got maybe 13 or 14 members at the moment in a Facebook group where people chat.

“I had been thinking about it for a month or two before I actually decided I was going to go and do it. I don’t think there’s any one thing that made me think about it, it probably just took a few months of me convincing myself it’s a good idea.

“The first thing I did was create a Facebook group and create a Twitter page, just to see if there was interest in it. A few people were interested and joined, so that’s when I said ‘okay, I’ll go ahead with this’.

“I thought I might be the only one who was interested, but it’s also the fact that I’ve never really done many things in around the LGBT community.

“It was a fear within myself almost. If I’m going to football games with the Pride flag – because that was always an idea that I had to do – what would the reaction be towards me?

“That was one of the big doubts, I was worried that I might get a few comments here and there that’s would make me wonder why I was doing this. That was always one of the major doubts.

“Obviously the reaction I’ve got is from some non-LGBT people who want to support the group and try and be involved as much as they can, which surprised me.

“I thought most people would probably be accepting of the group, but not really want to be too involved. All the interactions I’ve had have been positive so far, so let’s hope it continues that way.”

A sense of community

In any rural area, it can be more difficult to find like-minded people with common interests or experiences, and that is what Nordkil found being LGBTQIA+ in Dumfries.

Part of his motivation, then, in starting up Proud Doonhamers was to build more of an active community that could encompass LGBTQIA+ people just as much as football fans.

So far, the group has quite a varied membership, including one fan based in Australia who fell in love with Queen of the South thanks to club legend Stephen Dobbie, and Nordkil is looking forward to building that further.

“From what I know about other people in the group, a couple of people are quite a bit older,” he explained.

“That’s quite good, they’re probably in their 60s or so. We’ve also got some people who are not LGBT, but just want to be allies as well.

“There are also other people who are not really big football fans, but are LGBT and are quite interested hopefully in coming to more games. It’s quite a spread in the group.

“In my case, I’m out, but I’m also one of these people who doesn’t really advertise it, I don’t tell everybody about my sexuality. If somebody asked me, then I’d be happy to say that I’m gay, but I don’t really go about saying it to everyone that I meet.

A Pride flag appeared in the terraces at Queen of the South’s Palmerston Park for the first time yesterday.

“I think a group like this is quite important because Dumfries doesn’t have a big LGBT night life or social events like the bigger cities do.

“For a lot of LGBT people living here, you’re kind of secluded from all that and you don’t really feel like a big part of the LGBT community.

“It can feel like you’re the only one, especially when I was growing up as a teenager not out. It just felt like just by being gay you’re different to everybody else.

“To be honest even now you still don’t come across many people that you know are outwardly LGBT, so it’s still the case that you feel kind of secluded, not really part of the LGBT community in a small rural place.

“By creating the supporters group, hopefully that’ll help people who want to join to feel more involved in the LGBT community.

“It will get that visibility out there as well for local people to see that other gay people do exist where they live, and hopefully make them more comfortable within themselves.”

Growing the Proud Doonhamers

It is still early days for the supporters’ group, which could be an exciting opportunity – the possibilities of where it can go and what it can do are endless.

Of course, building up a membership is a key part of it, and that will help inform what route the group takes going forward.

In the meantime, though, Nordkil has been building links with both Queen of the South itself and the local community.

“I’m going to see how the Pride flag might get more interest in the group, and then probably go forward from there,” Nordkil reasoned.

“I could have used that. When I wasn’t out, you feel like you’re the only one on Earth who’s LGBT, so just having something like a Pride flag there might make people see ‘okay, I’m not the only one’. If I had seen that it might have helped me to come out earlier than I did.

“I’m sticking with things one step at a time and not planning too far ahead, and not building a big list of things to go and do. We’ll try and do one thing at a time, and then hopefully that will lead to more ideas and more contributions with people wanting to get involved, and then that’s how we’ll take it forward.

“Ideally I would like the group to just get to the point where we have quite a lot of members – the more members are better – and really just have a presence within the ground that other people can see.

“I want us to have that visibility to maybe younger LGBT people who haven’t fully accepted themselves, and hopefully be that inspiration or visibility to help them get there. That’s really one of the main aims of this, just to have that visibility so that other people can be more comfortable within themselves.

“I met with the community manager at the club a wee while ago, just when the group was starting up to have a chat.

From left to right: Daniel Nordkil, Queen of the South manager Marvin Bartley and the club’s community manager Dan Armstrong.

“It was just mainly about establishing contact within the club, somebody that I could go to and ask for different things, or ask if they could do this or do that. They’ve been really supportive with that so far as well, so it’s been good.

“I’ve not really spoken to too many of the other fan groups yet, but what I have done is contact an LGBT charity here in Dumfries, just to connect and say that down the line we might be able to work together and things help promote things. They’ve got back to me and said they’d be happy to, which is really good.

“I’ve also had a local pub get in contact with me saying that if we ever want to have social gatherings before games or after games, whenever, feel free to use their space, so it’s been really positive.

“That was good because I was thinking about maybe having wee social meet-ups before a game and then go to the game together, so that was a really useful thing to hear about.”

The state of inclusion in men’s football

The Proud Doonhamers were born off the back of clear signs of progress in Scottish men’s football, but there have been plenty of challenges too.

On a global scale, the World Cup in Qatar is the obvious point of issue, while in England there has been a distinct rise in homophobic chanting over recent months.

Nordkil has experienced homophobia from fans himself, but he generally paints an optimistic picture of where football is in terms of LGBTQIA+ inclusion.

“Personally, I’ve been fine going to football because I’m not the most openly outwardly gay person,” he added.

“Just from looking at me people wouldn’t be able to tell that I’m gay, so I’ve never received any like homophobic abuse or anything.

“I have in the past heard homophobia being used in a football environment. Especially when I wasn’t out, and I was growing up knowing that I was gay, it made me more closeted and less likely to come out because of that.

“It’s not the nicest feeling in the world. The people that are saying those words don’t know the effect they’re having on people who might be around them.

“They probably just mean it as an off the cuff thing to say, but they don’t see the actual impact that could have on other people.

“As a whole, football has come a long way, even compared to just a few years ago. You’ve got people within the game now who are comfortable coming out, and hopefully that’s going to inspire more people to come out and just make the game more accepting.

“We have come a long way, although there’s still a long way to go with that. Obviously there was the World Cup in Qatar, which was a big setback for a lot of LGBT people, but I think we are on the right path.

“We’re heading towards a lot more people being much more accepting towards LGBT people.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s