* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.The professional footballer’s decision to come out has shone a light on the need for greater equality for LGBTQ+ people in the Czech Republic
Kryštof Stupka is a member of the Czech Government's Committee on LGBTQ+ Rights.
The decision by professional footballer Jakub Jankto, a midfielder for Czech First League club Sparta Prague, to come out as gay last month is a momentous occasion. It is a crucial step towards increasing the representation of the queer community in sports, especially in a country like the Czech Republic, which still has a long way to go in terms of LGBTQ+ rights.
Jankto’s decision to publicly come out as gay is a courageous and inspiring move, particularly in a country with homo- and transphobic laws. Same-sex couples in the Czech Republic still cannot legally marry, and in many parts of the country, homophobic attitudes continue to prevail. Trans people seeking gender reassignment are still forced to be sterilised, though the Government has recently pledged to revise this opaque requirement.
This is why Jankto’s announcement is a significant and powerful moment for the country.
Equal marriage has now been tabled again in the Czech Parliament. But with a mostly conservative coalition and a Prime Minister who recently called being gay a “lifestyle,” little hope remains within the activist community of getting the bill passed in this parliamentary cycle.
While the majority of the population supports equal marriage, there is a growing opposition, fuelled by scapegoating from the conservatives and the extreme right. That is why Jantko, a famous and much-loved football player, has become such an important figure in terms of helping to unite people in support of equality.
The sporting world has made some strides in creating a more inclusive environment, yet it continues to be a place in which toxic masculinity reigns supreme. For male athletes, it can be especially challenging to come out as gay, as they face intense pressure to conform to traditional notions of masculinity. Jankto's move has paved the way for other young LGBTQ+ athletes to follow suit as they might now feel more comfortable about being themselves.
However, the road to acceptance is not an easy one. Jankto has become a global star overnight, but he has also faced a certain amount of backlash and homophobia from some fans as well as from some of his fellow footballers.
This is why it’s imperative that we strive to create a more inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and embraces people for who they are. An environment, where no matter one’s sexual orientation, everyone has the right to love and be loved. Where football players, or young adults can live in a world free of violence and fear.
As we continue to work towards equality for all, we should celebrate moments like Jankto’s coming out as an opportunity for growth and change. It is a chance to open up important conversations about what it means to be queer and to create better understanding and empathy for those who identify as LGBTQ+.
Jankto's move highlights the need for increased representation of LGBTQ+ people in all aspects of life. He is a trailblazer and a symbol of hope for the LGBTQ+ community in the Czech Republic and beyond.
His decision to come out is a historic moment, but it is also a reminder that there is still much work to be done to achieve true equality and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community.
It is a call to action for us to work together to build a more inclusive and compassionate world. A world in which we perhaps could finally move beyond the need to actually come out at all.
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