Spain’s First Openly Gay Soccer Referee Founds Organization to Fight Homophobia in Sports

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Spanish soccer referee Jesus Tomillero was driven out of his life’s passion due to the homophobic slurs and threats he faced. Now he’s taking a stand against the hatred he’s been subjected to since he came out as a gay man on social media about two years ago at the age of 19.

Tomillero spoke to The Bleacher Report about the dangers he faced. “I am always afraid — afraid of insults and wondering, “What will happen today? How will the match go? I don’t feel like refereeing. What am I doing here? Will they hit me? What will I do?’”

As a result of his experiences, Tomillero founded and now presides over Roja Directa Andalucia-LGBTI, an organization in Spain that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people who are victims of homophobia in the sports world. Today he met with La Línea’s Mayor Juan Franco to discuss anti-homophobia initiatives – like educational lectures – to be developed in the coming months. This is no doubt a positive development since Andalucia’s own football federation hasn’t shown Tomillero support.

Not everyone has ignored his plight however, as members of the European Parliament, different politicians, and soccer star Iker Casillas have all come forward in support of him. On a more personal level, he also has the support of his partner David and David’s family.

In his challenging childhood, refereeing was a form of distraction for a young Tomillero, who took up the practice when he was 11. His brother introduced him to the sport and has also shown support.

As Tomillero works to return to refereeing, it’s time for the sports community to unite and follow his example, by giving homophobia the red card.

[H/T The Bleacher Report]