Six months after she was honored as a Member of the Order of the British Empire for “services to women’s football and the LGBT community,” Reign FC midfielder Jess Fishlock will take the field as the club celebrates Pride Night on Saturday, June 15 at 7 p.m. PT against the Washington Spirit.
Fishlock says that the award, formally bestowed upon her by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in December, belonged to everyone who had helped shape her into the person she is today.
“It’s not just my award, it’s their award too,” Fishlock said. “My mom, my dad, my brothers and sisters who have helped mold me, my best friends who have been with me through everything. It’s not just ‘oh, you play football, so you win a title,’ it’s bigger than that. It’s about my impact as a person, but who I am as a person, I’ve been molded by my experiences and those people around me who affect who I am in such a positive way.”
The midfielder is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. She serves as a pro ambassador for Athlete Ally, a non-profit that works to create more inclusive athletic communities.
For Fishlock, it’s not just a passion to represent the LGBTQ+ community, it’s a responsibility.
“More so than ever right now, women athletes have a platform and they can create change,” Fishlock said. “I think we see that a lot, especially with Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird and Alex Morgan and Ada Hederburg as well, they’re really using their platforms for what they believe we need to change. For me, women’s football has always been that, because we’ve had to fight for so long to just get treated with an ounce of respect, which is why everybody right now is fighting for that.”
“For me, the LGBTQ community is so important because it’s harmful if we don’t do right by the kids that are coming through. The harm that gets caused is irreversible. The suicides or the pain that they feel should never happen just because of who they are. It honestly means so much to me. I will advocate for it for the rest of my life, there’s no doubt about that.”
Fishlock knows how important it is to support at-risk members of LGBTQ+ communities. An openly gay player, Fishlock told the BBC in February that school was “hell on earth.”
The beautiful game provided refuge from the abuse of classmates.
“Football was my biggest escape,” Fishlock said. “I don’t know where I would be right now if I didn’t have that escape, if I didn’t have a place where I could go where I felt safe. The thing that hits home with me is that I was lucky. I was lucky that I had that. There are so many people in the world that don’t have that. School was hell, but I was lucky because I could go to my football team twice or three times a week. That was enough for me to find a way to survive. I couldn’t even imagine the percentage of people that don’t have that. I want to help create that for everybody, because everybody should feel safe somewhere.”
As the club prepares for its annual Pride Night celebration, Fishlock reflected on what it means to her to be a part of an organization that values inclusion.
“I think when you work with organizations that have the same outlook as you, and the same principles and morals, it makes you want to work with them,” Fishlock said. “It makes you want to help them. I think that’s the beauty of our team and our organization. The NWSL is very aware of our responsibility to society and to the world. I have a huge amount of respect for our owners at this club because they really do take these topics that can affect change and they try to do it in the right way. In a positive way. It does mean a lot, I’m very lucky that I can work with these types of franchises and organizations. I feel that if there were organizations that wanted me to work for them that didn’t want to do that, then I wouldn’t be there.”