Football: “There are only two genders” – why such banners can be seen in fan curves

A topic that otherwise causes discussions between left-wing and right-wing culture warriors is now also finding its way into German football.

Football: “There are only two genders” – why such banners can be seen in fan curves

A topic that otherwise causes discussions between left-wing and right-wing culture warriors is now also finding its way into German football. At the away game against Werder Bremen in November 2023, Bayer Leverkusen fans held up a banner that read: "There are many styles of music, but only 2 genders." For this, the sports court of the German Football Association (DFB) has now imposed a fine of 18,000 euros on the Bundesliga club. The club itself distanced itself from the fan banners early on. "This action was tasteless and wrong and it has nothing to do with values ​​such as openness and tolerance that Bayer 04 stands for as an organization," Leverkusen's managing director Fernando Carro criticized his own supporters immediately after the game. Accordingly, the Bundesliga club has now accepted the penalty, which is now legally binding.

However, the issue is not settled. This was mainly ensured by the fans of the third division soccer team Dynamo Dresden. In response to the DFB ruling, they showed a similar banner to the Leverkusen team at the away game against FC Ingolstadt: "There is only one ridiculous DFB... and two genders." The action is less a show of solidarity with the fans of Bayer Leverkusen than an act of defiance towards the DFB. The supporters of the third division club, who are likely to suffer significantly more from the fine than the Werkself, were not deterred by the verdict against Bayer Leverkusen. Quite the opposite.

The question remains why fan groups are focusing on this topic now. Although there had occasionally been similar banners in the past, there was no similar small war with the DFB. In addition, a clear trigger, for example in the form of a new diversity campaign or action, cannot be identified. The topic also has little to do with the criticism of the DFL investor deal.

“Spiegel” identified a possible reason. Apparently the Leverkusen banner was primarily directed against the Bremen fans. Although the ultras of the two clubs are not enemies, the Werderan supporters, in contrast to the Leverkusen team, are considered to be left-wing and progressive. The Bayer Ultras originally referred to themselves as “Raverkusen” in a choreography against Freiburg in February 2023, whereupon the Werder fans countered with a “Bierkönig ≠ Technoclub” banner in the subsequent game. While the first part of the Bayer slogan "There are many styles of music" is aimed at this history, the second part "but only 2 genders" probably refers to the left-wing orientation of the Bremen Ultras.

One reason why clubs like Dynamo Dresden are taking up this debate, even though they have nothing to do with the taunts between Leverkusen and Bremen, could be the generally bad mood in Germany. Sport and especially football are seen as a mirror of society. It is not unusual for topics from the public debate to move into the fan curves. A general resentment towards social changes is reflected in the diversity debate. The federal anti-discrimination agency emphasizes: "According to EU case law, trans* people are protected in anti-discrimination law under the characteristic 'gender'; in Germany they are also protected under the special regulation of 'sexual identity'." The fans are consciously rebelling against this commitment to tolerance with their actions.

Discussions about whether there are two or more genders usually lead to nothing if the terminology used is not clearly clarified. So people often talk past each other on this topic. While the English language distinguishes between "gender" and "sex", in German both terms are included under "gender". In a biological context, this means that men have one X and one Y chromosome and women have two X chromosomes.

However, in addition to biological gender development, gender identity also needs to be taken into account. “Sexual development can be very diverse because many different genes and hormones work together,” explains Prof. Dr. med. Olaf Hiort in the “Spectrum of Science”. “The external sexual characteristics can sometimes look clearly male or female, even though the gonads have developed differently or the formation and effect of the hormones differ from normal,” writes the senior doctor in the Hormone Center for Children and Adolescents at the Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital in Lübeck. It is still unclear how gender identity is related to hormonal variability. "Some people with the characteristics described describe themselves as intersex, while others clearly see themselves as male or female."

It is expected that the DFB will continue to take legal action against such banners and impose fines. Also in order not to lose your own credibility. Ultimately, the banners violate the guidelines on gender diversity, which the DFB commits to on its own website: "No person may be disadvantaged or excluded because of their gender. Women, men, trans* and intersex people should also have equal participation in football can."

It could be even more expensive for Dynamo Dresden than for Bayern Leverkusen. In addition to their banners against gender diversity and the DFL's investor deal, the fans set off pyrotechnics and threw objects like bouncy balls onto the lawn. It remains to be seen whether other fan groups will seek confrontation with the DFB in the diversity debate or whether it will die down in football as quickly as it came.

Sources:Spiegel, Spectrum of Science