Monday, December 5, 2011

Are You Gay Enough To Play Ball? Inclusion, Exclusion, and the idea of Gay-Only Sports

So get this.  There's a North America Gay Amateur Athlete Alliance, and they put on the Gay Softball World Series. But not everyone on the teams has to be gay.  Turns out, they have rules about how many gay players each team is allowed.

In 2008, the second place team was disqualified because it was found that they had more than two heterosexual players on their team.

The players sued, saying that they "had been discriminated against because they were bisexual, not gay."

And to make matters more unsettling, five of the team's players were brought before a committee of 25 people and made to answer questions about their sexuality. The panel found three of the men to be straight, and

"The men said they weren't given the option of stating outright that they were bisexual, even though the organization considered bisexual players to be gay for roster purposes. They and their team were disqualified. One observer at the hearing commented, "This is not a bisexual World Series. This is a gay World Series."

Well it was just announced that the organization settled with the players,

"Since the lawsuit was filed [by The National Center For Lesbian Rights], NAGAAA has added language to its rules clarifying that bisexual and transgender players are fully welcomed participants in its events. As part of the settlement, the organization said disqualifying D2 was not consistent with its goal of welcoming bisexual players."

And the team has had their second place finish re-instated, and the players can get back on the field.

This brings up so much to discuss: It's a good thing to promote a "message that openly gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals can thrive in competitive sports." But on the other hand, if straight guys are good enough allies that they're happy to play in a gay league, shouldn't that be a good thing, too?

And beyond baseball, should non-queer allies be allowed to participate in "queer" spaces? Should there be exclusionary spaces within the GLBTQ community? Does it make it seem "safer?" And as a broader question for our culture, should we have "us-only" spaces at all, or should all "us" spaces be "us and allies?"

It's almost as if we imagined that Gay-Straight Alliances were Gay Student Alliances instead.

What would happen if we didn't include our allies?

And how are bisexuals treated, both outside and inside the queer community?

Let me know what you think.


ps: Thanks to my awesome husband for sharing this with me, so I could share it with all of you!

pps:  You can find out more in this article in the Bay Area Reporter.


Anonymous said...

This kind of policing is problematic, but I think there's definitely value in having an "us-only" space vs "us and allies", partly because there is no real definition of an ally. It would be even more difficult to police who counts as an ally. And even people who are trying to be allies can slip up because they haven't had to grapple with the issues as much. That isn't to say it's not valuable to have allies and "us-plus-allies" spaces, but sometimes you want a space where you don't have to educate anyone.

Anonymous said...

There's definitely a time/place for LGBTQ (or subsets thereof) space, namely support space. There are times when you just need people who have been where you are. I wish my high school had had a GSA when I was a teen, but on the other hand I'm immensely grateful for the queer-only support group I found through a regional organization.

In general, though, I feel that policing sexual and/or gender identity is regressive, and that it's the "way of the future" (I hope) for organizations to become increasingly welcome to people of all identities. We're better working together than apart, etc. It seems particularly pointless to draw lines between gay and bi people as in the softball league question.

Another reason to eschew sexual/gender identity as a qualification for membership is that identity is, for many people, fluid. It would suck for an organization to say to you, "No, sorry, now that you're dating someone of the same/other gender/whatever, you're no longer qualified to be part of our mission."

Jessica-Rose said...

I think there's a lot of bias against bisexual people, not just in the gay and lesbian community but in the world at large. I just think there's a lack of understanding, and it seems as if most people think bisexuals are just indecisive.

Allen S. said...

I played on that team in Seattle. We knew the entire time that we were in violation of the rules. The problem was that we had been fielding teams (in the Gay World Series) with too many straight players for years with no problems. It wasn't until we made it to the championship that we were protested. Awarding us second place years later does nothing for us. It doesn't give us back our vacations nor did it allow us to celebrate our placement with the rest of the World Series participants. The worst part was that our players were being scrutinized to see if they were gay or straight while the awards ceremonies were going on. So they never intended to let us have our time to enjoy. I played Gay Softball for over 10 years in San Francisco, but this incident led to me quitting for good. The next season we traveled to a tournament and were treated as outcasts by the other teams. Including teams and players who were supposed to be our friends from years of playing together. I could understand if the straight guys were ringers brought in to win, but these were people who played in the league for many years on different teams and were very much allies to the LGBT community. Not all the players were against us, but most were. The worst ones were the "friends" we had that supported us too our faces and then were outspoken against us when we weren't there. I want to let it be known that our greatest support came from the San Francisco Gay Softball League as well as the team, from LA who beat us in the championship game. They supported us 100%.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks everyone for commenting, and Alan, thanks for sharing your experience.