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In San Francisco Softball League, Gay and Straight Athletes Mixing On and Off Field

| April 24, 2013
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The Renegades team of the San Francisco Gay Softball League

The Renegades team of the San Francisco Gay Softball League

Some years back, at the Gay Softball World Series, my San Francisco league team decided to exercise its penchant for kitschiness by scheduling a group dinner at the local Hooters. I think the team was also trying to throw a bone to us straight players — a serious misconception, but you have to appreciate the gesture.

Anyway, the waitress was quite amused at the concept of a gay softball team, thought it was just the funniest thing. So I challenged her to pick out the non-gay among us. She looked each and every one of us up and down, checking for telltale I don’t know what — receipts to Lady Gaga albums?  She managed to correctly point out our hetero second baseman. But she had a harder time with No. 2, No. 2 being me, and finally opted for our big, sure-handed but quite gay first sacker.

“Nope,” I said. “It’s me.”

What came next caused a minor identity crisis. “Really?” she said, crinkling up her nose. You?”

And so it goes in the world of gay softball, where traditional stereotypes about sexual orientation and its preconceptions survive about as long as a soft line drive to the pitcher.

I’ve been thinking of this incident because of the recent  buzz over the possibility of an active professional gay athlete imminently declaring his sexuality (see here, here and here). The speculation started a couple of weeks ago, with an announcement by former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, an outspoken supporter of  gay rights, that up to four gay NFL players might come out. “They’re trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together,” he said. “It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.”

“Playing gay softball helped me accept my lifestyle a lot more, because I saw I wasn’t the only guy out there who was gay and was athletic.”

Indeed it would. Though Ayanbadejo later backed away a bit from his assertion, the introduction of the very idea of actual current top athletes who are gay, as opposed to the extremely logical speculation that yes, of course some are, has created a certain excitement, and perhaps even washes away some of the ignorance that continues to ooze out even in this “It Gets Better” age. You’ll recall 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver’s pre-Super Bowl comments in January, when asked if he’d ever been approached by gay teammates: “No, we don’t got no gay people on the team,” he said. “They gotta get up out of here if they do. … Nah, can’t be in the locker room.”

That comment was more about out-and-out disdain than an assessment of gay athletes’ abilities (Culliver later apologized), but I myself have had a number of otherwise open-minded straight friends over the years make directly for the jokes when informed that I play in a gay league. And I should also say that their ignorance at one time mirrored my own. Since I had played baseball in high school,  a friend’s invitation to join his team in the San Francisco Gay Softball League immediately prompted the notion that I was going to dominate, since surely everyone threw like a girl. Several years and a couple of benchings later, of that notion I had been disabused.

The SFGSL: 41 years and counting

The league, in which former gay major leaguer Glenn Burke once played, has been a haven for gay athletes for 41 years. But it’s so welcoming of straight players that it got into hot water a few years back when a top World Series squad was disqualified for having too many heterosexuals on the roster. (That became the subject of a lawsuit.) Teams, including those in two women’s divisions, are grouped by skill level, and the upper divisions are extremely competitive. Many of my teammates have played for decades, and lots of them are softball junkies, participating in multiple leagues, hustling off to weekend tournaments. More than one player has told me they’ve had a relationship go down the drain due to their preoccupation with the game.

I’m sitting here on my couch and two of the guys are sitting on the couch with me, and I just freaked — oh my God, this is the first time … I’d hung out with straight guys by myself.”

I really had no idea. This was more than an athletic league. It was an entire subculture. A few years back, I interviewed one teammate, a five-tool outfielder with tremendous opposite field power, about what gay softball meant to him.

“For a long time I didn’t know anyone who was gay and who played sports,” he said. “I had my gay friends I’d go out with and my straight friends I’d play sports with. It was hard because a lot of gay guys said by playing sports I was trying to be straight. But when a friend told me about gay softball, I went to a game and it was like, ‘Oh my goodness, all these guys play softball?’ It was a whole different world. Playing gay softball helped me accept my lifestyle a lot more, because I saw I wasn’t the only guy out there who was gay and was athletic, and that’s how I had been feeling.”

There’s actually a whole network of gay sports leagues in the city. Softball, tennis, swimming (even synchronized swimming). My friend Mike from the SFGSL has been playing in some of these for years, and he’s coached in both gay and non-gay leagues. When I asked him what it was like for him to play in a “straight league,” he took me to task.

“I actually don’t understand the labeling of gay, lesbian, straight to describe an athlete,” he said.  “What does sexual orientation have to do with it? I feel when labels are being used it’s due to insecurities, by either gays or straights.”

Gay team, straight players

One team in the SFGSL, the San Francisco Renegades, actually has just four gay players; the other 11 are straight. John Steen, the team’s pitcher, said he had concerns at first when he learned of that ratio, but was so inspired by the bonding that’s developed between team members of different sexual orientations that he decided to make a documentary about the experience. The film will focus on the relationship between gay and straight men on and off the field.

 

“I [asked] a bunch of friends before I had the idea,” Steen said, “do you have any straight male friends that you get together with and go have a drink with? And none of them did. And I’d never had that myself.”

Steen said the friendships he’s developed with his straight teammates grew slowly, beginning with a team brunch. “We had a great time and after … I kind of wanted to ask them if they wanted to watch the Giants game. But I was too afraid to do that. So I texted one of them, and four of them came over. So I’m sitting here on my couch and two of the guys are sitting on the couch with me, and I just freaked — oh my God, this is the first time … I’d hung out with straight guys by myself.

“I asked one of the straight guys on the team if he wanted to go to the Giants game with me on Tuesday, because it’s my birthday,” Steen said. “And I thought, ‘Oh my God, a straight guy to hang out with on my birthday.’ Stuff like that is happening organically.”

Steen said there are still gay players in the league who believe in the “70-30″ rule, which means 70 percent of the team must be gay or bisexual, a regulation that is enforced at the Gay Softball World Series. But he said he has not been able to find anyone who will say so on camera for his documentary.

“Are they going to be too aggressive?”

My teammate Tony Robbins is a former league official who has been playing for about 10 years. He says he was wary at first when a handful of us straight guys signed on to the squad.

“I thought, ‘Oh f***, this is gonna be nasty,’ ” he said. “It started out kind of bouncy at first. … The warmup period takes a little while. Maybe gay guys are thinking: ‘Are they going to be too aggressive?’ [But] I’ve only had one encounter where a straight player got way too aggressive. He just jumped on the umpire, which is a total no-no in our league.”

That’s actually one of the reasons I like playing in the SFGSL. There’s a big emphasis on sportsmanship, and if your testosterone happens to get the best of you in terms of your behavior, then that’s going to be a problem. I’ve played in a lot of non-gay leagues where the ultra-competitive attitude borders on the rabid. I mean, I like to win, too, yet I have never felt the need or even the compulsion to trash-talk opponents when there are metal bats in proximity. There’s very little if any of that in the SFGSL; at the end of each game, in fact, teams are required to shake hands and thank their opponents with a cheer.

My hope is someone will come out and everybody will go … ‘So? Can you play?’ ”

But that doesn’t mean that the competition isn’t fierce. Here’s a 2010 post from a straight player who played in Boston’s gay league. He writes, “(T)he better teams in the gay league would absolutely wipe the floor with the straight teams I’ve played on and against.” That has been my experience in San Francisco’s league as well.

“There’s a perception that all gays are not as good as straights,” one gay player told me. “That’s not true. There are some straight players I’ve played with who would not make some of the gay teams I’ve been on.”

Mike, who has moved comfortably between gay and non-gay leagues, said he’s found that even gay players automatically assume straight players have more ability. “When gay athletes do that, then they’re just reinforcing what straight, insecure athletes think of gay athletes — which is they’re a lesser player,” he said.

Still, said John Steen, a lot of gay men have had bad experiences with athletics, and the wounds can run deep. He recounted the time when he’d first joined the SFGSL and his team decided to also play in San Francisco’s city league. “Which was all straight,” he said. “And we got demolished every game. A lot of guys on our team had a real hard time being beaten by straight guys like that. I feel like that’s internalized homophobia. A lot of gay guys growing up had a lot of issues with sports. … This generation is sort of different, though. A lot more are coming out earlier and a lot are quite athletic.”

Awaiting a pro

As to the long-awaited announcement by a gay active NFL or MLB player, Mike said he isn’t waiting with bated breath. “Absolutely not a big deal,” he said.  “I idolize athletes for their body of work and not their personal life.”

Both John Steen and Tony Robbins disagreed. “I do think it would be a very big deal if that happened,” said Steen.

Robbins said a pro coming out would be important for younger gay men. “There are younger gays out there who are looking up to these sports players, saying, ‘Hey look, they’re playing with all these guys, so I can play this game, too.’ They can look at it as, ‘I have a chance, I don’t have to be blacklisted because I’m gay.’

“My hope is someone will come out and everybody will go … ‘So? Can you play?’ This is a professional sport, I’m looking at qualities of what you can do on the field, not who you’re sleeping with.”

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Category: Sports

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  • Mich

    Gay men, pro sports: Who will be the first active player to come out? http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/04/24/daily-circuit-gay-athletes via @mprnews

  • Russ

    Gay and Straight people have been playing next to each other in the SFGSL for decades. To me, this isn’t anything new or groundbreaking. In fact, gay people play in straight softball leagues all over the United States.

    I disagree people play gay softball due to insecurities but a place to meet other people, like them, outside of the regular bar means. You strike up a conversation with another gay player because they have two things in common – GAY and SOFTBALL. Far easier than just meeting someone in a gay bar.

    • Jo

      We’re human. There will be bad gay people that you will meet and bad straight people. I don’t like discrimination. NAGAAA imposing a 70/30 rule to makes us safe? For me it’s just another way of putting us in the closet. What troubles me the most as a father that happens to be gay, I can’t have all my straight children play with me. My partner and I were joking that we can have a team of our own. Our children together playing in a gay league and callin our team BRADY BUNCH. I can’t help to think sometimes that gays in the league are heterophobic or whoever created such a rule of 70/30. I feel like NAGAAA is saying that we’re not capable or have good judgment of bringing respectful straight players to the league. Last, this is a different world. There are a lot of gay/lesbian parents out there with straight children and want to play the sport together. The 70/30 rule shuld be abolished as it doesn’t fit the time. If you still believe that it’s to make us safe then you should remain in the closet. Last, I checked being out means being out.

      • GayOutfielder

        NAGAAA isn’t saying you’re not capable. First-hand experience has shown me local leagues are not capable, though.

        The 70/30 rule may seem like it should be abolished in San Francisco…which is why SFGSL has a don’t ask/don’t tell/we don’t really care attitude. As others have posted on here, try visiting other parts of the country that have not evolved or progressed as quickly as San Francisco. If you’re gay and you want to play sports, the local NAGAAA/gay league is your only true option unless you want to leave part of your life in the closet due to the realistic fear that you will be ostracized…or possibly physically hurt. I wouldn’t want to be an open gay pitcher or 3B or even a baserunner in the Deep South.

  • GayOutfielder

    I agree with Russ…this story is not something groundbreaking, revolutionary, or even newsworthy.

    I think what’s more interesting in this scenario is how the roles are reversed: John Steen, a gay man living in San Francisco, is hesitant or apprehensive socializing one-on-one with a straight man. In most other parts of the country, it would be the straight person having more of an issue!

    John is extremely lucky to be living in SF — it’s easy for gay men to enjoy this city’s large gay community and many can easily live a largely self-contained “gay” life, i.e., mainly associate with other gay people. Except for places like LA, NYC, Chicago, DC, Atlanta, or Miami/Fort Lauderdale, that would be a challenge. Most of the country’s gays and lesbians routinely socialize with straight people.

    The 70/30 rule exists at the NAGAAA World Series because in most other parts of the country a lot of gay men are ^still^ made to feel unwelcome playing team sports, ^especially^ if they casually mention their husband/boyfriend/partner/significant-other/etc. in the same manner a straight man would mention his wife or girlfriend. NAGAAA leagues provide a safe environment for gay/bisexual softball players who don’t want to keep part of their life in the closet. There are a fair amount of softball players who don’t necessarily fit the jock/”butch” profile, but can still produce amazing results on the field at some of the higher levels of play — NAGAAA is where they are most comfortable, and the 70/30 rule helps ensure they will always be comfortable.

    If John Steen cannot find anybody willing to go on camera to state their support of NAGAAA’s 70/30 rule, he isn’t looking hard enough.

    • Jude

      Yup! NAGAAA should have a different division for the NON jock/butch type. I feel that would make it more comfortable for the non-masculine gays. In what I’ve seen they’re the gay group that struggles the most with being comfortable and feeling unsafe.

      • GayOutfielder

        I think that’s something that would further divide the gay community. Gay softball is something that’s supposed to unify the community, not break it down. I’ll take a “nelly queen” on my team any day…as long as he can hit, throw, run fast, and catch the ball. Results are all that matters.

  • Fred F.

    OK, so let’s get rid of the gay sports leagues and organizations around America. Same goes for all Asian, Hispanic and Black organizations at the local, state and Federal levels. Get rid of it all, start in high schools and universities. Why have a softball team that is gay and play in a gay only league? If it’s an all straight team in a gay league, with a few token “gays” – drop this whole minority “I’m special/unique” BS.

    Gays in California to NYC want to able to marry, well OK START living in the real world. We gays are only a small 2-5% minority in a 100% America. We can all belong and communicate and live our lives within the society. Be proud and stop living in a walled off gay lifestyle. The more gays isolate themselves in their own community – it only allows America to treat them as such, another minority like…..Segregated from the masses.

    It’s John’s fault for not living in a straight world or reaching out and trying. He’s been missing an awful lot of what life is about. Stop living 100% life in the gay environment and start exploring reality. Like other’s have said here, most have to do this every day. Most people could care less if you are gay, just be respectful as most people can be and should be. Stop feeling like the world is against you, it is time for you to choose. How to live life.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stanley-James/503792594 Stanley James

      this whole gay team thing is a result of discrimination and bigotry. We’ll ahve reached the promsied land when 2 things happen

      1. there is no closet

      2. no one gives a poo whether people are str8 or gay publically as well as privately, in the locker room or elsewhere.

      Tonite I was with two gay friends and met another of theiir str8 friends. and gay friends. For most of the meeting at dinner etc I didnt know about the sexuality of one of them until he said “Thanks to the election which legalized gays marrying in MD (my home state) I now for the first time feel like a real citizen

  • JO

    We’re human. There will be bad gay people that you will meet and bad
    straight people. I don’t like discrimination. NAGAAA imposing a 70/30
    rule to makes us safe? For me it’s just another way of putting us in
    the closet. What troubles me the most as a father that happens to be
    gay, I can’t have all my straight children play with me. My partner and
    I were joking that we can have a team of our own. Our children
    together playing in a gay league and callin our team BRADY BUNCH. I
    can’t help to think sometimes that gays in the league are heterophobic
    or whoever created such a rule of 70/30. I feel like NAGAAA is saying
    that we’re not capable or have good judgment of bringing respectful
    straight players to the league. Last, this is a different world. There
    are a lot of gay/lesbian parents out there with straight children and
    want to play the sport together. The 70/30 rule shuld be abolished as
    it doesn’t fit the time. If you still believe that it’s to make us safe
    then you should remain in the closet. Last, I checked being out means
    being out.

    • Fred F.

      I agree you, we should have the right to ask whom ever we feel a need to place on our team. Straight or gay. If the 70/30 rule goes away, then should the gay softball league. That said, fathers who are gay and sons that are straight can play together in the city’s park district teams, join one or form a new team with mix straights and gays.

      Why have SFGSL? John are you really gay? Prove it!
      It should be dismissed, deleted, closed.

      The gay league is for the majority who are a minority. If you don’t like the rules, get out and form your own league. They have a right to say what the rules are….John and the straight team he is on – don’t have a right to break the rules.
      This whole documentary thing is nonsense. We did away with the black baseball league generations ago.

    • Russ

      LOL – you can have your straight sons play with you — in an open league! Why did they not invite you to play in their “open” softball league? You are living in a San Francisco mindset in a NATIONAL (N in NAGAAA stands for National) association. It’s not a San Francisco or California thing.

      I don’t think you understand NAGAAA JO!

      San Francisco Softball League (through John Steen) can push to remove themselves from NAGAAA at the SFGSL meetings and still continue to play softball under ASA. In fact, they can even change the name to sfMgsl (San Francisco Mostly Gay Softball League)

      As being part of these meetings, what you don’t know and what you don’t hear from John Steen is that the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of NAGAAA cities support the 70/30 rule. Rather than push NAGAAA to change, why not push SFGSL to remove themselves from NAGAAA. If you don’t agree with GAY ONLY groups, then remove yourself from the group and start a new one.

      • Jo

        I don’t believe SFGSL or any other league for that matter that happens to be a not for profit and have their games played in public parks are allowed to discriminate. However, leagues are required to follow the ratings procedure and must follow the 70/30 rule for the World Series which is NAGAAA. Leagues do not have to adopt the 70/30 rule when it comes to its member, but must follow everything else when it comes to the World Series (NAGAAA). In any case, I don’t believe in discrimination. I don’t believe in denying an individual who is honest, respectable, and supports the gay cause, gay or straight the chance to participate in a team sport whether a gay league or a straight league. It’s as simple as that for me. If straights are comfortable in their own skin to play in a gay league then come on in. Likewise, if gays are comfortable playing in a straight league then come on in. Anyone that doesn’t feel comfortable, then it’s your issue. There is no rhyme or reason to discriminate.

  • Robert Paresi

    As a former player on this team, the straight guys are wonderful. Every single one of them. They are unique I can tell you that. But in my opinion, I come from the south where if it were not for the 70/30 rule, I would not being playing softball today. I love softball. I look forward to the weekend and feeling comfortable. Again when I heard Gay Softball, I tried it and loved it. If straight guys were there, I would not have gone. In fact my partner played straight ball in Jacksonville and I stayed home. I come from Florida, not SF where it is OK to hold hands with another guy and straight people do not care. But everywhere else I have played such as FL, AL, TN where it is completely different. I think the issue is selfish to a SF mindset and takes away the safe haven for people in the south. It’s also special to have gay softball. It doesn’t mean I am not out or proud – it means I go play softball like Russ said, to meet gays who like softball – like me. I would go on camera but its against what the project is about. Most documentaries are scary to state your own opposite opinion. They warp what you really mean.

    Again this team is special and unique. The guys on this team are so nice!! But these guys are different than other people who play straight ball in anywhere other than California. I’d recommend taking some time and visiting Jacksonville Florida softball night with a I’m Gay t-Shirt. I think even if someone wasn’t homophobic, they would be more worried about their other teammates would treat them different.

    I surely think there the 70/30 rule is important. Very important. There is no reason why gay people couldn’t go to “open” leagues and play weekdays and tournaments. There are many many straight tournaments. I recommend maybe Hustlers go to one in the south first before asking the rule be changed.

    • JO

      What leagues actually have a 70/30 rule? From what I understand only NAGAAA does for the World Series. It is also my understanding that leagues don’t have to follow the NAGAAA rule for league membership, but must abide by the ratings procedure and the 70/30 rule for sending teams to the World Series. It is also my understanding that most leagues are not for profit and games are being played on public fields that you are not allowed to discriminate. Now, my concern with the 70/30 rule is that we’re essentially saying that team manager/coaches or players that bring straight players to the league don’t have the proper judgment as to the players character. Are we gays really that stupid. So, whichever league you came from and if you had a bunch of friends that are straight and wanted to play with you then you would deny them. These are your straight friends and I’m assuming you have good straight friends or are you only limited to gay friends? Limiting participation of straights that are kind, honest, respectable, that supports our cause is reverse discrimination to me. You must agree that those just like you, I’m assuming is a kind hearted , nonjudmental, open minded, peaceful, etc. would not oppose to players that are of the same character even if they are straight. If you do then it’s your problem or issue. I’s your issueould need to work on. It doesn’t have to be playing a team sport, it could be at work, other social

      • Robert Paresi

        You don’t get it. No one is stopping straights from playing. They are stopping teams from having more than 30%. There is a huge difference. You said stopping. NAGAAA isn’t stopping straights. In fact the person with their gay sons can play in the league and the World Series. This is all about a straight team with three gay people on it. That’s not inclusive. That’s because Mark Brown went on Craig’s List to recruit people.

        Again no one is stopping any of these people from playing nor is the rule something of not being inclusive. This rule is about balance and majority, not about exclusivity or telling straights they are not welcome. Understand the reasoning here.

        In fact since all the straight people are on the same team, what does this really promote? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for all these straights to co-mingle with all the other teams? What is happening here is the opposite. That all the straights are on one team (figuraly speaking)

        It’s amazing this makes it sound like NAGAAA is not allowing straights. They are. 30%. Bigotry? That would be zero percent.

        • Fred F.

          Robert, you said it!. John, please break up your team and spread the straight ball players among the other gay teams. I doubt this would happen, they all probably prefer to play with each other because they are straight. Yes, a few probably were friends before joining renegades, but the observation looks to be – they prefer to be with like minded players. Most friends and significant others are attracted to those that are similar to themselves. It’s good the league has the 70/30 rule. This allows for some flavor of diversity within the gay community, helps promote friendships to “all” while keeping the focus on gay softball. The gay outfielder knows this to be true. John, you should make a story out of a hand full of gays on a team in a straight league. Why think this reverse theme is any better? You seem to “hate” anybody with a difference of opinion. “Real freedom is the ability to pause between stimulus and response and in that pause….choose” quote from Rollo May.

        • JO

          No you don’t get it. I don’t believe that there should be a limitation as to how many straights or how many gays should be on a team. Any number set is another form of discrimination to me and it’s just a loophole that we don’t have discriminatory practices. To top it off, when you subject individuals to a witch trial and have a group decide on your sexual orientation is an outrage. Teams should be free to be of whatever composition they would like to be. If a bunch of masculine gays wants to have masculine gays on their team only then that’s their choice. If a team wants to divorce from their players and have a stronger team then that’s their choice. Again, this is about your issue of not feeling comfortable of playing with straights and you have to find a way of getting over your fears and venture out. Fortunately, I’m not you and was raised to stand up for myself and others. I don’t know if there’s truth to it, but NAGAAA is no longer allowed to question or have an individual declare their sexual orientation. A wise move!

  • idealgaysoftball

    I vote for no 70/30 rule and just 100% gays. Further, while I can tolerate it, effeminate gays should have a division of their own. There should be a masculine division and lump the rest in the other division, but still falling under the GAY umbrella league. I still yet to meet an effeminate gay that is a good athlete. Let’s include the butch lesbians to the masculine division as most are good athletes and can definitely handle their own. I really like the commonality of masculine gays and others separated in their own. Most effeminate gays aren’t good athletes to begin with. Most masculine gays want to play with masculine gays anyway and have more in common than the effeminate gays. I believe this would make us all comfortable. Then the only time we would have to tolerate each other is at a gay bar. Although, if I hear another high pitch voice from a guy, I just don’t know. Why can’t the leagues just do this? I think more masculine gays will play if this happens and the level of play will get better.

  • Jon Brooks

    Hey everyone. Thanks for your comments. I am very interested in hearing from people who still believe in the 70/30 rule or even a more stringent rule regarding straight players so I can write an update to the post and represent that viewpoint. If you would like to be interviewed, please write me at jbrooks@kqed.org. Thanks!

  • Jay

    I recently joined the gay softball league in my newly adopted hometown. I did it because I wanted to meet other gay men and get some exercise doing it. The newly formed team I was assigned to is about 50 percent straight. The straight people were recruited by gay people on the team, mostly because they were perceived to be ringers. While the straight people are nice enough, they didn’t seek out the league specifically because it’s a gay league like I did. The straight team members hardly ever come to practice, and they don’t come to the social events, whether those events are in a gay setting or not. They also complain loudly if they have to sit on the bench, like all members of the team have to at some time. To me, it feels as though they’re doing us gays some sort of favor by being on the team. It’s just not the same bonding experience I had playing on a gay league in another city a decade ago, when everyone on the team was gay.

  • Larry

    I hear you with your fears! However, at some point you need to find a way to overcome it and this is not just for gays and for everyone. I understand in the deep south it’s difficult and progressive cities or states may just make it better for others to follow or at least a start for opening up eyes. The 70/30 rule while it may have been well intended in the beginning, I believe now is divisive proven by the process that occurred in Seattle. It’s a witch trial! We should not subject individuals in proving their sexual orientation in any way shape or form and in any setting. Your fears are real for those of you living in a community that is full of ignorance and hatred like the deep south and I’m not looking for u to be a martyr. However, those that faces their fears, I commend you. You will shape the world!

  • Bill Peters

    Here in the Detroit area, we have a great mix of LGBT and allies in our league. We have 28 teams this year all with the max 20 players. We are not members of NAGAAA and do not want to be members of NAGAAA. We were able to expand our league from 6 teams in 2005 to 30 teams in 2012 by including our allies and reaching out to the lesbian population. For many years our league was gay male dominated, which was not a true representation of our area.

    We have several non LGBT team sponsors. We have umpires from other USSSA leagues in the area wanting to ump in our league. We have only 2 gay umpires. We have 3 USSSA Hall of Fame umpires. We are very inclusive of non-LGBT people. It’s what makes our league fun and welcoming. We don’t put limits on teams or the league to have a LGBT:Straight ratio.

    We advertise as the only LGBT softball league in the Detroit area. Just like any league, it’s made up of people from all walks of life. We have had no issues. We publish in local LGBT media, university LGBT centers as well as local bars/restaurants.

    We strive to make our league a safe place for LGBT folks, and it’s worked. We work on making being LGBT a non issue within the league and with our sponsors. All of our sponsors are carefully screened. We make sure that they are accepting of the our leagues mission.

    On a personal note, my partner plays in 4 nights a week spring through fall. We just started in the gay league in 2006. We’ve been together for 13 years. I’ve gone to several of his games and a couple of tournaments over the years. We played it safe for the most part, but it didn’t affect us or his teammates. In his profession he runs across many of his teammates weekly. We have a lot of people we know in common. Never been an issue.

    That’s one of the reasons we like being in the Detroit LGBT league. It’s not an issue.

    BTW – We host a tournament every four years, http://www.detroitmist.com, check it out we can take up to 48 teams in 2014. We’d love to have teams from all over the country participate

  • Al

    I used to play in the gay league about 3 years ago. Thought it would be fun to socialize with other gay players like me. I did still maintain playing in the local leagues though which I’m glad I did. I hate to say it, but there’s too much drama in a gay league. Not only that, but it’s expensive. You pay an individual fee and no guarantee that you’ll play and that is if you’re not charged a portion of the team fee. Lucky, for me it was worth it and played 100%. The rosters are just too big. My biggest issue though is the quality of the competition. I’m amazed with all the practices, years of playing, that the level of competition is average. There are a few exceptional gay players. Other than the level of play, there’s the never ending fundraising events. What gets me most is the treatment of some gay players that the gayleague is an extension of a sex club. It’s for that reason mainly that the gay league didn’t work for me.

    • Softball player

      The comment about it being an extension of a sex club is pretty interesting. I haven’t seen a lot of that happening in SF or other city leagues. Yes, there are some people who meet/date/etc… but I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of guys there like to play ball, not hook up.