Tough Loss Yesterday

I am supposed to be unpacking from this past weekend’s tournament. I told myself I was coming in here to get all my clothes to throw in the wash but I just don’t feel like it. As you can tell by the title of this post, we lost. In the quarter-finals. In the last minute of the game, because life can be both dramatic like that and isn’t always directed by people who love happy endings. Or maybe that for every come from behind Cinderella story, there has to be a losing team. I don’t know. The point is that it hurt to lose this one and I’m not ready to let this loss go. Unpacking seems like acknowledging that we didn’t make it and that it’s over. I just don’t think I am ready for that. I already talked about it ad nauseam on the ride home with my teammates and they’re all just as broken up as I am. Nobody had anything uplifting to say about it and it was like driving home with a black cloud over us. I think I am going to wallow a little longer and write about it here.

This is what happened:

We were doing well the whole first half of the game. The other team was good but it felt like we were making the shots we needed to and everything just seemed to be clicking.Then our point guard, Natalie,got her finger jammed pretty bad by the ball right at the beginning of the 3rd quarter. One of the other women tried to get her some medical attention but Natalie waved it off and said she was fine. She tried to keep playing but was clearly struggling. Then she missed an easy shot and it looked like she just couldn’t get a good grip on the ball. We called a timeout and she petitioned pretty hard to stay in. By then we were losing by 20 points—after having been up by 12—and knew we needed to bench her.  It hurt to do it as a friend and a teammate but we all knew that the goal was to win. She stomped off to the locker room but I knew she’d come around. She would do the same thing, and we were sure she’d get over herself to see that once the game was over.

We brought in another player off the bench and got back within 2 by the end of that quarter. We were so very close! The crowd was really energized and things were starting to run on all cylinders again. It was a bit of a long shot to think maybe we could come back and win with our best player down but it didn’t feel like it in that moment. I had the ball in my hands in the last minute of the game. It was a clear shot but on the long side. I passed it off to one of the other women and she took off with determination. We could force the game into overtime and maybe win. As the clock wound down, she took the shot.

And she missed.

Game over. We lost. I don’t know if I would have made my shot either—in my egotistical moments I think I might have, but I know that statistically I don’t always. I do know it was a straightforward shot for her and she knew it too. She cried most of the way home. So many things. If only Natalie hadn’t gotten hurt. If I had tried to make the shot—even if it didn’t go in, we might have gotten the rebound and a second attempt. If we’d gotten that shot and a chance at OT.

Ugh. As I said, a lousy loss.

But I guess I should start unpacking. My uniform probably doesn’t smell all that great and being in an enclosed suitcase can’t possibly be helping it. Maybe I’ll have better news next time.

How Hardcore are We?!

Athletes are tough. This is the public image overall. They are larger and taller than normal people and seem like giants to some. This is particularly true in the basketball arena. Players push themselves to the max and must be strong to the core. They work out, eat well, sleep a lot, and do everything possible to stay healthy and alert. They should have good immune systems so they don’t fall ill often and miss games. It is a point of pride on my team to have a perfect record of attendance. That includes practice. I am proud to be one of those who never fails to show up on time. I go on trips to other locations and, in general, toe the line. I am cooperative and a kindred spirit. I would say that I am not the least popular player on the team.

Okay, I have established the fact that we are a healthy, hardy bunch. Why did so many balk about playing one night when there was no heat for the court we choose. Our usual location was occupied and we had easy access to another. Several people, however, complained that they get cold. I am the one woman so I could have been the one who couldn’t tolerate a lack of heat. Not so. It was a bunch of sissies in my opinion. Since when did these fine athletes get so sensitive. We have played many times outside in the winter with no ill effects. So, either we find a solution or we forego practice. No one wants to do that. Finally, the coach came to the rescue after admonishing us about being weak. He brought some space heaters that you’d normally use in a garage to the gym we selected so we could get some court time. Ingenious!

These heaters were rather large, not the small portable ones you find in homes or offices. He dispersed them as needed and plugged them in. He made sure that no one would trip over the cords. He was vigilant about a fire hazard and checked with the local fire department who approved of his method of heating a cold space for a couple of hours. Once he turned them on, it didn’t take long for the space to thaw out. It wasn’t cold anymore, nor was it too hot. We could play easily without sweating. We were grateful that he didn’t allow a few pansy players to spoil our practice night. We enjoyed the game and vowed to come back the next night for another practice session.

Most gyms have central air and heat so space heaters are needed. After all, they are bulky and you have to lug them around. As you might expect, the coach has a hatch back van. The players volunteered to carry them in from the vehicle to the gym so it happened very fast. It was efficient, effective, and easy. I noticed how well these heaters function and thought of getting a small one for my home office which is freezing in the winter. That night we killed two birds with one stone.

Resources for Athletes

In an ideal world, when we are out there competing, we would be judged only for our athletic achievements. Our personal lives would remain personal. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world. I know that in some places it is easier than ever before to be an openly LBGTathlete. In other places, it can be a lot more difficult. The challenges range from locker room harassment, career or sponsorship problems,and more significantly it can be downright dangerous. Being a trailblazer was never something that I had in mind—I just want to play basketball. But I know that the better I do and the more I prove to the rest of the world that being a lesbian is only part of who I am, the more I am clearing the way for people who come after me. With that in mind, I have created some resources for LBGT athletes.

  1. One really great organization is GLISA. Short for the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association, this group supports athletes across all sports as well as human rights organizations around the globe. They do a lot for LGBT athletes, notably: outreach and member services to athletes in the LGBT community; use partnerships with mainstream sport, human rights, and cultural organizations to make it safe for all athletes to compete in sporting events and participate in all sports around the globe; they sponsor the World OutGames every four years and the Continental Outgamesin off years; and they work to provide resources to and unite smaller athlete support groups in order to present a professional and unified front for the community.
  2. The Federation of Gay Games is another long-running They help promote equality for LGBT athletes throughout the world by ensuring that the Gay Games—the largest inclusive sport and cultural festival—takes place every four years. These games have been held around the world. The aim of the Federation of Gay Games is topromote social change and to empower the community. By creating this kind of supportive competition, they provide safety for athletes who may not be able to complete otherwise. Their next games will be in Paris in 2018 so you have plenty of time to train and sign up!
  3. At the collegiate and high school level, a good place to start is Go Athletes! They provide education and advocacy to student-athletes, along with their partners Campus Pride and You Can Play. Their goal is to create connections between current and past student-athletes, fostering a sense of community and providing support for those who need it. They have listservs with information, can help you start a chapter at your school, and provide other opportunities to promote inclusion in sports.

There are other organizations out there; internet searches will help. These are the three that I have found to be the most useful to me on my journey and I just thought you might be looking for something as well. Hopefully one day, every athlete will be considered based on their academic achievements and their preferences will have no bearing on public opinion.

Fun Run

Hurray for Team Vancouver. My team is tops. I love being involved in the exciting competitive world of basketball. It brings me great joy and is my primary way of working out and keeping fit. Women are few and far between on basketball teams and I take pride in my status. It can be a respected position if you are any good because you are a rarity. I participate in any extracurricular activities that I can. One day, a few players and I decided to do a fun run and make our own t-shirts. We would make enough for ourselves and also the team’s fans. The shirts would have a large stencil in front that read “Go Team Vancouver.” With a handy paint spray gun for home use, we could emblazon each tee with this message.

I love to do things off the court with fellow players who have actually become friends. This was a project of love and we also thought we might sell them at games to raise funds for the team when we must go on the road. All of a sudden, it became a much bigger effort than first intended. It was going to be successful and great fun. We just needed to decide on the style of shirts and how many in different sizes. It might be best, we thought, to go with all large and extra-large. We then had to acquire two or three spray paint guns and the color we desired. How about different colors, I suggested. Of course, we didn’t want boring black. We would go with the team colors and make about half in each hue.

The day we selected to do the shirts was wonderful and it was hard to stay inside. We then took the project outdoors which would help with any toxic smell from the paint. It really was safe and didn’t contain any odd chemicals so kids could wear the shirts. We set up old tables and covered them with newspaper. We stacked the shirts at one end folded neatly so they didn’t take up much space. The paint guns were in the center, one for each color. We could use one at a time and then reload. It was an easy and fun DIY job. I have only used spray paint guns for paintball games. What a mess! This time we didn’t need to wear overalls and protect our clothing from errant globs of paint. We controlled the project and made sure it would make for an easy clean up.

The shirts turned out to be great and looked professionally done. We couldn’t wait to wear them off court and to see if there was a market for them at our games. Yes, there was. We sold out the very first time they were offered. We raised money for our next field trip. We also had funds for more supplies should we want to repeat our efforts and try to sell them again.

Finding a New Teammate

One of the women on my tournament team is leaving soon. She is going to have a baby, which is so wonderful for her, but it is hard to let her go. Lily was pretty good. Besides, I always hate losing teammates. Partially because I get used to people and how they play but also because it always makes me nervous when we have to get someone new. My stomach has been in knots since we posted the tryouts message. It is not easy for me to bring someone else into the team. There are always all these questions that come with trying to find a replacement: Are they going to accept me? Will there be issues? Are they going to be the kind of player we are looking for but not want to join the team because of me? Are the rest of my team going to ask me to pretend to be something I am not in order to recruit someone good who might have a problem with playing with someone who is LGBT? OK, that last one is a little far-fetched but once my mind starts going, it is hard to reign it back in. These are very real fears for many LBTQ athletes, unfortunately.

It is entirely possible that I am blowing it out of proportion. It could be completely fine. Since I’ve come out to my team, we’ve only had to replace one other player. She was totally fine with everything and that was awesome.There has always been that nagging feeling about it, though. My mind tells me that it could have been luck.I would like to think that I am wrong and that wasn’t luck. That is was a genuinely appropriate response that I should expect every single time. I am a good basketball player. I am a veteran on this team. I am a good person. That should be more than enough for anyone trying to come in to play with us. She should accept me as I am. I don’t know, if I were joining an already established team, here are the two things I would be looking for: 1) are these the types of people who can win on the court? and 2) Are they people that I would be OK with traveling with and spending time in close quarters with? Isn’t that pretty much all that should matter in a situation like this?

I guess because we occasionally have someone on an opposing team that will name call or give me or my girlfriend a hard time when she comes with us to games.It makes me put my guard up a bit more and I have a hard time letting people in. I hate feeling like that. I don’t like to think the worst about people. I would much rather believe that people are good and accepting, and that has been mostly the case–in my experience, at least.

Well, our first tryout is tomorrow. Wish us luck finding someone good to replace Lily!

Why We Need the OutGames

As an athlete, I love competing. I love being able to leave it all out on the court, trying my best and working alongside my teammates for a common goal. I am very lucky in that my team is very supportive. We play in lots of tournaments and I really enjoy them; again, I am lucky that the places we go tend to be open minded.

I wish I didn’t have to be lucky. I wish it was the way all athletes, regardless of their personal lives, were treated. And that’s why we need things like the OutGames. We still aren’t accepted out there. Not all athletes and not all over the sporting world. That means we need sporting events where people from all different backgrounds and experiences can compete together in a place where they are accepted and celebrated. People need to know that they can be both LGBT AND an athlete. That it doesn’t diminish their athletic skills in any way. And people need to see that, for example, transgender people aren’t just trying to get some kind of an edge or handicap and that gays can occupy the same locker room as straight people without incident. It sounds completely ridiculous to have to even type these things but I know—from experience—that homophobic people have expressed these kinds of concerns to me. I think if they see sporting events that take place at the OutGames, they’ll see they are no different than any other competitions and quite possibly lose some of that fear. Most of it is based out of ignorance anyway and if we can educate them, it may make things easier for future athletes. I like that idea.

Just like the Olympics, we can foster a sense of global community with things like the World Out Games. The spirit of inclusion can be found in everything from the opening and closing ceremonies to the festival village. By dividing the focus on human rights and culture—not just sports—we can include a diverse group of people who will all benefit from such an event. The games provide resources that many would not have access to otherwise, like civil rights lawyers, human rights activists, and media coverage of important issues. It is a chance to promote and support the community on a large scale.

It is also great that they have social events at these games. Athletes who may be used to being ostracized or silenced are able to meet and mingle with others who have experienced the same kinds of triumphs and discriminations. And since these events are open to all, some of the social events can be the highlight of OutGames.

If you are an athlete and interested in learning more, you can check out the World OutGames page here. They will be held in Miami in May of 2017, so you have some time to train!

Finding Myself

When I was young, I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t seem like the rest of the kids in my class. I didn’t know anybody who was LBGT—I didn’t even really know what that was. I just knew that I was different and that made me feel weird. Weird in junior high is not a feeling anybody wants. I lost myself in sports, and it turned out I was quite good at basketball. I found a great team of girls who didn’t care about me being “weird.” They cared about whether I could block a shot or make a free throw. I kept playing all through high school and became great friends with many of my teammates. As a matter of fact, one of them cleared up the whole mystery for me on a road trip senior year when I confided in her that I always felt out of place. “Just because you like girls doesn’t mean you don’t belong here,” she told me. I think my jaw dropped. I could not figure out how she knew and I didn’t, but she told me that it was because she saw me as who I was and not the person I was telling myself I should be.

She had a point there. That has stayed with me, and whenever I find myself trying to fit some preconceived notion of who or what I think I should be, I hear her voice in my head. I take a step back and remind myself that the only thing I need to be is true to myself and I try to let that guide my actions. So far it has been a challenge but I am so much happier as a result. It turns out that I am weird, but not in the way I always thought. I am weird in that I like to eat my cereal dry and have a cup of milk on the side. I am weird because I actually don’t mind my lengthy commute to work. Not because I am a lesbian and I like to play sports.

The North America Outgames were practically in my backyard a year later—right here in Vancouver. I was incredibly interested in the Human Rights Convention that they had. I went to a few events with a teammate. It was incredibly inspiring to be there and everything was so well done. They had workshops, a Job Fair, and a March of Athletes. It felt a lot like the Olympics with its spirit of unity but also different—it fostered more of a sense of unity than national pride. I caught a lot of the games on SHAW TV as well. It was an exciting time for me. I felt like myself. I felt normal. I felt like everyone around me understood and supported me. I want that feeling for everyone.

Once I knew what was out there, other events naturally caught my attention. I was disappointed to hear that the 2016 games, which were supposed to be held in the United States, were canceled. Hopefully, things will go better next time around. There is no harm in thinking positively, right?