The DC Gay Flag Football League is one of many outlets for LGBT athletes in the city. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
In what some consider a little-known development, more than 7,000 LGBT people in the D.C. metropolitan area are actively involved in hundreds of teams and dozens of leagues that play in at least 36 sports ranging from softball, tennis, and kickball to bowling, soccer, and scuba diving.
Steve Frable, president of Team D.C., a nonprofit association that represents and promotes at least 36 LGBT sports clubs, said it’s hard to keep track of the exact number of people involved in the LGBT sports groups because many play more than one sport.
“A lot of people who are into these sports play multiple sports,” he said. “I’m a softballer and a bowler. My partner is a tennis player and a volleyball player and a bowler,” Frable said.
“So we don’t maintain any type of individual database that says this person is a bowler or softballer,” he said. “We just rely on the teams themselves and the clubs to tell us how many people they have.”
Regardless of the exact number, Team D.C.’s official list of LGBT sports clubs and the specific sport they play includes a wide variety of sports that Les Johnson, the immediate past president of Team D.C., said clearly dispels the stereotype that LGBT people shun sports.
“We have a very active legitimate LGBT sports community here in D.C.,” Johnson said.
Frable said one of the largest of the clubs is Stonewall Kickball, which has about 1,000 players competing in numerous leagues and dozens of teams.
The names of some of the clubs, which usually include the sport in which they are involved, include: Lambda Links Golf; Stonewall Dodgeball; Capital Splats Racquetball; D.C. Strokes Rowing Club; Washington Renegades Rugby; D.C. Pride Volleyball League; Eastern Women’s Baseball Club; D.C. Sentinels Basketball; and D.C. Gay Flag Football League.
Some of the sports groups, including the Quantico Orienteering Club, involve lesser known sports.
“Orienteering is an outdoor sport in which participants use a topographic map and compass to navigate to a series of checkpoints,” a write-up on the club’s website says. The write-up says the sport can involve “challenging yourself, racing against the clock, trying to maintain mental focus while pushing hard physically through demanding terrain.”
It adds, “If you love exploring the great outdoors, while being challenged physically and mentally, try orienteering. You’ll be hooked for life!”
One of the newer clubs to join Team D.C. is Stonewall Climbing, a rock climbing league that its founder Brian Yamasaki said is initially carrying out its climbing competition at a unique gym in the Crystal City section of Arlington, Va., that has created indoor rock-like walls for climbing.
“Essentially the league monitors everyone’s personal progress and then you get ranked amongst your teammates and then the teams get ranked among each other,” Yamasaki said. “We welcome anybody from seasoned climbers to completely new beginners.”
A number of the clubs involve swimming and sailing, including Washington Wetskins Water Polo; D.C. Aquatics Club, which involves swimming competition; Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing; and D.C. Strokes Rowing Club. The latter group competes on the Anacostia River.
“DCSRC holds fast to the conviction that LGBT rowers can be formidable athletes and competitors,” the group says on its website. “Our goal is for the DCSRC to be a platform for competitive success and to increase the profile of LGBT rowers in the rowing community while promoting a spirit of camaraderie amongst our members.”
Lambda Divers, which organizes scuba diving trips, says on its website that it has grown significantly since it was founded in 1989.
“Since then it has grown to be one of the most successful LGBTQ scuba clubs in the world,” the group’s website says. “We provide a unique forum through which LGBTQ divers can meet, learn more about diving, make friends and dive buddies, and enjoy great camaraderie on dive trips and social events.”
Johnson said he stepped down as president of Team D.C. after he was named vice president of external affairs for the Federation of Gay Games, the group that organizes the international LGBT sports competition known as the Gay Games.
D.C. is one of three cities competing to host the 2022 Gay Games. The FGG is scheduled to announce its decision on the host city at its annual meeting in Paris in October.
Johnson, an avid bowler, also serves as president of Capital Area Rainbowlers Association, an LGBT bowling club affiliated with Team D.C. that has about 400 members involved in its fall, winter and summer leagues.
“We have some really good bowlers,” he said. “My league last year had three perfect games,” he added, referring to a bowling score of 300, the highest possible score. “We probably have a dozen or more bowlers that have a 200 or more average.”
Brent Minor, one of the founders of Team D.C. who currently serves as chair of the committee promoting D.C.’s bid to become the host city for the 2022 Gay Games, said he has taken a leave of absence from his role as executive director of Team D.C. during the Gay Games bidding process.
He noted that Team D.C. was established in 1990 and incorporated in 2003 as a 501(c)3 charitable organization.
“Team D.C. works within the broader community to dispel discrimination against LGBT people participating in sports; awards scholarships to LGBT student-athletes; provides a network of sporting outlets for the LGBT community in the Washington Metropolitan area; and promotes participation in local, regional, national, and international amateur sports competitions,” according to the group’s website.
Other LGBT sports leagues and clubs affiliated with Team D.C. include Stonewall Darts; Rogue Darts; Lambda Squares Square Dancing; Ultimate Out Frisbee League; D.C. Roller Girls; Washington Furies Women’s Rugby; D.C. Front Runners; D.C. Sentinels Basketball; Chesapeake & Potomac Softball; TriOuts Triathlon Club; Stonewall Billiards; Stonewall Bocce; and Stonewall Darts.
A complete list of all of the clubs and leagues can be accessed at teamdc.org.