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OutSports’ next play

10 years after debut, gay sports site acquired by SB Nation

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Cyd Zeigler, OutSports, gay news, Washington Blade
Cyd Zeigler, Jim Buzinski, OutSports, gay news, Washington Blade

Cyd Zeigler (left) and Jim Buzinski have guided OutSports through 10 years of change, and see their acquisition by SB Nation as the next chapter in their story. (Photos courtesy Zeigler and Buzinski)

For more than 10 years, OutSports.com has been a leader in sharing stories from the amateur and professional sports world with a decidedly gay point of view.

“OutSports definitely fills a needed niche within the realm of sports,” says avid sports fan and gay man, Ken Nash. “If you’re wanting news about the gay boycott of Sochi or events like the Gay Games, it’s the first site people go to.”

Three years before creating OutSports.com, gay sports enthusiasts and flag football players Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski met playing in the Los Angeles league in the late 1990s. They bemoaned the lack of an LGBT voice in coverage of sports news, and it dawned on them to fill the void themselves.

FIND MORE OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE SPORTS ISSUE HERE.

“Why don’t we just do this thing called a website,” Buzinski told the Blade, who said Zeigler came up with the name “OutSports” when the pair discovered gaysports.com was taken. “Once he said it, it was like ‘oh, that’s it,’ and we never went back.”

In March, OutSports — which has grown from a small site with pages dedicated to the promotion of gay sports into a reputable news source that covers all aspects of LGBT issues in sports — was acquired by Vox Media, a Washington, D.C.-based web publishing company, and became part of their flagship site, SB Nation. Buzinski and Zeigler maintain creative and editorial control.

“People were afraid that becoming part of a mainstream publication would mean that OutSports is going to be de-gayed, and that has not been the case,” Zeigler told the Blade about SB Nation — a massive site of sports-related community-driven editorial content. “The fact that a mainstream publication wanted to acquire a very gay website says a lot about where sports media is today and where this company is today.”

Buzinski and Zeigler began to consider joining a larger organization several years ago, and reached out to several other LGBT publications, but after the New York Times profiled the pair in April 2011, SB Nation reached out to the two pioneering gay sports bloggers.

Sports fans are coming out of the closet en masse in the LGBT community recently, and cities like Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago and New York have seen an explosion of amateur LGBT leagues in every sport imaginable. But when the duo met in 1998, gay sports fans were less open about their passion.

“It’s an area that older gay people shunned for a variety of reasons, a lot of it legitimate,” Buzinski says about why organized sports were not considered a part of the LGBT identity in the early years of the site.

“It felt like you almost had to defend yourself for being a sports fan. Because people would talk about how bullying the culture was, and you felt like ‘I just love the sport, I love the action, I love the players,’” Buzinski continued. “They just didn’t feel a part of it or accepted — except for sports like softball, which has had gay teams forever — but now it seems that every city has dozens of teams of active gay clubs. So I think at the recreational level, people are saying, ‘Hey, we can be in any field. We’re not restricted.’”

Buzinski and Zeigler say the Internet, and sites like OutSports have helped change the perception of organized sports in the LGBT community, as well as change the perception of LGBT athletes in the community of athletics.

“As a huge gay sports fan growing up, [OutSports] seemed like one of the only places where you could actually find sports news from an LGBT perspective, and also find other openly gay sports fans,” Change.org senior campaign director and longtime reader, Michael Jones, told the Blade. “I definitely think the site has had a tremendous amount of influence in getting outlets like Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, ESPN and more to cover LGBT issues in sports.”

Buzinski and Zeigler see the partnership with SB Nation as a sign of a changing landscape in sports media, where a general sports audience is more open to and interested in stories of LGBT athletes, and gay sports fans will continue to be “de-ghettoized,” as Zeigler says.

“I think having a partner like SB Nation gives us more resources to do things that we’ve not been able to do until now,” Buzinski says.

The vibe and feel of OutSports has changed since it was acquired by SB Nation, and it now has a much more polished, Grantland-esque feel to it than a charming and scrappy blog,” says Change.org’s Jones. “But looks aside, I’ve still enjoyed the content, still visit the site multiple times a week, and still hope that the exposure stories on OutSports get among the fans of SB Nation open up LGBT sports coverage to even greater numbers of readers, particularly straight readers, who haven’t been used to reading about the lives of LGBT people in the sports world.”

Zeigler says that as LGBT sports issues change, OutSports will continue to evolve at its new home.

“We cover things differently than we did 10 years ago, and five years from now we’ll cover things differently,” he tells the Blade. “With SB Nation, we’re not just read by a mostly gay audience anymore, we’re now read by a lot of straight people. ”

That means the ability to expose a mainstream audience to new issues, and bring wider attention to ways athletics is adapting to an era of the out and open athlete.

“Transgender people are misunderstood, but transgender athletes have the furthest to go [in terms of acceptance in sports],” Zeigler says about one of the next LGBT issues needing to be tackled. “I think we need education in terms of what it means to transition in the sports world.”

Zeigler also sees casual homophobia as a problem.

“I think this is the No. 1 problem. I think systemic homophobia is not really the issue here, it’s the perception of homophobia in sports,” Zeigler says. “And heterosexism.”

OutSports avoids trying to be all things to everyone, but concentrates on shedding light on issues of interest of LGBT athletes and fans.

“For more substantive game-by-game analysis, I prefer ESPN but that isn’t what OutSports tries to be,” sports fan Ken Nash says.

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Sports

DC Aquatics Club swimmers reflect on world title win

Team took 125 gold medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC records

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The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics world championships in Palm Springs, Calif. (Photo courtesy DCAC)

The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) world championships in Palm Springs, Calif., in April on a mission to capture their first world title since 2013.

It was a long road back to international competition for the DCAC swimmers after the disruption of training and travel brought on by the worldwide pandemic.

When the team returned from IGLA in Melbourne, Australia in March of 2020, their training pools were closed, and all competitions were canceled.

By May they had established a training site in the South River in Annapolis where they swam until November of that year. Eventually, pools began to reopen, and the team was faced with battling for training time in COVID-restricted pools.

Following the postponement of the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong, the IGLA community scrambled to put together a competition in Palm Springs that would be hosted in tandem by West Hollywood Aquatics and the Long Beach Grunions. 

DCAC’s swimmers in Palm Springs consisted of a mix of veterans and rookies ranging in age from 22 to 76 years old. Each swimmer was eligible to enter five individual events and three relay events.

With 67 teams in attendance, DCAC jumped out to an early lead on day one in the large team category with West Hollywood Aquatics and San Francisco Tsunami in close pursuit. 

Despite the disqualifications of two of their winning relays for early takeoffs, DCAC held on to their lead over the remaining three days to claim their first world title in nine years.

Three DCAC swimmers, Grant Casey, Carmen Robb and Jerry Frentsos, won gold in all five of their individual events. In total, the team won 125 gold, 66 silver and 35 bronze medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC team records.

Addison Winger was a first time IGLA swimmer and hadn’t competed in 12 years. He had heard the tales from past IGLAs and wanted to join in on the fun.

“It was a great experience to compete for DCAC at an international competition. I had never been in a championship meet before where you go through the process of tapering, shaving, and suiting up in tech gear,” says Winger. “The relays were amazing, and I enjoyed taking advice and feedback from our coaches to incorporate into future races. It was also great spending quality team with my teammates outside of the pool.”

Olivia Kisker had competed with DCAC at IGLA Melbourne in 2020 and was looking forward to traveling with her team again.

“Even though the days were long at the pool, we still had time for Joshua Tree, the gondolas and all that Palm Springs has to offer,” Kisker says. “I love traveling and doing it with your teammates provides a setting for bonding and getting to know people better. I also enjoyed competing against my teammate Sarah. It’s like a friendship and a rivalry.”

Craig Franz restarted his post-COVID competitive swimming at IGLA Palm Springs and went on to a training camp and open water race in Hawaii this past month.

“The whole thing about this team is relationships and sharing swimming as a common denominator. The swim competitions legitimize building relationships and supporting each other in healthy ways,” say Franz. “Palm Springs felt like a more relaxed setting, and we needed this meet to rebuild the team. It provided a nutritional base for what we are about – swimming and friendships.”

Sarah Padrutt had not competed since 2019 and all the talk about past IGLAs prompted her to attend for the first time.

“I had so much fun, and it was cool having people cheering and being supported by teammates,” Padrutt says. “It was also a nice wakeup call, a reminder of how much I like competing. I like the pressure of racing and being on relays with my team. It was a very positive experience.”

Charles Cockrell has been a Masters swimmer for decades and is the chair of the Legislation Committee for United States Masters Swimming. He came out in 2019 and these championships marked his first time competing at IGLA.

“I wanted to compete at a swim meet that was a combination of the LGBTQ community and the sport of swimming. It was a fun, accepting and engaging environment,” says Cockrell. “The takeaway was that everyone was enjoying themselves and it was nice to be gathered together in a queer space. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie, and it was great being attached to a big team like DCAC.”

Coming up next for DCAC is the United States Masters Swimming Nationals in Richmond in August. Next year, the team will travel to London for the 2023 IGLA world championships to be held in the London Olympic Pool.

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Politics

Caitlyn Jenner celebrates FINA ban on Trans swimmers on Twitter

“[…] what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner tweeted

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Screenshot/YouTube Fox News

Former Olympian and one-time California Republican gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner enraged Trans activists Monday after she tweeted her approval of the FINA vote Sunday that essentially bans Trans women from participating and competing as collegiate swimmers.

“It worked! I took a lot of heat – but what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner tweeted Sunday after the international athletic organization announced its vote to ban trans athletes.

The Swimming’s world governing body voted to restrict transgender athletes from elite women’s competitions. The final vote tally of the representatives was 71.5% approval for the new policy which requires transgender athletes show that “they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.”

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA’s president, Husain Al-Musallam, said in a statement.

The organisation is maintaining that it was necessary to use sex and sex-linked traits to determine eligibility criteria because of the “performance gap” that appears between males and females during puberty.

Jenner’s appearances on the Fox News Network over the past six months have been unrelenting attacks on Trans athletes, especially University of Pennsylvania Women’s Team swimmer Lia Thomas. Jenner also appeared on the network to defend her attacks on Trans athletes.

“We must protect women’s sports. We cannot bow down to the radical left wing woke world and the radical politically charged agenda of identity politics,” Jenner tweeted. In another tweet she said;

“Thank you @seanhannity and @HeyTammyBruce for having a conversation grounded in common sense. All we want to do is protect women’s and girls sports! It’s that simple. And calling out the libelous, defamatory lies of @PinkNews and @emilychudy@benjamincohen

Jenner has been asked about her position on the multiple pieces of anti-Trans youth sports legislation across the United States. She responded that she saw it as a question of fairness saying that she opposed biological boys who are Trans- competing in girls’ sports in school.

“It just isn’t fair,” Jenner said adding, “and we have to protect girls’ sports in our school.”

In April the Fox network hired Jenner as on-air contributor role with her first appearance on Hannity.

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Sports

World swimming body FINA votes to ban Trans athletes

Says policy necessary because of ‘biological performance gap’

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FINA's president, Husain Al-Musallam, announcing the new policy Sunday in Budapest (Screenshot/YouTube 10 News First)

The Swimming’s world governing body FINA meeting in the Hungarian capital city voted to restrict transgender athletes from elite women’s competitions. The final vote tally of the representatives was 71.5% approval for the new policy which requires transgender athletes show that “they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.”

Enactment of that requirement effectively eliminates trans women’s eligibility to compete in the women’s category.

Tanner Stages describe the physical changes people undergo during puberty.

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA’s president, Husain Al-Musallam, said in a statement.

The organisation is maintaining that it was necessary to use sex and sex-linked traits to determine eligibility criteria because of the “performance gap” that appears between males and females during puberty.

“Without eligibility standards based on biological sex or sex-linked traits, we are very unlikely to see biological females in finals, on podiums, or in championship positions; and in sports and events involving collisions and projectiles, biological female athletes would be at greater risk of injury,” the statement from FINA’s new policy read.

Athlete Ally, which advocates for Trans athletes responded:

“FINA’s new eligibility criteria for transgender athletes and athletes with intersex variations is deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific and not in line with the 2021 International Olympic Committee framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations,” said Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally.

“This sudden and discriminatory decision is a blatant attack on transgender athletes who have worked to comply with longstanding policies that have allowed them to participate for years without issue,” said Joni Madison, Human Rights Campaign Interim President. “This policy is an example of swimming organizations caving to the avalanche of ill-informed, prejudiced attacks targeted at one particular transgender swimmer. We urge the FINA to rethink its policy and ensure inclusion for all athletes — including transgender women – and allow them to participate in sports free from discrimination, abuse and harassment.

“To the young athletes who may be disheartened by this policy, know that we know and believe that every young person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and that transgender kids, like their friends, deserve the same chances to learn sportsmanship, self-discipline, and teamwork, and to build a sense of belonging with their peers,” Madison added.

Swimming Body FINA Votes To Segregate Trans Athletes | 10 News First:

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