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Local athletes: why I joined an LGBT sports team

Filling a void fostered by bullying, harassment in schools

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Brandon Waggoner, D.C. Gay Flag Football League, gay news, Washington Blade, sports, DCGFFL
Brandon Waggoner, D.C. Gay Flag Football League, gay news, Washington Blade, sports, DCGFFL

Brandon Waggoner grew up in West Texas and Tennessee and never played sports growing up but excelled in various LGBT leagues in D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Locker room fears, bullying and anti-LGBT bias have prevented many within the LGBT community, especially in high school and college, from even attempting to play sports. In some cases, they have also chosen not to be spectators because of feeling unsafe.

There are likely thousands of LGBT teenagers in America who are not playing sports because they fear the repercussions of joining a community that is historically unwelcoming.

FIND MORE OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE SPORTS ISSUE HERE.

Research studies by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that high school LGBT students avoid locker rooms (39 percent), physical education class (32.5 percent) and the school sports field (22.8 percent) because of feeling unsafe.

LGBT sports advocacy groups have been producing resource guides for everyone involved in the sports community in an attempt to educate. Diversity training is now pretty much inescapable from grade school sports to professional sports.

Most of the athletes competing in the LGBT sports community of Washington, D.C. are post-college age and are experiencing exactly what the national LGBT sports advocacy groups are trying to accomplish: They are competing in a safe space and they are flourishing.

Brandon Waggoner grew up in West Texas and Tennessee. He never played sports growing up but had the desire as he taught himself how to throw a ball when he was a teenager.

“I never joined a team because I was nervous about being in the locker room,” says Waggoner.

In college, through his dorm, he began playing intramural sports as a closeted gay man and was instantly hooked. After arriving in D.C. he was playing on a team with his employer when he heard about a local gay flag football team.

“I had just come out and was unfamiliar with the athletic capabilities of gay people,” says Waggoner.  “I joined the team thinking I was going to be a dominant player. Instead, I was the one who was dominated.”

Besides quarterbacking in the DC Gay Flag Football League, Waggoner has also played on the Washington DC Gay Basketball League. Along with his teammates, he has made it to the playoffs in both leagues.

Alison Samuels went to a small private high school in California and played soccer and field hockey. She was the first openly gay person at her school and despite her efforts to fit in and create a comfortable environment, she was asked by her teammates not to use the locker room.

“That happened in my junior year,” says Samuels.  “I continued to play but the perception became that any female friends I had were likely gay, so I stopped having close female friends and I refused to touch or hug my female friends.”

She tried the club soccer team at Mary Washington University in her freshman year but did not fit in and decided to stop playing sports. She eventually found a safe environment on a club rugby team in her junior year.

After moving to D.C. she saw a Craigslist posting for the Federal Triangles Soccer Club and joined the team. “It is a completely different environment,” says Samuels. “More fun, more relaxed and less stress.”

Samuels is now president of the Federal Triangles Soccer Club.

Brian Sparrow grew up on naval bases including some time spent at Guantanamo Bay. His father taught him the basics of sports but his assignments took him away on ships for up to nine months at a time.

“My mom would sign me up for sports leagues,” says Sparrow. “But I spent most of my time playing sports by myself.”

Sparrow was small for his age so after his family settled in Maryland he continued to play sports in his neighborhood instead of joining team sports. After coming out, he discovered the LGBT sports community in D.C.

“Playing sports has defined me as a gay man,” says Sparrow.  “I really began to flourish when I started joining the LGBT sports leagues.”

Sparrow has played with the Capital Tennis Association, Chesapeake and Potomac Softball, DC Gay Flag Football League, Capital Punishment Volleyball and the Washington, D.C. Gay Basketball League.

These athletes and thousands like them in leagues across the country express a similar appreciation for LGBT-specific programs that allow all athletes to reap the many benefits of playing sports.

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Sports

Gay men challenge Qatar death penalty for homosexuality

Country to host 2022 World Cup

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Dr. Nasser Mohamed (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

Gay men are blowing the whistle now, two months before the World Cup, demanding the host nation of Qatar change its anti-LGBTQ ways.

The Middle Eastern country where Islam is the state religion will welcome soccer players, coaches and fans from all around the planet, beginning Nov. 20, for matches that will pit nation against nation.

Qatar has promised to welcome LGBTQ foreigners, even as its own people are tortured and put to death for being who they are. 

On Monday, Qatar’s ambassador to Germany got an earful from one of those men at a human rights conference in Frankfurt, hosted by the German Football Association, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Fan representative Dario Minden spoke in English directly to Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, about who he is and who he loves, Minden told him to “abolish the death penalty” for homosexuality. 

“I’m a man and I love men. I do — please don’t be shocked — have sex with other men. This is normal,” Minden told Al Thani. “So, please get used to it, or stay out of football. Because the most important rule in football is, football is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re lesbian, if you’re gay. It’s for everyone. For the boys. For the girls. And for everyone in between. 

“So, abolish the death penalty. Abolish all of the penalties regarding sexual and gender identity,” he said. 

Although organizers promised Al Thani an opportunity to respond, the Associated Press reports that portion of the conference was closed to the public and the news media and was not televised. 

Earlier, Al Thani reportedly complained to those assembled that the issue of human rights was a distraction from the World Cup, even though the event was titled, “Sport and Human Rights.” 

“We all care about human rights,” said Al Thani. “But I would have enjoyed (it) more if I saw some concentration not only on just one subject, but the enjoyment of football and the football effect on people around the world.” 

More than 5,000 miles away in San Francisco, a gay Qatari physician has organized a petition to tell the land of his birth: Love Is Not A Crime. 

Doctor Nasser Mohamed decided to come out in 2010 following a visit to the U.S., and spent his residency in Connecticut before moving to California in 2015. 

Mohamed wrote in an op-ed published by Outsports last month that he has spent the last decade caring for the LGBTQ community in outpatient settings and growing as an activist. 

“Being an LGBT person is a criminal offense in the legal system in Qatarm as is sex between two men. There are state-sponsored conversion-therapy practices, and LGBT-affirming psychotherapy is not offered.” He wrote how law enforcement uses media and chat rooms to find, jail and punish people for being LGBTQ. 

“Visibility of the local LGBT community in Qatar, and the exposure of their treatment, are absolutely essential,” Mohamed wrote. “I am doing my part by speaking up.”

Editor’s note: Find out about Mohamed’s petition by clicking here. He is also raising money through a GoFundMe account to provide him with funding for his activism as well as security and protection.

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Sports

Carl Nassib returns to Tampa

Former Las Vegas Raiders defensive end came out as gay in June 2021

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Carl Nassib (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube/KUVV Fox 5 in Las Vegas)

Carl Nassib, who made headlines in June 2021 when he became the NFL’s first out gay active player, reportedly has signed a one-year contract with his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The 29-year-old defensive end was released by the Las Vegas Raiders in March, and became a free agent. NFL sources said that was due to his contracted salary amount — $7.75 million — and not any reflection on his sexual orientation.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news with a tweet

When Nassib came out last summer, he announced he was donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, and for Pride Month this year he made a new pledge to help LGBTQ youth. He promised to match donations to the Trevor Project, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

Will Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady welcome Nassib?

As Outsports reported, he’s never made any comments about playing with someone gay. Brady’s former New England Patriots teammate Ryan O’Callaghan recalled that before he came out in 2017, following his retirement, there was one time that he missed the team bus and Brady gave him a ride in his car to that day’s practice.

O’Callaghan told Outsports he believes Brady would have “absolutely” accepted him if he had come out at that time.

“Being married to a super model I’m sure he’s met a few gay people in his life,” said O’Callaghan.

Brady wed Brazilian fashion model Gisele Bündchen in 2009.

Legendary Boston sports columnist Steve Buckley of the Athletic came out as gay in 2011 while at the Boston Herald. He told Outsports that Brady has always been friendly and cooperative, even after Buckley came out.

This is the second time around at Raymond James Stadium for Nassib. He played for the Buccaneers for two seasons prior to joining the Raiders in 2020. His NFL career began in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns. 

As Jason Owens reported for Yahoo! Sports, Nassib was far more productive in Tampa as a part-time starter, recording 6.5 sacks in 2018 and six sacks in 2019. The NFL’s website shows he played just 242 defensive snaps and earned 1.5 sacks last season. 

In 86 games including 37 starts, Nassib’s recorded 22 career sacks, 164 tackles, 53 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles.

In addition to Brady, Nassib’s new teammates are Akiem Hicks and William Gholston at defensive end and outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Given that the Buccaneers finished seventh in the NFL in sacks last season with 47, Nassib will be expected to improve Tampa Bay’s chances when their season begins on Sept. 11 in Dallas.

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Federal judge temporarily blocks anti-trans youth sports law in Indiana

The injunction requires that A.M., a 10 -year-old trans girl, must be allowed to rejoin her school’s all-girls softball team

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On Tuesday Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued an preliminary injunction that blocked an Indiana law that prevents trans youth from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

The injunction requires that A.M., a 10 -year-old trans girl, must be allowed to rejoin her school’s all-girls softball team while litigation continues.  

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit in April, on behalf of A.M., challenging House Enrolled Act 1041, which bans transgender girls from participating in school sports. 

Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana, issued the following statement: 

“When misinformation about biology and gender is used to bar transgender girls from school sports it amounts to the same form of sex discrimination that has long been prohibited under Title IX, a law that protects all students – including trans people – on the basis of sex.  

“We are pleased that Judge Magnus-Stinson has recognized this and required that A.M. be allowed to play on her school’s softball team.  

“If other students are being denied the right to join a sports team at their school due to their transgender status, we encourage them to contact the ACLU of Indiana immediately.” 

This past May, the Indiana Legislature had voted to overturn Republican Governor Eric Holcomb’s March veto of HB 1041, a measure that bans transgender girls from competing on girls’ K-12 sports teams in the state.

The vote to override the veto means that this law makes Indiana the 8th state to ban trans youth from playing sports in 2022 by legislative action — and the 16th in the country.

In his veto message sent to House Speaker Todd Huston’s office, Holcomb said the bill presumed a problem already existed that required the state to intervene and it implied the goals of consistency and fairness in girls’ sports were not being met.

“After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal,” Holcomb wrote.

“Governor Holcomb was the second governor this year to uphold the dignity of transgender and nonbinary youth, and veto an attempt by lawmakers to write them out of existence. While those young people continue to face unrelenting political attacks, the Indiana legislature voted to override his act of courage and compassion, pushing these marginalized youth even further to the sidelines,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project.

“This bill claimed to solve a problem of ‘fairness’ in school sports in Indiana that didn’t exist, but its negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of trans and nonbinary youth — young people who already face disproportionate rates of bullying, depression, and suicide — are very real. To the young people in Indiana watching tonight: you are stronger than they know. We are here for you, we will fight for you, and we are not going anywhere.”

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