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‘Ambassador’ Bean

A Billy Bean interview in advance of Night OUT

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Billy Bean, gay news, Washington Blade
Billy Bean, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Major League Baseball player Billy Bean will be at Night OUT next week. (Photo courtesy Bean)

Last month’s heckling of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus at a Padres game may have given the community a collective, social media-infused “WTF” moment, but while it was certainly embarrassing for the singers, it appears to have been more of a snafu than a malicious joke.

DJ Artform was in the booth when the music started. He says the chorus planned to sing along to their own recording of the piece but he accidentally played the wrong recording.

“In a moment of panic I went to the first thing I saw that said anthem and unfortunately the female vocal artist is what played over the PA system and it was an extremely embarrassing moment,” he said later. “Those are my mistakes and I own up to them. I hold myself accountable. My stomach was in knots. I should have intervened. I should have turned it down. There’s a lot of ‘coulda, woulda, shouldas’ that we could have done to avoid the incident. … My heart was racing. Every second was an hour.”

Roughly 100 choir members were on the field and they were subsequently escorted off amidst homophobic heckling from fans.

Major League Baseball (MLB) immediately launched an investigation and found the incident to be an unintentional mistake. MLB ramped up its efforts to address social conscience in 2014 when organizers hired Billy Bean as their ambassador for inclusion. He has since segued into the role of vice president of social responsibility and inclusion. Bean came out as gay in 1999, four years after his final season as an MLB player.

“I have a lot of friends in San Diego and they were texting me in real time while the incident was happening,” Bean says. “I am relieved that everyone understands that it was an unfortunate mistake.”

Social media quickly picked up on what happened and it was covered on all major news outlets. Everyone was looking for an explanation.

“The most frustrating thing was that the MLB investigation took close to four days and we were not able to communicate with anyone on the topic during that time,” Bean says. “The immediacy of people’s desire to get to the bottom of things really speaks to the nature of how quickly people find out and want an answer.”

Bean’s duties with MLB go well beyond the LGBT community and include other areas of social responsibility including life skills, issues with domestic violence, work with urban youth academies and owner’s diversity committees.

“The closer we get to MLB players, the faster the message gets to the fans. It’s the way the world works now,” Bean says. “Being the best product for our fans is very important. We wouldn’t have a platform to get the message out without being such a great product.”

With everything being tracked these days on social media, MLB players find themselves in a situation where their words and actions are representative of the team for which they are playing.

“I encourage everyone I meet with to leave baseball better than it was when they started,” Bean says. “I try to show them situations where they will feel some correlation to the LGBT community.”

When Team D.C. held its second Night OUT at the Nationals event in 2006, organizers asked to bring in the Washington Gay Men’s Chorus and were met with reluctance by MLB, club owners at that time.

“MLB had never heard of the Washington Gay Men’s Chorus which showed how uninformed they were about the LGBT community at that time,” says Brent Minor, executive director of Team D.C. “These LGBT community nights are important parts of educating the larger community about us including the fact that we are very enthusiastic sports fans.”

This year’s line-up of guests at Night OUT at the Nationals is an indication as to how far MLB has come in terms of inclusion.

“The journey we have been on has been filled with obstacles but today we are not getting resistance from my sport,” Bean says. “We have been handed a platform and we have to capitalize on it.”

Night OUT at the Nationals will be held on Tuesday, June 14 as the Washington Nationals take on the Chicago Cubs.

This year’s line-up includes:

MLB’s Billy Bean — special guest

Actor Leslie Jordan — first pitch

Bishop Gene Robinson — line-up cards

Congresswoman Krysten Sinema — play ball announcement

Washington Gay Men’s Chorus — National anthem (Live)

Singer Ty Herndon — With the chorus and soloing on “Take Me Out”

Spirit Award — Mona Alcazar. Accepted by her wife, Nancy Bates

If the umpire rotation stays on schedule, MLB’s first openly gay umpire, Dale Scott, will be handling home plate duties.

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Olympic champion Tom Daley ‘furious’ about bans on trans athletes

“Anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not ok”

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Tom Daley (Screenshot via Channel 4 UK)

Olympic diving champion Tom Daley said he is “furious” about FINA, the world swimming body, banning some transgender athletes from women’s swimming, diving, and other competitions. 

“Anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not OK,” Daley said to iNews at a press conference. “It’s something I feel really strongly about. Giving trans people the chance to share their side.”

Earlier this month, FINA released the new policy on eligibility, banning athletes who have experienced male puberty from women’s competitions.

FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said the new policy intended to protect athletes’ right to compete but also ensure competition fairness.

FINA intends to create an open category for athletes whose birth sex is different from their gender identity.

“This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.” Al-Musallam said.

The new policy was condemned by the Human Rights Campaign, which said that requiring athletes to transition before age 12 was unrealistic and unlikely. States such as Alabama regulate young people’s access to age-appropriate gender-affirming care.

“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, HRC’s 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.”

The new policy will impact the career of trans swimmer Lia Thomas, the first trans woman to win a NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming Championship, and may prevent her from participating and competing in the female category.

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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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