The ongoing All Star series in the Washington Blade features players from sports teams in D.C. who welcome players regardless of sexual orientation, race or ethnicity. This week we meet two players from the Washington Renegades rugby team, one gay and one straight.
The Washington Renegades field competitive sides in the Mid-Atlantic Conference of USA Rugby. They recently sent three teams to the Bingham Cup in Amsterdam with all three squads reaching the semi-finals of their respective divisions. The Blues team won the Bingham Bowl beating the San Francisco Fog 20-0 in the final.
While completing his degrees at the University of Texas at Dallas, Haroon Chang attended a Halloween party hosted by a rugby team. He went to one of their practices and fell in love with the sport.
Growing up in Taiwan, Chang played a little basketball but was mostly focused on academics. His family moved to Dallas right before he started his college education. After graduation, he eventually moved to D.C. in 2012 because he wanted to see more of the country. A quick internet search led him to the Renegades.
“I didn’t know anyone when I moved here and I was looking to meet people and join a community,” Chang says. “I love rugby because it is physically demanding and a good workout. The sport has offered me a sense of family and brotherhood.”
Chang plays both inside and outside centre positions on the Renegades Reds team and last month competed in his second Bingham Cup in Amsterdam. Along with local league play, he has also traveled to tournaments with his teammates in Charlotte, Seattle and Nashville.
“It is amazing to play against teams from all over the world. On the field everyone is trying to win, but off the field we are a family,” Chang says. “It’s great reconnecting with other players at these tournaments. I am a little sad at the end because I wish it would keep going.”
The Renegades play rugby sevens in the summer but Chang, who works as a CPA, will be taking the summer off to catch up with friends. He will be back for the Renegades competitive match schedule in the fall.
“This is a good mix of gay and sports for me. We all play the sport because we love it and we come to the pitch to play,” Chang says. “Team means everyone, gay and straight.”
Rugby makes the world seem a little less big for Logan Cotton. After moving to D.C. in the fall of 2015, he posted on Facebook for rugby recommendations. A friend from college knew somone dating a guy on the Renegades and he signed on to play.
“The Renegades are committed to inclusion and I find that affirming and positive,” says Cotton, who is straight. “No one is beating their chest and there is no toxic masculinity. It’s super refreshing.”
Cotton grew up in Chicago and competed in soccer and swimming. He switched over to football while in high school and his first step into club rugby was while he was attending Tufts University. It was also at Tufts where he evolved to an inclusive mindset through his work at their LGBT center.
“Seeing it manifest in a new context (by playing sports on an LGBT-friendly team) is a good thing. Heteronormativity exists in all sports, but the Renegades have created a positive echo chamber and excel as stewards of the game,” Cotton says. “You can be great at the sport you are playing and still be better angels of our nature.”
Cotton’s path to D.C. was by way of work with Teach for America in Houston. He is now working as a federal consultant for Deloitte and geeks out over things like zoning, street development and when the expertise of the private sector and the government sector complement each other.
He plays as a scrum-half on the Renegades Blues team and missed the recent Bingham Cup in Amsterdam because LSATs (law school admission tests) were on the same weekend. He did play at the international event in Nashville in 2016 and welcomes all experiences with new cultures.
“The more you encounter people from around the world, the more you are growing your ability for empathy and compassion,” Cotton says. “Multiculturalism makes bonds across lines of differences. You be you, and I’ll be me.”
Cotton will be managing the Renegades sevens season this summer and is looking forward to helping players further their development.
“Complete rookies can become a positive factor for any of our teams. The Renegades give everyone an opportunity to improve and people are cheering you on through the process,” Cotton says. “Sports should be about ennobling human beings and pushing us away from our lizard base instincts.”