This week in the Washington Blade All-Star series, we catch up with two globetrotting LGBT athletes who have settled in with the Washington Wetskins water polo team.
Growing up in Prince Georges County, Kevin Iredell found organized sports daunting but still participated in soccer, lacrosse and swimming.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, he attended graduate school at Tulane University where he joined the water polo team. His sports path was put on hold when he signed up for a two-year stint with the Peace Corps.
Living in a tiny village in Burkina Faso with no electricity or water, Iredell served as a health officer fostering social and behavioral change. His days were spent going door-to-door providing testing and medication for malaria.
Next up for Iredell was a backpacking adventure through Belgium, Netherlands and France in the Workaway program where he lived with and worked for local families in each of the countries.
He was starting to get antsy to settle down and began researching gay sports in D.C. while he was still living in Europe. After arriving back in the area in April 2018, he joined the Washington Wetskins.
“I wanted something that was not like the other sports offered and water polo is definitely different,” says Iredell. “It is extremely important for the LGBT community to have safe spaces outside of the bar scene. For those spaces to be focused on sports is unique and very much needed.”
Iredell has also started a new job and is working as a business manager in international development of health projects. His introductory tournament with the Wetskins was at their hosted Fall Invitational in D.C. last October. It was his first step back into competitive sports.
“It was pretty intimidating at first – whistles blowing, referees, teammates – but then it became comfortable,” Iredell says. “The sense of community is so strong with the Wetskins. We practice three days a week and I always run into teammates outside of the pool. It’s very close-knit.”
Iredell traveled with his teammates to a tournament in Toronto last April and recently returned from competing at the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics world championships in New York City which coincided with World Pride.
The Wetskins sent 30 players and fielded two full teams for the multi-day tournament.
“After meeting a lot of players from the IGLA community in Toronto, it was a blast to see them all again in New York City,” says Iredell. “The LGBT sports community is special, and I am happy to be involved in it.”
Kevin Dibb grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and spent seven years in karate with his brother and sister. Long Beach is a water polo mecca in the United States, and he began playing the sport at age nine.
He came out at age 14 and then to his teammates on the high school water polo team in his sophomore year. He spent his junior year living with a host family in Belgium.
After high school, he used his gap year to log a second senior year of high school in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange in Wuppertal, Germany.
Dibb’s undergrad work was at University of California, Santa Barbara where he was a member of their club triathlon team. He spent the first six months of his senior year in Moscow.
“Russia had just invaded Crimea and I was living in an international dorm. It was a crazy six months – super awkward,” says Dibb. “I was dating even though everything there is anti-gay. They have an active LGBT culture, but it is all underground.”
His completed his grad work at the University of Colorado, Boulder where he spent one year in Boulder and one year in Regensburg, Germany. While in Germany, he played on an underwater rugby team.
A six-month fellowship with the German Parliament brought Dibb to D.C. in December of 2017. He is now employed by the cultural program at Goethe-Institut Washington working with German-American relations.
While looking to find a club sports team in D.C., he decided to return to water polo and joined the Wetskins.
“I already had a solid background in water polo, and it was fun to jump back into something I knew well,” Dibb says. “It has worked out great I have really clicked with my teammates.”
Dibb’s first meet with the Wetskins was the Toronto tournament in April and he is glad to be back in the sport.
“It was so fun – my first time competing in water polo in ten years,” says Dibb. “It is a cool community and it has hooked me into being involved in other LGBT activities like Petworth Social Club.”