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Straight players find love in LGBT sports community

A relationship blossoms during Gay Flag Football League play

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Gay Flag Football League, Washington Blade, gay news
Jorge Membreño and Amanda Livingstone met through the DCGFFL. (Photo courtesy the couple)

Inclusion is a longstanding tradition in the LGBT sports community. In a progressive city like Washington, D.C., one of the results of that tradition is that straight players are participating in LGBT sports teams and leagues.

The reason that the tradition works is because LGBT sports teams and leagues value each player for who they are and what they bring to the community.

Sharing sports experiences and being a part of the same community has led to multiple same-sex sports couples and multiple same-sex sports marriages across the LGBT sports teams and leagues in D.C. 

It was only a matter of time before the same thing happened to the straight players.

Amanda Livingstone grew up all over the United States and graduated high school in Texas. She refers to herself as a lanky kid who outgrew the sport of gymnastics. She loved the team dynamic of cheerleading and stuck with that through high school.

While attending Loyola University Chicago, she picked up intramural volleyball and soccer on her way to a bachelor’s in anthropology and another in international studies. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Denver in international human rights.

Livingstone moved to D.C. in 2013 for a summer fellowship with Save the Children. It didn’t turn into the full-time position she was hoping for and she ended up working at Primal Fitness.

“I was on my own in a new city, wiping down gym equipment with my shiny master’s degree,” says Livingstone. “Clients kept coming in and sharing their experiences about the DC Gay Flag Football League.”

With no football experience, she went to a team brunch and a new player workshop. She was drafted into the DC Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) in the fall of 2013 and has played every season since joining.

“I was nervous at first, but everyone seemed so comfortable with each other and they were so supportive of this straight woman that just wandered in,” Livingstone says. “I am my best self when I am running around outside and the ensemble personality that is the DCGFFL is a great fit for me. I was aware that I was a guest in someone else’s home.”

Livingstone would go on to become the first straight person and the first woman to serve on the DCGFFL board. She also received the Legends Award, which recognizes a player’s athletic skills and dedication to the league.

“I like to think that I have become quite a good rusher these days,” says Livingstone. “I value the DCGFFL because there are no gender rules. This league is about equality. There are no mandated playing times for either gender and that helps to showcase women’s talents in an equal way.”

She admits that flag football isn’t for everyone and points to her broken nose, stitches and broken fingers as reference points. Undeterred, she joined the DCGFFL’s women’s travel team, the DC Senators, in 2015. This October will be her fifth Gay Bowl appearance on the team.

In the summer of 2016, one of Livingstone’s fellow DCGFFL board members invited his friend who was visiting from Boston to a social at Nellie’s. His name was Jorge and he had a girlfriend. An introduction was made.

Jorge Membreño was born in D.C. and raised in Manassas. His family came to the United States from El Salvador when his mother was three months pregnant with him. Spanish was their first language at home.

Growing up he played soccer through high school and competed in soccer travel leagues. He continued with intramural soccer while attending Christopher Newport University.

While earning his undergraduate degree in psychology, he picked up music as a minor. He was singing in their chamber choir and auditioned for the select ensemble, which led to performances in Austria and Italy. He furthered his skills by becoming classically trained in opera and joining the opera chorus.

Membreño moved back to the area after college in 2008 and was working with a lobbying group in communications along with singing with the National Philharmonic.

He was feeling a pull toward working in direct services and left to pursue a master’s in clinical social work at Boston University. While there, he began teaching Spanish for clinicians.

“A lot of the work in Boston was pointing to LGBT kids who were having issues with depression, substance abuse and gender identity,” says Membreño. “Watching them thrive in a beautifully affirming space where they felt loved and embraced sparked something in me and would lead to my work in the LGBT community.”

Membreño moved back to D.C. in 2016 because his dad wasn’t doing well. His girlfriend came with him and he joined District Sports to play soccer. His best friend was playing in the DCGFFL and encouraged him to join. He was drafted in the fall of 2016 and played as a rusher.

“I loved it and some of my teammates became my best friends,” Membreño says. “You get what you bring into the sport – I loved the people, the spirit of it and becoming part of it.”

During that first season, Membreño’s relationship with his girlfriend had crumbled. He and Livingstone had gotten to know each other through the league’s social settings. The team announcement party for the spring 2017 season provided an unexpected surprise for both of them. They were selected for the same team and gave each other a high five.

“Uh-oh,” thought Livingstone.

“Oh shit,” thought Membreño.

“I can roll into most situations without being nervous and I felt nervous because I had to compete to a level to match her,” says Membreño. “She is a fierce athlete and I felt like I shouldn’t be rushing next to her.”

Membreño is now the Director of Youth Housing and Clinical Services at SMYAL. He was recently sworn in as the commissioner of the Mayor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Livingstone is an advocacy officer at The White Ribbon Alliance where she leads a five-country team that advocates for women’s sexual health and rights in Africa.

Love blossomed during that DCGFFL season and the pair are now living together. 

“I have a preference for strong brilliant women,” Membreño says. “She is strong, independent and amazing. I was completely enamored.”

“I thought he was smoking hot,” says Livingstone laughing.

Membreño and Livingstone haven’t been on the same team since that first season together. They point to their 200 brothers and sisters in the DCGFFL as being protective of both of them.

“Other people probably thought about us together before we did. We’ll kiss on the sidelines and hear a chorus of ‘awwws’,” Livingstone says. “We also hear ‘don’t you break his heart’ or ‘don’t you break her heart.’ It’s been wonderful to see everyone’s reaction to this.”

“I came into this environment where she was already established and I would go to her tournaments to watch her play as the trophy husband,” says Membreño. “This dynamic is the unity of the two of us. We show up to events separately or together.”

Membreño has also joined one of the DCGFFL’s travel teams and plays mostly defense with Delta Force competing in LGBT tournaments. It has added to the dynamic that already existed between them through the league.

“It is such a fun thing that we get to do this together and it is great to be able to support each other,” says Livingstone. “We have our own goals and separate experiences, but we still get to be with our friends and travel together. Let’s call it the love trajectory.”

Having a straight ally like Membreño is something that the LGBT sports community has embraced, and he sums up what it is like to be a straight man in an LGBT-based setting.

“Being comfortable in any setting is being comfortable with yourself. I have abandoned binary and gender rules and have no qualms at all about meshing with the LGBT community – it is part of my culture and my work at SMYAL,” Membreño says. “Amanda and I have joked that I have kissed more men on the mouth than she has. It is easy to feel comfortable in a place that is warm and loving.”

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Las Vegas Raiders head coach resigns after homophobic emails surface

Discovery made during misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team

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Courtesy of ESPN

LAS VEGAS — The head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden resigned his post Monday after an article in the New York Times reported that he frequently used misogynistic and homophobic language directed at Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the National Football League, (NFL).

The emails were discovered in a workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team the Times reported, but ended up costing Gruden his job when they also showed Gruden denounced the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem among other issues.

In a statement released by the team late Monday, Gruden said; “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

The sequence of events started last Friday when the Wall Street Journal reported that Gruden used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email to the Washington team’s former executive Bruce Allen.

According to the Associated Press, Gruden apologized for his “insensitive remarks” about Smith, saying they were made out of frustration over the 2011 lockout. But the latest emails sent from between 2011-18 when Gruden was an analyst for ESPN show his use of derogatory language went well beyond that.

A league source confirmed the accuracy of the emails to the Associated Press and said they were sent to the Raiders last week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hasn’t made the emails public.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both noted that Gruden used a gay slur to insult Goodell and said he was “clueless” and “anti-football.” He also said Goodell shouldn’t have pressured the Rams to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, who was the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

Gruden’s abrupt resignation was announced live on the Colts/Ravens “Monday Night Football” broadcast when the NFL ran multiple LGBTQ-inclusive advertisements, including one featuring an NFL logo wrapped in the colors of the Trans Flag and Rainbow Flag Gay City News Editor Matt Tracy reported.

Raiders owner Mark Davis issued a statement which only said that he accepted Gruden’s resignation. In a separate statement the Raiders announced that special teams and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia will serve as Interim Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, effective immediately.

“Coach Bisaccia will meet with the media at the regularly scheduled media availability on Wednesday,” the team said.

According to ESPN and the Associated Press, Bisaccia has been a special teams coordinator in the NFL for 19 seasons with the Raiders, Chargers, Dallas and Tampa Bay. He has no head coaching experience but his elevation will allow other assistants in the Raiders organization such as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to stay in their current roles.

Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders head coach | SC with SVP

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New Zealand university names trans athlete ‘sportswoman of the year’

Laurel Hubbard is first out trans woman to compete in Olympics

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Screenshot via CBS Sports

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was named “sportswoman of the year” at the prestigious 113-year-old University of Otago and OUSA Blues and Golds Awards event this past week.

The 43-year-old Queenstown, South Island, native was the first openly transgender woman to compete in an Olympics when she competed in the women’s 87kg weightlifting event at the 2021 Tokyo Games.

In a statement to the local newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, Hubbard said she was ‘‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University.’’

‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha [a Māori word meaning “love”] of friends, family and supporters.

‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey,’’ she told the paper.

Hubbard’s participation at the Tokyo Games had provoked controversy as she had prepared for competing as the world’s first out transgender woman Olympian. The director of medicine and science for the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Richard Budgett, directly addressed those who had attacked and mocked the New Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t be competing with cisgender women, saying  “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”

“To put it in a nutshell,” he said, “the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015. There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games.”

Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey told the Otago Daily Times that the Blues awards aim to highlight Otago students excelling in their chosen sport.

‘‘We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.’’

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Gold medalist Tom Daley battled COVID in hospital prior to Tokyo games

An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels

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Tom Daley (Photo by sportsphotographer.eu via Bigstock)

LONDON – British Olympic champion diver Tom Daley acknowledged in an recent interview with British newspaper The Times, that he had been secretly rushed to hospital seven months prior to the summer Tokyo Olympic games after contracting the coronavirus.

Daley told the paper “[my] lungs felt pressurised, as if they had sacks of rice around them”, and added: “Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body.”

He went on to describe his ordeal in graphic details telling Times journalist Jane Mulkerrins that he gave specific instructions to his husband, screenwriter D. Lance Black one night as he headed off to sleep, what to do in the event he quit breathing.

He also told Mulkerrins he was frightened for their son Robbie if he and his husband both contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially after he was rushed to hospital by ambulance unable to breath correctly.

When his head began to feel like it had “a vice tightening around it” and his “oxygen levels were dropping,” it was at that point Daley said he decided to call 111. [The UK’s emergency phone number]

‘My oxygen levels were dropping’

He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and put on oxygen. An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels, The Times reported.

“I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill,” said Daley.

“I had flashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terrified.”

He also described his reasons for keeping his ordeal secret so that his rivals in his sport wouldn’t know.

The episode kept the Olympian diver out of training for nearly seven months although Daley along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee won the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving on at the Tokyo 2021 games.

After tough competition in the Men’s 10m platform diving from China’s Cao Yuan who picked up the Gold Medal and his teammate Yang Jian cinching the number two spot with a Silver Medal, the 27-year-old Daley secured a Bronze Medal win with a score of 548.25.

It was the second Olympic Bronze Medal for the Plymouth, England native, in individual diving completion since he won bronze at the London Games in 2012. Daley and his teammate Daniel Goodfellow won a Bronze Medal in the 10m synchronised at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

The Times interview comes as the paper’s magazine is serializing Daley’s new book, Coming Up for Air: What I Learned from Sport, Fame and Fatherhood, which is due to be published by Harper Collins on October 14.

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