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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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Scottish pro Zander Murray inspires fellow soccer player to come out as gay

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, saying “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders”

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Screenshot/YouTube

Two weeks after making headlines as the first-ever senior Scottish pro soccer player to come out as gay, Zander Murray is revealing the impact his courageous decision has had on at least one closeted player. Murray tweeted a message he received that shows the difference an athlete coming out can make. 

“I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been a massive inspiration for me to come out to teammates and family,” the anonymous player told Murray, according to the tweet. 

“As a young footballer I find it difficult to be myself as it is but being gay and keeping it secret was so challenging. It felt amazing when I told my teammates, they were super supportive.” 

Murray shared the message with a heart emoji and the words: “Makes it all worthwhile young man.”

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, the Gala Fairydean Rovers, on September 16, explaining “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders.”

Screenshot/YouTube

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Jake Daniels of Blackpool came out as gay in May, the first U.K. male pro soccer player to come out in more than 30 years. Justin Fashanu was the first in Britain men’s soccer to come out back in 1990. Homophobic and racist media reports drove Fashanu to suicide eight years later. 

Reaction to Murray’s coming out last month has been “incredible,” he’s told reporters. One of those reaching out to congratulate him was Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley. The U.K. diver sent him a DM, Murray told a British interviewer. 

“He messaged me while I was on my way back from football training in a car with four boys. I had tears in my eyes seeing his direct message, and I messaged him back.

“I said, ‘Look I am in a car on the way back from football with four boys and I’ve got tears in my eyes and I don’t even care.’”

Prior to coming out, Murray had been “living in fear 24/7,” he told Sky Sports. “I can’t explain it. You’re hiding your phone in case you get messages from friends, constantly double-checking if you have a team night out, you’re cautious with what you’re saying.

“It’s very hard, especially for myself, I’m a character in that dressing room. I’m not quiet in that dressing room, I like to have the banter and to get stuck in, so very challenging.”

But Murray said he couldn’t have decided to come out “at a better time, at a better club.” So why now? He posted the answer on Instagram with several bullet points, including:

  • “Gay male footballers in the UK need role models. 
  • Majority are terrified to come out to friends/family/teammates (trust me a few have reached out already!).”

STV Weekend News Sunday, September 18, 2022 Zander Murray

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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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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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