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Queer facts about Major League Baseball

America’s Favorite Pastime still lacks openly gay players

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Billy Bean, gay news, Washington Blade
Billy Bean came out in 1999 after retiring from baseball and 22 years later the sport still lacks an out gay player. (Photo courtesy Bean)

After a season-long hiatus from hosting in-the-stands fans at its 30 ballparks and stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball (and its Minor League Baseball feeder system) is back. The annual All-Star Game is set for July 13. Aside from gawking at your favorite players’ posteriors in form-fitting pinstriped pants, there are plenty of queer cheers to give for America’s national pastime. These are gayest things you didn’t know about pro ball.

Glenn Burke broke the first barrier – but it may have cost him

As an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1976 to ’78 (and widely regarded co-inventor of the high-five), Glenn Burke broke ground as the first active MLB player to come out as gay to his teammates and bosses. While he was asked to refrain from making his sexual orientation public by Dodgers’ top brass, Burke told People magazine in 1994 that his “mission as a gay ballplayer was to break a stereotype” and he thought it worked. In other interviews and in his autobiography, however, he suggested that prejudice drove him out of the sport, not the injury that sent him back down to the minors after a year with the Oakland Athletics. 

The A’s released Burke from his contract before the end of his injured farm-team season, and he retired from the game in 1980. 

In the initial years following his retirement, Burke competed in 100- and 200-meter sprints at the inaugural Gay Games in 1982 and in basketball at the 1986 Games, and for many years he played for the San Francisco Gay Softball League. Burke died of complications from AIDS in 1995.

Burke befriended Tommy Lasorda Jr. – and Tommy Senior wasn’t happy

Legendary Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda Sr. – who led the team to two World Series championships, four National League pennants and eight division titles during his 20-year stewardship from 1976 to 1996 – had a gay son. Burke befriended the younger Lasorda Jr., which angered the “family values” manager, causing a rift that likely contributed to Burke being traded to the A’s after three seasons in Los Angeles. Lasorda Jr. died of AIDS complications in 1991 at age 33. Lasorda Sr. died earlier this year without ever having acknowledged he had a gay son.

It’s been 22 years since the second MLB player came out

Billy Bean, an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers, L.A. Dodgers and San Diego Padres from 1987 to 1995, came out in the Miami Herald in 1999, four years after retiring. Besides Burke, he remains the only other former MLB player to publicly acknowledge his homosexuality post-career; no active player has ever come out publicly and no former players have come out since. In 2003, Bean released his autobiography “Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life in and out of Major League Baseball,” and in 2014 he was named MLB’s first Ambassador for Inclusion. In 2016, that role was expanded to Vice President of Social Responsibility and Inclusion, and today Bean serves as Vice President and Special Assistant to the Commissioner. 

The L.A. Dodgers are the only team with both players who have come out as gay

Both Burke and Bean played for the Dodgers during their MLB careers – and as history tends to repeat itself, maybe there’s a gay player on the Dodgers’ roster right now. If that’s true, here’s hoping he has the courage to come out and make history while an active player, put the final nail in the coffin of the Dodgers’ homophobic past, and serve as an inspiration to aspiring young pro ball players everywhere. 

No pressure.

Statistics suggest there are dozens of closeted pro baseball players

In a 2015 article for the New York Times, economist and public policy scholar Justin Wolfers wrote that based on the proportion of American men who have acknowledged being gay or bisexual (though not necessarily out), there must be closeted MLB players actively taking the field. Thirty MLB teams each have 40-men rosters equaling 1,200 players who don’t publicly identify as queer. 

“If baseball players are as likely to be gay as other men their age – let’s go with an estimate of 1 in 25 – then the odds that none of these men are gay is one in two sextillion,” Wolfers wrote. “A sextillion comes after a trillion, quadrillion and quintillion; it is a thousand billion billion.”

Of course, there may be gay or bisexual men in MLB who have ripped a page from Burke’s playbook and only confided within their own club. Time will tell.

Lower-level pro ball has a much better coming-out average 

Since Sean Conroy, former pitcher for the independent Sonoma Stompers, came out publicly in 2015 while still on the team’s roster – the first-ever active pro ball player to do so – a handful of others have followed in his pioneering footsteps (at various stages of their careers), including MiLB players David Denson, Tyler Dunnington, Jason Burch, and John Dillinger.

There are 30 MLB teams – and all but one of them host a Pride night

Twenty years ago this summer, the Chicago Cubs kicked off MLB’s Pride-night tradition with its now-annual “Out at Wrigley” celebration, and almost every club in the organization has followed suit. Twenty-eight teams in the United States and one in Canada host an evening of LGBTQ inclusiveness, usually with special ticket packages that include seats in a dedicated Pride section and rainbow-colored baseball swag. The lone holdout? The two-decades-too-late New York Yankees. 

Two years ago, the Yanks acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and honored five first-annual Yankees-Stonewall Scholarship winners in a special pre-game commemoration ceremony that unveiled a plaque behind the center-field fence dedicated to the occasion. Yet still no Pride night.

The San Francisco Giants made rainbow history for Pride 2021

MLB teams are known to incorporate cause-based logos and patches into their uniforms throughout the season, like the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, for instance, or camouflage to show military appreciation. But on June 5, 2021, the San Francisco Giants became the first team in big-league history to rainbow-ize its uniforms, including a right-sleeve home jersey patch in Pride colors and a matching logo on players’ hats, in celebration of its LGBTQ+ fans.

“We are extremely proud to stand with the LGBTQ+ community as we kick off one of the best annual celebrations in San Francisco by paying honor to the countless achievements and contributions of all those who identify as LGBTQ+ and are allies of the LGBTQ+ community,” San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer said in a statement.

A scripted series about gay professional ball players may be coming soon

Author Peter Lefcourt’s novel, “The Dreyfus Affair: A Love Story” (1992), about homophobia in baseball that follows two MLB players who get caught up in a sex scandal should be required reading for any on-the-spectrum queer sports fans, but if you’re adverse to cracking open a dusty book, the live-action TV adaptation may be coming to a streaming service near you. 

Universal Television has optioned the novel for development with Oscar- and Emmy-winner David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”) tapped to direct and co-write the pilot with Lefcourt. 

The project has been in development in some form for the past 28 years. Studios put the kibosh on Lefcourt’s and Frankel’s original movie scripts in 1996 – Disney was even interested as one point – citing lack of commercial appeal. 

These are the best butts in baseball according to Us magazine

There’s no definitive queer ranking of the best butts in baseball (and it’s a shame there isn’t) but a few years ago Us magazine asked its readers, majority females, to rank MLB’s greatest assets. Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Matt Harvey, New York Yankee Giancarlo Stanton, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, and Dodger Cody Bellinger rounded out the top five – figuratively and literally. 

Perfectly acceptable. But are there better booties at-bat? 

Consider Diamondback David Peralta, Los Angeles Angel Mike Trout, and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis the next time they take the plate. 

Seventh-inning stretch, anyone?

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He currently works for the Atlanta Braves. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels

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Out professional soccer player calls out ‘homophobic abuse’ from crowd

The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd

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Photo courtesy of Josh Cavallo Instagram

Professional soccer player Josh Cavallo, who became the only openly gay top-flight male professional footballer last year, told his Instagram followers over the weekend that he experienced “homophobic abuse” during his last game. 

The Adelaide United player said he had “no words” to describe his disappointment at being the target of anti-gay insults from the crowd at AAMI Park during his team’s Saturday game against the Melbourne Victory.

“As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022,” he wrote. “This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”

Cavallo added that he was also targeted after the game online. 

“To @instagram I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received,” he said. “I knew truely being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) said it was “shocked and saddened” to hear Cavallo’s reports of “homophobic bullying,” according to the Guardian

“Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe on and off the pitch,” APL CEO Danny Townsend said. “There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have zero tolerance for this harmful behaviour.”

The APL is working with both teams to investigate the incident, adding that sanctions will be issued to anyone involved. 

In a statement, Adelaide United Chief Executive Officer Nathan Kosmina said that the team was “appalled” at the “verbal abuse” that Cavallo received. 

“Adelaide United is proud to be an inclusive and diverse football club, and to see one of our players subjected to homophobic abuse is disappointing and upsetting,” he said. “Josh continues to show immense courage and we join him in calling out abuse, which has no place in society, and it will not be tolerated by our Club.”

The Melbourne Victory added that it “sees football as a platform to unite fans no matter what background. Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches.”

At the end of his Instagram message, Cavallo thanked those sending him positive messages, love and support. 

“Love will always win,” he said. 

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Transgender climber completes 5th of 7 highest summits

Erin Parisi is the first out trans mountain climber to reach such heights. Next up she’ll make a second attempt to conquer Mount Denali.

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Erin Parisi (Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)

SANTIAGO, Chile – Erin Parisi just returned from the bottom of the world, but already the out transgender  woman has set her sights on her next challenge in her mission to conquer the highest summits of each of the seven continents. 

”I have been trying to train and get to the tops of the highest mountain on every continent: Seven Peaks, seven summits, seven continents,” she said. “I just finished Antarctica, which is an extraordinarily difficult climb as far as logistics, as far as dealing with the weather and the environment, a mountain that’s only been climbed 2,000 times before.”

(Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)

It was New Year’s Day when she spoke by phone to the Los Angeles Blade, from a hotel room in Santiago, Chile, where it’s summertime. Five summits down, two more to go. 

“In order, the first five are Mount Kosciusko in Australia. Then I did Kilimanjaro a second time — I climbed it once manifesting as a dude, and I decided that I wanted to do them all post-transition,” said Parisi. “Next, I did Mount Elbrus in Russia and then I did Aconcagua in South America, not too far from where I’m sitting right now.”

Parisi, 45, reflected on both her climb 16,050 feet to the summit of Vinson Massif in Antarctica, and her plans to return later this year to the tallest spot in North America: Mount Denali, 20,310 feet above sea level. Not the highest of the seven summits but considered by many experienced climbers to be the hardest. 

“Last year, we got flattened by wind,” said Parisi, who was disappointed that neither she nor anyone on her team were able to reach the summit due to those conditions and injuries. “I want to go back and have a little chat with Denali.” 

It certainly was challenging for Parisi, who hurt her hand so badly in last summer’s attempt, during Pride Month, that she requires surgery. She posted on Instagram back then, that she thought she had dislocated a finger in a rush to set up camp as they ascended to 14K feet, and it set off doubts that made her question continuing. Alone for two days, stranded for a total of six days in subzero temperatures by a vicious wind storm with gusts up to 60 mph, Parisi wrote that she “rested, journaled, meditated, shed a few tears,” and decided “Climbing isn’t about holding on, it’s about letting go.”

Good thing she did; It turns out Parisi did more than dislocate a finger. 

“There are a series of tendons that come down your pointer finger and around the base of your palm, called the volar plate, and that tendon got stuck in some climbing gear,” she said. “It looks like a dislocation. When it happened, I relocated it pretty quickly, but the pain was kind of unbearable for the next week or two. So, I finally went to the doctor last fall and they looked at it and they said, ‘It’s not going to get better. You tore up the ligaments and broken the volar plate.’ So, I have to have that reconstructed.”

That means she lived with that injury for four months and even climbed Vinson Massif without the benefit of her dominant right hand. Parisi credits her wife with finally convincing her to get it looked at.

“I just figured I was getting old, and it was sore, but she talked me into going to the doctor eventually,” said Parisi, uttering the words every spouse loves to see in print. “Yeah, she was right, like usual!”

Next up, Parisi said she will make a second attempt to conquer Mount Denali in Alaska. “That’s going to be next, sometime in summer of 2022.” And then next year: Mount Everest, the last of the seven summits, and at 29,050 feet, the tallest. 

“2023 is the 70th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s expedition, and we want to be up there for the 70th anniversary,” she said. “I think it’s a little-known fact that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had a trans member on their team. And we want to tell her story.” That would be the story of Jan Morris, a journalist for The Times of London, who died in 2020.

Given her location, Parisi has been out of touch with news of the world as well as what’s been happening with her wife and their nine-year-old child in Colorado. She also missed both Christmas and New Year’s as well as her birthday. Well, almost missed, thanks to a surprise celebration organized by her fellow climbers and organizers back home, which she shared on Instagram

(Photo courtesy of Erin Parisi)

“My team and the @climbingsevensummits team surprised me by serving dessert bubbles 🥂 and cheesecake, and leading the entire camp in 2 rounds of “Happy Birthday.” I was completely embarrassed, but my mind was set at ease and I warmed to the idea that I might just fit with this crew climbing through New Year.”

Parisi really needed that boost; She was having doubts again. “Imposter syndrome is real, and after missing the Denali summit last May, I was confident I didn’t belong here,” she wrote on Instagram. That feeling stemmed from feeling as if she was “the only trans person” on the continent, not just last month, but ever. 

When she returned to civilization, the Los Angeles Blade caught her up on the latest controversies dogging the transgender population: hate directed at both UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas and Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider, simply because they’re winning their respective competitions.  

“I don’t understand it, with the Jeopardy! champion, either, because, there’s no way to say she has any advantage, or that it’s unfair to anyone, or that she’s taken something from anyone else. I mean, there’s just no argument to disparage her by,” said Parisi. “It blows my mind how stubborn people are just recognizing somebody’s right to exist. Live and let live. And I’m hoping that 2022 somehow will be a better year.”

Parisi is active in promoting transgender rights, and the flag she carries on every expedition incorporates the trans pride flag designed by Monica Helms. “We really take pride in putting the pink, blue and white up there,” she said. “I climb these summits just to kind of remind myself and remind the world that you can be yourself and you can enjoy the things you enjoy. You don’t have to make a choice.”

Other than her lifelong love of mountain climbing, which she told TripAdvisor last summer began when she was climbing trees at age 6, Parisi said she finds joy in every part of living her authentic life. 

“I find joy in the outdoors. I find joy in breathing the fresh air. I find joy in my nine-year-old child. I convinced myself I was unlovable, and now I have probably, not even probably, hands down, the most loving relationship that I’ve ever had in my life, post-transition. I find great joy in being loved and loving. I love cooking and just everything about life is better, when you’re yourself.” 

********************

Follow Parisi’s adventures on Instagram at @transending7 and learn more about her mission and how to support her nonprofit organization at transending7.org

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Referee resigns, calls for work stoppage over Trans swimmer

“Millen is now calling on officials to refuse to work races where transgender swimmers are to race against biological females”

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Cynthia Millen (left) and University of Penn senior Lia Thomas (right) (Los Angeles Blade montage)

COLORADO SPRINGS – A 30 year veteran referee who has officiated for USA Swimming quit in protest over the inclusion of 22-year-old University of Pennsylvania Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in women’s swimming competitions.

In separate interviews with Fox News, its subsidiary right-wing anti-LGBTQ online sports outlet OutKick and the right-wing conservative newspaper The Washington Times, Cynthia Millen said that she felt compelled to quit as she was opposed to biological men competing against women.

In a December 17 letter to USA Swimming headquarters in Colorado Springs, Millen announced she was quitting in protest.

“I can’t do this, I can’t support this,” Millen said in her letter. “I told my fellow officials that I can no longer participate in a sport which allows biological men to compete against women,” Millen wrote adding, “Everything fair about swimming is being destroyed.”

On December 22, Millen appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson stating that “bodies compete against bodies. Gender identities don’t swim.”

Thomas began competing with the women’s swim team as a transgender athlete after competing for three years on the men’s swim team and more than two-and-a-half years on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). She ranks first in the NCAA among women in the 200 and 500 freestyles this season and 6th in the 1650 free – a race she won by 38 seconds at the Zippy Invite according to the online publication SwimSwam.

In the interview with The Washington Times, Millen said that if she officiated at a meet that included Thomas, that she would rule Thomas ineligible to compete against female swimmers, according to the Times, even though Thomas has met the NCAA-established criteria to compete in women’s races.

“I don’t mean to be critical of Lia — whatever’s going on, Lia’s a child of God, a precious person — but bodies swim against bodies,” she said her letter that she shared with The Washington Times . “That’s a male body swimming against females. And that male body can never change. That male body will always be a male body.”

“If Lia came on my deck as a referee, I would pull the coach aside and say, ‘Lia can swim, but Lia can swim exhibition or a time trial. Lia cannot compete against those women because that’s not fair,’” Millen told The Washington Times.

Millen is now calling on officials to refuse to work races where transgender swimmers are to race against biological females, the paper reported.

USA swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said in a podcast with Brett Hawke last week that Thomas is not a member of USA Swimming, nor was she a participant at the U.S. Paralympic National Championships.

NCAA requires transgender athletes to undergo, for transgender women, a year of testosterone-suppression treatment. Thomas has fulfilled the requirement, and neither the NCAA nor USA Swimming has commented on her season. Thomas has only swum at meets as part NCAA’s Division I, but her times could help her qualify and compete at Olympic Trials, a USA Swimming meet, SwimSwam noted.

Millen’s resignation is just the latest in a growing chorus of anti-Trans critics outraged over Thomas being included on the roster and competing for the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team.

At the beginning of the month, a member of the University of Pennsylvania Women’s swim team spoke to OutKick, and proceeded to anonymously attack Thomas.

The swimmer who said she feared for her ability to find employment after graduating from college for sharing her honest opinion about her Trans teammate, was given anonymity according to OutKick for that reason.

In the OutKick article the unnamed female swimmer alleges that most members of the team have expressed displeasure over the situation [Thomas on the team] to their coach, Mike Schnur.

“Pretty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this. Our coach [Mike Schnur] just really likes winning. He’s like most coaches. I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do,” the female Penn swimmer said during a phone interview.

“When the whole team is together, we have to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, go Lia, that’s great, you’re amazing.’ It’s very fake,” she added.

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