For the past two years I’ve had to regularly explain WHY I have been volunteering on the marketing committee for the 2015 Gay Softball World Series, one of -- if not THE -- largest LGBT sporting events in the world, which is coming to Columbus next month.
Some people ask because I am myself not LGBT, although most people get that allies are active in the community, too. Some people ask because I rather vocally dislike all types of sportsball. Bats and bases just don’t do it for me. (Honestly, I probably won’t watch many, or any, of the softball games -- but hey, I will be at the after parties. Does that count?)
No, the question I’m usually asked isn’t about my personal reasons for being involved -- it’s about WHY there is a “Gay” Softball World series in the first place.
“Can’t they just play ‘regular’ softball?”
“Why does there need to be a ‘gay’ version of everything?”
That WHY is the same as my WHY -- which has nothing to do with my sexual preference or affinity for sports.
When I was at the 2014 Gay Softball World Series in Dallas last summer, I interviewed many of the players and organizers about why they’re involved. An ostracized man on the verge of suicide before finding a home on his city’s softball team. An athlete finally able to play a sport without hiding his real identity for fear of being beaten. And dozens more stories from men and women who finally found a place to fit in.
I have plenty of LGBT friends who have found acceptance in the broader Columbus community. We are fortunate to live in a city that, for the most part, is embracing of diversity. But plenty of places -- like my southeast Ohio hometown, a large portion of the Southern United States, and, yes, even a jock-filled locker room in a city as “welcoming” as Columbus -- may not be.
I’m a straight, sports-averse woman who’s volunteering with the 2015 Gay Softball World Series because I think everyone should have a place where they are safe to be themselves. So I’ll see you in August at the games -- or, let’s be honest, at the after parties.