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Sexual Orientation Is No Big Deal In Gay Rugby League

Standing in the hail and rain, alongside fourteen other men, we await the kick-off. The ball spiraling through the air while fifteen hulking monsters run toward us, looking to pummel whoever receives the ball. As in life, there are no pads in rugby, and few moments to rest. Broken bones and black eyes are par for the course. That alone makes most people think we’re all a bit nuts to play this sport, and maybe we are. In the best-case scenario we’re thought of as men’s men. And in more ways than one we may be that too. Until a couple months ago I hadn’t played rugby for several years now. Part of why I stopped playing was that I didn’t feel the sort of camaraderie with my old team that I do now. That was mostly because many of my old teammates, like so many teammates on so many different sports teams in my past, felt comfortable making the same tired old jokes about being gay or denigrating women. And sadly, instead of telling them to stop, that I was offended, I quit. But now, the rugby team I play for is part of the IGRAB league, the International Gay Rugby Association and Board. And if I were gay that would seem obvious, however I’m a hetero man, playing in a gay rugby league because, even though it is defined in part by sexual orientation, it is somehow less filled with sexual politics than a straight league. So what is it that in this day and age, where you would be hard pressed to find a sports league based on race, you still have sports leagues based on sexual orientation? Most of my teammates have some experience playing on mostly straight sports teams. They said in that environment they usually felt they couldn’t be honest, and needed to test the waters before coming out. That coming out process is hard enough as it is, so to do it simply for a recreational sports team can be a tough decision to make. Of course I can imagine what some of you are saying, well don’t ask and don’t tell. But when you’re first getting to know someone, particularly in a social setting, like adult sport leagues, after talking about the weather, how long does it take before the conversation strays into the realm of work and more to the point, family. And that’s the subtle, or maybe not so subtle, difference between the leagues. Joining a straight rec league generally means people will make the assumption that you’re straight. With gay rec leagues there just doesn’t seem to be an assumption, whoever you love is all right. So can we finally stop with sexual orientation being used as a political football, and instead just get back to playing some football? The one conceit I’ll give is that for all of my talk about peace and love, it’s never alright to love the other team, especially not in rugby.