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Limiting straight players in gay sports tournaments

Gay tournaments should be able to limit straight players, but grey areas are presenting a problem

By Cyd Zeigler jr.

There's a bit of a hubbub brewing over the disqualification of a team in the Gay Softball World Series because the team had too many straight players on it. From Edge Magazine:

"D2, a team from San Francisco, beat the Atlanta Mudcats in the series to qualify for the A Division championship game against the Los Angeles Vipers. But the Mudcats filed a protest, alleging that six of D2’s players were straight. North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAA) rules state a team in the series may have no more than two straight players on its squad. A review indicated that four of the six players were straight, D2 was disqualified, the championship was awarded to the Vipers, and the Mudcats and other teams which finished behind D2 all moved up a notch in the standings."

This isn't the first team to be disqualified for this reason, and it won't be the last. While some are calling the policy discriminatory, its intentions are good. Sports is still a relatively homophobic place. I was watching a high school football practice earlier this week and heard the coach and players taunting one another with "girl" and "sissy." This was in Manhattan. Sports is not a friendly place for gay people, for the most part.

These gay tournaments are a safe place for gay people to meet one another and express themselves. One of the intentions of the tournaments is to highlight the best gay athletes and teams around the country; the intention is not to have gay people go find the best straight people to help them win. It's never the marginal straight players that are asked to be on these teams but rather the best straight players these teams can find.

Straight players who end up playing in gay tournaments take playing time, and even roster spots, away from gay players. In the New York gay softball league, there is a team that is mostly straight. With a limited number of teams allowed in the league, is that right? Other "straight" leagues have similar limitations. Many co-ed leagues limit the number of men who can play or be on the field at the same time. The Maccabi Games limit participation strictly to Jews and residents of Israel.

One of the questions that’s always been around is, how do you enforce the rule? How do you determine if someone is in fact straight or that they are gay or bisexual? The Gay Softball World Series apparently asks the player if he fits into a definition of heterosexual or homosexual. From an anonymous person who was at the hearing at the World Series, and who posted on Edge Magazine:

"The players in question were given the following definition for str8/heterosexual-PREDOMINANTLY having a sexual interest in someone of the opposite sex. They were also given the following definition: homosexual-PREDOMINANTLY having a sexual attraction for someone of the same sex. Each player was asked which of the two definitions he identified with, and were [sic] told they could NOT identify with both because of the word PREDOMINANTLY."

As Patricia Nell Warren pointed out to me this morning, it seems kind of crappy that a player can’t declare as bisexual. After 30 years of running the tournament, it may be that the organizers have come to the conclusion that leaving the door open to bisexuality has caused too much trouble with a loop hole that may be too easy for some to take advantage of. Either way, it seems odd to limit the number of bisexuals.

The Gay Superbowl, which limits the number of straight players to 20% of any team’s roster, asks all players to declare their sexuality before the tournament. Only straight people are limited; there is no limit to the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people who can participate. Luckily, no one has ever protested another team. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

The Gay Games and Outgames, on the other hand, don't limit the number of straight players. But, they also can allow many, many more athletes to participate than any other gay tournament.

I will say that I have started thinking more and more about the numbers and limits. Is there a point at which a straight player should be counted as gay? My football team’s quarterback is straight, but he’s played in the gay league for four years, helped start the league, has played in the last four Gay Superbowls, and has been a mentor to many gay players. Should he still be counted toward some limit? I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s something I hope leagues and tournaments start to think about that.

But, as long as the sports world continues to cast a homophobic shadow over our culture, I personally have no problem with people trying to keep playing spors for gay tournaments as open to gay people as possible.