Visionaries in sports are those who can fuse a spirit of adventure and bravura in their performance, and that certain swagger that says, “I’m going to excel”.
Brittney Miller, a transgender woman with a slick glove and a solid swing in Seattle, has that special mix. She shows it with a lot of pride and joy.
“I’m a good hitter, a good defensive outfielder and a positive influence in the clubhouse,” she said in an interview on this week’s edition of the Trans Sporter Room podcast. “There’s something when you run down a double or triple in the gap with your hair flowing in the wind. Not only did I break your heart when I caught the ball, there’s something about looking cute when you do it, too.”
Her moxie powered a dream that became a team, the Puget Sound Pronouns.
Miller has played in the Emerald City Softball Association for 11 years. She started her transition during pandemic-plagued 2020, and credits the league with giving her space that allowed her to step onto the field as her true self.
During the 2021 spring and summer seasons, she began building a team designed to attract trans and non-binary players to the game. The planning led to a search for a nickname and she locked in on Pronouns.
In Fall 2021, the Puget Sound Pronouns were born. This spring, they started competitive play in the ECSA’s competitive “C” division.
“It’s a gay league, but primarily it caters to cis-gay men like many of these league do,” Miller said. “I thought we could not only move up divisions, with a name like that we could challenge the other conventions of the league and show that it doesn’t have to be just for men at the higher divisions. I’ve kind of had a chip on the their shoulder about building the organization and make it the spot it is to where people feel like this is a team for everybody.”
The feisty spirit of the Pronouns’ founder shows up when they take the field. Despite a rough start at 3-6, many of their losses have been some nip-and-tuck games.
“We’ve lost three games by three runs of fewer,” Miller said. “We’re a new team with a lot to prove, but we are showing that we belong in this higher division and we can hold our own.”
They’ve also made a statement to the league’s board. The Gay Softball World Series is slated to be played in Dallas Aug. 29, at time when the state government of Texas engages in an all-out assault on transgender rights, Miller led a push to persuade the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance to move the tournament out of Dallas. The stance has led to commitments of support from other teams and players locally and nationally.
That Miller would step into the debate was no surprise to her partner and team videographer Jerrica Moore. “In those moments is when our community galvanized to make change,” she said. “when the pressure’s on nobody fights as hard as our community. It’s in our DNA.”
The moxie to challenge, on the field and off, was inspired by a person Miller looks up to. That person is now the team’s coach.
A coach who’s been there and done that
“I never quite imagine that there would be a team like the Pronouns,” head coach Sara Fetters said. “It’s what made it impossible for me to say no when they asked me to coach them. Understanding where I started in this league and then seeing a team like this? How could I say no? I had to be a part of this.”
Sara Fetters has played in this league for 22 years. She was perhaps the first out transgender player to step on the field in the ECSA. Her journey has been filled with many of those “teachable moments” within her local league and within NAAGAA.
“It took them a team to embrace diversification and they are doing a better job over the past two decades, but that still means their focus has been cis and male ” she said. “It’s took a decade for them to adjust the gender marker for the World Series.
“I would have to sign in and be forced to, in some cases, to check the ‘straight’ box because my coaches didn’t quote know how to treat me because there is no designation for a trans, nonbinary, or genderqueer player. In some games I counted against our straight player cap even though I’m a trans woman. That should have never have happened, but for a decade that’s how it was and it was completely unfair.”
It was those memories that pricked at Fetters when Miller persuade her to help out with the Pronouns. Fetters hoped to back away from coaching a team because of the stress involved. Seeing the potential and possibilities changed her mind.
“It was great to watch that growth over the month and seeing what Brittney was trying to do,” Fetter said. “I love taking players who were told when they were in high school that they weren’t good enough, strong enough, fast enough, who were the last person picked. I love taking those players and showing them that you can excel at sports and be part of something great.”
A New Seattle Sensation
When you consider sports towns here in the United States, Seattle perhaps ranks among the more eccentric — from the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders, to the departed Supersonics, the newborn Kraken, even to the Pilots being best known for being the fodder of Jim Bouton’s tell-all book Ball Four.
The Puget Sound Pronouns fit in well, and they’ve become more than a softball team. The Pronouns became a full-on non-profit organization prior to the start of the 2022 season. They wasted no time in making a presence and a difference by building links with two hot tickets in Seattle sports, the four-time WNBA champion Storm and the NWSL’s OL Reign.
A longshot letter by Miller to the Storm’s manager for fan experience led to “Puget Sound Pronouns Night,” which took place May 14 when they hosted the Phoenix Mercury. The game also featured a raffle conducted during the game, which netted the Pronouns $1,700. The proceeds will fuel a softball clinic for queer youth this summer.
“Our number one goal this year is to organize a youth skills clinic,” Miller said. “We want show kids that LGBTQI+ people belong in sports just like anyone else and to show that maybe as bad as thing sound on the news, being a happy thriving queer adult is an option.”
The larger goal of the Pronouns goes beyond the standings. Moore is also building a non-profit centered around helping newly out trans people find their footing and build support. Miller credits Moore’s insistence on seeing the possibility of the team, which led to filing as a non-profit.
The underlying ethos comes from a mix of confidence, will, and the central lesson of Miller’s favorite superhero — Spider Man.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” she said. “Last year, the idea of doing a skills clinic for kids wasn’t in my head. Knowing what we can do and the type of support we can get from sponsors, friends, and family? If we are able to do it we should do it.
On the latest edition of the Trans Sporter Room, Puget Sound Pronouns president-founder-player Brittney Miller and team videographer Jerrica Moore joined us to talk about their team, their journey, and how Jem and Spider Man are big influences.
Check out the full interview on the latest edition of The Trans Sporter Room now available on Megaphone, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts, and many other platforms for Outsports podcasts as well.