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Settled: Gay Softball World Series Suit

The North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) has recently settled a years-long lawsuit filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) on behalf of three bisexual players whose team was disqualified from the 2008 Gay Softball World series because they exceeded the maximum of two non-gay players, as defined by NAGAAA at the time. The players had to endure a public interrogation process in which they were repeatedly asked if they were interested in men or interested in women, with bisexual being deemed an unacceptable/inadmissible answer.

Softball player sliding

The terms of the settlement dictate that the players be reinstated to the league and their team be credited with the second-place finish they won back in 2008. NCLR had sought to prevent NAGAAA from capping the number of non-gay players allowed on teams but as a result of the settlement NAGAAA actually retained its right to cap the number of straight players on each team. However, earlier this year and undoubtedly because of pressure from this suit, the association revamped their regulations such that teams are allowed to have an unlimited number of lgbt players and only two self-identified straight players. Previously, the rule dictated a cap of two non-gay players, which obviously means something very different from “straight.” As a result of the settlement, NAGAAA has clarified its regulations to be inclusive of not just bisexual people but also transgender people.

As a coda to the case, Portland’s queer softball organization, the Rose City Softball Association, has released a statement emphasizing that their policy is, as always, to allow all players to participate, regardless of orientation.

3 comments to Settled: Gay Softball World Series Suit

  • It’s always tough when running something that is meant for the LGBT community how much to involve straight allies. Now, this seems to be a bit more convoluted and if a member is bisexual they are part of our community!

    But the RCSA saying that players of all sexualities are welcome I think is a good thing. I even featured a straight DJ once because he was actively involved in the gay nightlife scene. The emphasis is still on a queer organization and if a straight person is willing to identify with a queer organization I think that matters.

    But there is also something to be said for making sure that organizations for LGBT people are still FOR LGBT people. It can’t be taken over by allies, no matter how well intentioned. (Reminds me of a gay publication that had almost all straight writers awhile back) So it’s a tough balance.

    • Aly Sneider

      This is definitely a tricky issue, both in the general sense of involving allies in LGBT spaces/events/groups as well as in the narrower sense of incorporating allies into LGBT sports organizations. LGBT folks are marginalized in sports, and so having sports teams and leagues where being gay is not just implicitly accepted but explicitly encouraged is critically important. However, as in many things, regulation/enforcement make it complicated. I think the NAGAAA made an extremely unfortunate and bigoted choice (whether it was intended that way originally I don’t know) in establishing two categories to slot players into — gay and non-gay. LGBT leagues should be for LGBT players — not just L and G players.

      I think that the RCSA’s decision to allow players of all orientations, as long as they are supportive of the LGBT community, to play in their explicitly queer league is a good one, and in fact might be more powerful than creating leagues that only queer players are allowed to play in. By operating a league in which being queer is ostensibly the norm and in which supporting the community is a requirement for entrance, the RCSA is effectively subverting hegemonic sports culture and creating a situation in which LGBT athletes are the dominant majority and straight athletes the minority — all without getting into the messy business of caps and quotas.

      I completely agree that it is important to make sure that LGBT leagues remain for LGBT players. I think one factor that further complicates this mandate when it comes to sports specifically is competition. People in the queer sports world frequently accuse clubs of having straight ringers who are on the team not for the sense of community it provides but rather solely to ensure a win. Obviously, the better a team is the more likely these accusations are to occur. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the team at the center of the suit came in second place overall at the world series. Their skill made people question their validity, which is unfortunate because it only reinforces the stereotype that gay people and excellence in sports are mutually exclusive.

      As you stated, it’s a tough balance to find.

  • Good place to start a discussion on who should be involved in “queer” organizations. See my comment below the post.