How I Reconnected With Sports as a Queer Woman - Indoors Beauty

How I Reconnected With Sports as a Queer Woman

How I Reconnected With Sports as a Queer Woman

“I’m a grown lady,” I whispered as I grabbed a basketball off the rack. To relax, I began dribbling, not but able to strategy the web. It’d been virtually 15 years since I’d been on a basketball court docket, and I felt like I was again in gymnasium class.

I groaned inwardly; why did not I join Pilates? Instead, I was getting ready to run up and down a court docket — on objective. In March, I signed up for a “basketball health class” to reply a query that had haunted me since I got here out of the closet in my early 20s.

To show masculinity as a teen woman was as grave a sin as queerness.

If I may deny a large a part of my id for thus lengthy, what else had I denied myself? In the previous couple of years, I’ve skilled numerous moments of queer pleasure I’d by no means allowed myself as a child. So in that very same vein, I needed to know what would occur if I embraced an outdated passion that I had as soon as deemed too harmful.

I needed to know: what would occur if I performed sports activities once more?


Growing up, I was tall — so adults inspired me to check out for each sport. Coaches would cease me at my college locker, and mates’ dad and mom would comment on my broad shoulders. It was clear that athletics was one of many solely acceptable causes to be tall — to take up house — as a middle-school woman. When I made the basketball staff in eighth grade, I was ecstatic.

Until I met my new teammate Alex.

My inexplicable unease round Alex began throughout one among our first practices collectively. She positioned her hand on my shoulder, smiled, and stated one thing I do not keep in mind. But that bodily contact vibrated by means of my entire physique. She was a “touchy-feely” individual, and the opposite ladies on the staff picked up on it rapidly.

“Alex is a little bizarre, do not you suppose?” my teammate Anita requested me throughout a water break a few weeks into the season. I regarded over to the place Alex was training free throws.

“What do you imply?”

“Well, she’s a little too snug within the locker room, should you ask me,” Anita stated earlier than reducing her voice to a whisper. “Do you suppose she’s homosexual?”

The sweat from observe began cooling my pores and skin, inflicting me to shiver. Of course, I thought Alex was homosexual. I simply knew it about her. It was the identical approach I knew I was queer, even when I by no means dared to say it out loud.

I concluded that I wanted to stop basketball to remain closeted.

Unfortunately, Anita wasn’t the one individual to concentrate to Alex and what she represented. The ladies’ basketball staff was beginning to develop a specific popularity amongst our friends. Why did not we have now boyfriends? Why had been we so snug carrying saggy basketball shorts? As if any of this equated to revealing our sexuality.

Growing up within the Bible Belt, sports activities had been positioned in a class for boys and males. To show masculinity as a teen woman was as grave a sin as queerness. The math felt easy. Remove any affiliation with masculinity, and I was promised security.

But by who? Yes, I was in central Texas, however this social contract went deeper than faith. We all felt the tightening of the belt throughout our teenage years, no matter the place we lived. Uniformity was the objective. To slot in has at all times been a methodology of survival.

I concluded that I wanted to stop basketball to remain closeted. At 14, what may very well be extra essential than sustaining this secret? “I would have poisoned myself if I thought it might rework me into a smaller animal,” Melissa Febos writes in “Girlhood.” To settle for my queerness right now was the equal of describing myself as bestial.

Leaving sports activities did not occur in a single day. I completed out the season however devised a plan that I would enter highschool as a new individual. I daydreamed about changing into a cheerleader. In popular culture, they represented the right femme all ladies ought to try to be. Instead, I pivoted to the tennis staff when I found the uniform included a skort. How may I be homosexual if I wore a skirt to observe?

But I nervous it wasn’t sufficient distance. I started to spin a narrative that I hated sports activities. And ultimately, I began to imagine it.


In the basketball health class, I regarded across the court docket to soak up the opposite adults who’d determined to spend their Tuesday night right here on the court docket. No one regarded like they had been heading to the NBA quickly, so I relaxed. I took a deep breath, bounced the ball twice, and aimed for the basket.

Swish! And a miss.

I regarded across the court docket, however nobody observed me. So I tried once more and hit the rim. Huh, I was getting someplace. Eventually, I was making a couple photographs, which unlocked a thrill I hadn’t skilled in a very long time. The teacher stated, “Gather round!” in a booming voice paying homage to my middle-school coach.

He broke us into small groups for capturing competitions. The low stakes allowed me to loosen up. My face was tomato crimson from operating round, however I forgot to care. I watched two gamers flirt with one another and smiled. It was all the perfect components of recess with none of the pains of puberty.

When the hour was up, I felt sufficient momentum to maintain going. It did not wholly loosen the grip inner homophobia had on me, however reconnecting with sports activities sparked curiosity. It was the identical curiosity that drove me to kiss a woman, experiment with gender expression, and seek for group.


Until my 20s, my id by no means felt like a pure formation. Instead, my sense of self was carved out throughout the context of survival, no matter how actual that risk was. When childhood looks like a jungle, there isn’t a room for enjoyable and video games.

But after that first basketball class, I was insatiable for alternatives to discover my relationship with sports activities outdoors the context of my childhood. So I took it additional and volunteered to sub for my buddy’s volleyball league. It was a sport I had by no means performed, so it was contemporary floor.

Putting myself in such a bodily atmosphere gave me a distinctive perspective to see myself. I favored realizing my pursuits and id could be as fluid as my sexuality.

The morning of my first volleyball sport, I felt the panic seep in. Again, my interior little one berated me for these wild selections. What was I pondering? I did not even know the foundations! I fought again the urge to cancel, watched a transient tutorial on YouTube, and pulled on my Phoebe Bridgers T-shirt for consolation.

When I arrived on the gymnasium, I once more discovered myself surrounded by laid-back adults who had been merely there to have enjoyable. My staff launched themselves, and I centered on being my finest for them. The referee blew the whistle, and I slipped into the bliss of distraction. My eyes had been on the ball, my fingers alert, my knees bent in anticipation. And then, after some embarrassing stumbles and inspiring high-fives, it was over.

The adrenaline of attempting one thing new overshadowed any self-doubt I’d felt going into the sport. And whereas private development would not at all times need to be this sweaty, placing myself in such a bodily atmosphere gave me a distinctive perspective to see myself. I favored realizing my pursuits and id could be as fluid as my sexuality.

I thought of this as I walked off the volleyball court docket. I was chugging down some water when I felt a hand on my shoulder. A well-recognized zing went by means of my physique as I regarded over to see one of many gamers from the opposing staff.

“Good sport,” she stated, faking a stern voice. I laughed and requested if she had completed something like this earlier than.

She smiled and admitted that she was a cheerleader in highschool, and my heartbeat quickened. I watched her take me in: my Phoebe Bridgers T-shirt, septum nostril piercing, and shag haircut. I was not hiding who I was, however I braced myself for the judgment.

“Now I’m on a queer cheer squad,” she added with a realizing smile. The 14-year-old in me blushed, and I let her have her second. She’d earned it.

Together, my interior little one and I found that enjoying, the act of play, is a vulnerability many adults have written off as infantile. But to me, enjoying is an effort to time journey — not essentially to revert again to my childhood self however as a substitute to leap dimensions. To discover a house in time when gravity is the one factor holding me again from the right lay-up.

Will I spend my future Saturdays tuned into March Madness? Probably not. My renewed curiosity in sports activities is extra about connecting my physique to this small type of riot. And perhaps on this portal between house and time, I’ll discover Alex and Anita, and we’ll play collectively, and nothing will likely be that critical.

It’s simply a sport, in any case.

Image Sources: Photos by Fred Paul Goris on behalf of Gatorade and Design by Michelle Alfonso

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