Written by Kevin Dennison
Depending on your social media circles you may or may not have already seen the beautiful, personal, and poignant story shared by Swede Hurt of Vagine Regime and Stockholm Roller Derby in which she discusses her experience of being LGBTQ in roller derby and speaks about how despite her telling her parents that she “probably never would bring home a boy again”, she has recently fallen in love with a man. I highly recommend the read because not only is it just outright a very passionate, intimate story but it also highlights the immense value that countless members of the derby community place on who they are as an individual and how that translates to their role as a roller derby participant.
For many LGBTQ folk, being your authentic self in any sport, even in roller derby, is not as simple a choice as one may think. It can be a truly terrifying experience to put yourself out there, vulnerable and open to the preconceptions of others. This is particularly true for those who are sexually diverse and/or trans*, especially when one considers that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes continue to happen daily despite great headway in the LGBTQ Rights Movement. As such, no matter how much you’re told that roller derby is a safe space, many remain in the closet for any number of valid reasons and to come out takes a great deal of personal consideration. It’s a very intimate choice for everyone. So, being “out and proud” as Swede has chosen to be is no small feat and I applaud her both for her visibility and her complete candidness in discussing these very exciting and scary feelings that she is now experiencing. That takes guts from anybody!
Aside from Swede’s great show of bravery, I also feel that one of the big messages to take away from her post is the importance of understanding that people are not defined by the one partner that they are currently with. Swede addresses this concept directly in a very poignant statement: “NO I’m not straight, I’m in love!” Exactly!
This is something that I personally relate to a great deal because I myself identify as pansexual. This essentially means that I am open to romantic and/or emotional relations with, and I have sexual attraction and desires toward, people of ANY sex or gender identity/expression. Throughout my life I have been in sexual and/or romantic relationships with men, women, and trans* individuals. People are complicated and love rarely, if ever, makes any damn sense at all. My first love was a boy and I’m now legally married to my trans* partner, the wonderful Falon Dennison, aka EZ Bruiser, who also identifies as pansexual. Though we both love each other dearly and we are committed to growing old and one day starting a family together, neither one of us is “straight” now that we are married. We are both incredibly queer, very gender non-conforming, and we are still attracted to sexes and gender identities both different than, and the same as our own. I still fawn over Joseph Gordon-Levitt whenever we watch a movie with him in it, I also have a huge celebrity crush on Laverne Cox, and I am well aware that Falon has the hots for Ellen Page (as do I, of course).
Why does any of this matter? Well, a big part of roller derby is the community we have all created and the personal relationships that we develop within it. Who we are off of the flat track is more often than not a very crucial part of who we are as athletes, as officials, as coaches, as announcers, and as fans, as well. Therefore, in roller derby’s pursuit of TRULY being the inclusive, accepting, supporting entity that it aspires to be, I feel that we all owe it to each other and ourselves to really digest posts such as the one Swede made when they come along.
I think that Swede’s love story is especially timely as leagues and major organizations continue to review and change their gender and general non-discrimination policies as they relate to LGBTQ participants (see the MRDA’s Non-Discrimination Policy and the Mad Rollin’ Dolls’ fully-inclusive non-discrimination policy for examples of what inclusivity could look like everywhere for the sport over the next few years).
Now I can go on and on about all of this but rather than do that I’m just going to leave you with this direct quote from her post, followed by a final thought, instead:
“Being gay in the Rollerderby community probably is one of the most comfortable experiences. My sexuality and love was never questioned and I never really questioned it myself, it just was never an issue. I love the friendships I’ve gained through Vagine Regime, and I truly believe that you fall in love, you fall in love and you look past gender just the way you look past so many other things when you fall in love, but that’s me, that is who I am.
As 2015 begins in a matter of days, I hope that Swede continues to feel comfortable and that leagues everywhere, as well as major governing bodies, continue to challenge enduring issues across sports culture while furthering roller derby’s status as a true trailblazer among all other athletics. There is still a LOT of work ahead, but it is through those continued efforts that, hopefully, no person involved with this sport will ever feel ostracized because of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, age, body type, or disability.
Roller derby is definitely on course to really pave lasting new ground in the world of athletics over the coming years, but it is going to take every one of us to ensure that it actually does!
(Make sure you head over to Swede Hurt Rambles to read the full post: When they say expect the unexpected, this is not what I think they meant, or maybe it was.)