By way of introduction I have been involved with AFI flag since 2021. I’m a queer, non binary person that before flag hadn’t set foot on a sports field since I was in school. I’m also a “plus size” or fat person that couldn’t run the length of myself when I started. My catching skill was reminiscent of when you throw a treat at a dog and it just bonks them on the head. However the joy of sports set me on a journey that changed my life and the trajectory of it drastically.
Sports that involve any amount of contact tend to not be appealing to people born as women. The same is true for anyone falling under the LGBT umbrella. The old school “locker room talk” and predominantly male presence can feel incredibly intimidating. Lack of knowledge, prejudges and the liberal use of slurs being used in these environments can feel as though you always have to fight your corner.
As someone that doesn’t use the pronouns or name I was born with I’ve rarely had anyone I’ve played with or against have any issues. Slip ups in name or pronouns are natural when it is a change their language. So far as trans people go I’m very laid back when it comes to those things as long as I know I am respected as an equal.
On the rare occasion I’ve had to call out anyone for anything that has made me uncomfortable, I’ve been met with support from anyone that knows me. And it’s usually less to do with bigotry and more to do with lack of knowledge and ignorance.
There are likely teams and coaches with people that are bigoted and lack the desire to understand. However just a reminder they are afraid of you. They think different is scary and are scared what it might reveal in themselves. The biggest scariest bigot you can find is likely more scared of you than you are of them. This is a few and far between experience though. With more inclusion comes more conflict. There have even been talks of diversity and inclusion roles within the league at the higher levels. Often well managed teams will already have this! Which makes dealing with anyone difficult much easier.
I am in a unique position of my husband also being involved with the league. As well as being part of other male dominated sports. The masculine side of my personality thrives throwing balls and getting crashed into by my “bros”. Which feels very validating to be welcomed with open arms and accepted into the team with not so much as a side ways glance. So I’ve always felt secure enough to be open about my gender and sexuality without fear.
The ever increasing presence of LGBT people, women and fat people within this modern sport fills me with joy. It’s finally reflecting the way the rest of the world looks in reality. Which is also the joy of playing in a mixed gender league.
With trans people, queer people and women being stripped of their rights in many countries it’s a temulculous time to be open with your identity. Representation for people is more and more important.
I hope the teenagers questioning their sexuality see our rainbow shoe laces and see we are not to be feared. I hope the kids that feel like they are different from everyone around them and don’t feel like their body fits, hear my name called and my pronouns used, and feel safe. I hope that fat people look at me and my husband run and crash and tackle and catch with confidence and wonder how they can get that confidence.
The world is not black and white and neither is flag football. It’s for all. We are a rainbow spectrum of talent, skill, shapes and sizes. There is a place for you.