Sports, like art, is one of those activities almost everyone takes part in during childhood only to drop it upon entering adulthood. Especially when it comes to organized sports, many believe if they are not in the pros, or if they do not fit a certain jock stereotype, there is no place for them. That is not the case.
The LGBT sports communities in Charlotte, N.C., and beyond offer such a wealth of options that no matter your interest or skill level, you will have no excuses for living your glory days on the court or field back in grade school.
Stonewall Sports provides opportunities to play in four North Carolina cities and beyond
When Jason Boone traveled to Raleigh, N.C., to visit a friend, he had no way of knowing what he would see there would have a lasting impact on his community back in Charlotte.
His friend, Jonathan Melton, founded Stonewall Sports Raleigh and when he was there he said he, “happened to take in a game” and said to himself, “This would go over well in Charlotte.
“Especially when I saw the amount of money that they were bringing in for local charities,” Boone said. “They benefit the LGBT Center of Raleigh.”
Stonewall Sports, which was formed in 2010 in Washington, D.C., has had fundraising for local non-profits as a major principle since the beginning. They are currently in nine U.S. cities and have collectively raised over half a million dollars for charities.
Stonewall Sports has also always strived to be as inclusive as possible.
Boone found that inclusiveness attractive, and noted that this included members of the ally community.
“The number of straight allies that they had brought in to an LGBT sports league, I was blown away by that,” he recalled.
So Boone took action.
“I put up a post on Facebook and said, ‘Hey, anybody in Charlotte interested in helping me form a kickball league?’ And we had our first board of directors really come out of that one Facebook post,” he said.
They formed the kickball league in the fall of 2014, and later followed it up with dodgeball, volleyball and bowling. In that time, they have raised over $40,000 for charities such as Time Out Youth Center.
In addition to Raleigh, which offers kickball, dodgeball, volleyball, bowling and flag football, Stonewall Sports leagues have formed in Greensboro, N.C., and Wilmington, N.C., as well, both of which have kickball leagues.
Boone noted that the league offers the community a chance to meet and interact outside of the bar and club scene.
“I think that’s really important,” Boone said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with the bar scene.”
He said that he noticed the cliques that one generally sees in that world, as well as in society in general, tend to break down once one gets out on the field and starts to play together as a team.
Stonewall Sports is also dedicated to ensuring that players of all skill levels are accepted and encouraged. No one sits on the bench, everyone plays and is welcome.
“It is a way to meet people outside of the bar and club scene, which is generally where (the gay community coming together) happens,” Justin Crego, who plays in the Charlotte kickball league, said, adding that it had somewhat unexpectedly offered the opportunity for personal growth.
For more information on Stonewall Sports go to stonewallsports.org. Also visit the Charlotte site at stonewallcharlotte.leagueapps.com, the Raleigh site at stonewallraleigh.leagueapps.com, Greensboro at stonewallkickballgreensboro.leagueapps.com and Wilmington at stonewallkickballwilmington.leagueapps.com.
The Charlotte Roller Girls welcome all
When the discriminatory HB2 passed, the Charlotte Roller Girls were among those upset and looking for a way to speak out in favor of LGBT rights.
The DC Roller Girls were also unhappy with the development and contacted their upcoming opponent, The Charlotte Roller Girls, to voice this displeasure. The two teams came up with a way to speak out against the bill, without, as Charlotte Roller Girls President Kathryn Thomas emphasized, pushing so hard as to alienate those who may disagree.
The two teams did a solidarity lap together while holding the transgender flag.
It was a way, Thomas said, to show that the Roller Girls are an inclusive and welcoming group and do not stand for any form of discrimination. They also released a statement saying as much, which read:
“The Charlotte Roller Girls are committed to fairness and to treating all members of the community with dignity, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. We embrace the diversity of roller derby and of Charlotte, and we stand with members of the LGBT community. In this spirit, we ask you to do the same. #WeAreNotThis.”
The Charlotte Roller Girls are currently looking for players, referees, coaches and volunteers and are also looking to start a junior derby team made up of boys and girls ages 12-17.
For more information and to learn more about the sport, visit charlotterollergirls.com.
Other teams across the Carolinas are: Blue Ridge Rollergirls, Asheville, N.C.; Appalachian Rollergirls, Boone, N.C.; Race City Roller Derby, Charlotte, N.C.; Rogue Rollergirls, Fayetteville, N.C.; Greensboro Roller Derby, Greensboro, N.C.; Coastal Plains Derby Dames, Greenville, N.C.; Onslow County Derby Dames, Jacksonville, N.C.; Jacksonville Roller Derby, Jacksonville, N.C.; Kill Devil Derby Brigade, Kill Devil Hills, N.C.; Catawba Valley Roller Girls, Morganton, N.C.; Carolina Rollergirls, Raleigh, N.C.; Collision Men’s Roller Derby, Raleigh, N.C.; Mad Divas Junior Roller Derby, Waynesville, N.C.; Cape Fear Roller Girls, Wilmington, N.C.; and Camel City Thrashers, Winston-Salem, N.C.
The Charlotte Royals were founded in 2004 and are a non-profit organization affiliated with both the North Carolina Rugby Union (NCRU) and International Gay Rugby (IGR). They “seek to break down perceptions of masculinity within the gay and straight communities by demonstrating the legitimacy of a gay men’s rugby team,” as stated on their website, charlotteroyalsrubgy.com.
They are not alone in the Carolinas. The Charleston Blockade was formed in 2012 in Charleston, S.C. They too are members of IGR. For more information visit them online at charlestonblockaderugby.com.
International Front Runners offers LGBT community members and allies to meet up for fun runs, as well as walks, in cities throughout the world. The Charlotte Front Runners hold two weekly runs and welcome those at all skill levels. Find out more at charlottefrontrunners.com.
There is also a group in the Triangle. Their website is trianglefrontrunners.wordpress.com.
One World Dragon Boat is a non-profit LGBT dragon boating team formed in Charlotte in 2013 by Denise “Dee” Bauer. A dragon boat is a Chinese design, which is powered by a group of paddlers and is often decorated to resemble a dragon. The group recently participated in the Charlotte Asian Festival, and have races upcoming at High Rock Lake, Carolina Beach and Lake James.
Visit oneworlddragonboat.org for more information.
The Honey Badgers Dragon Boat Crew, a newly formed dragon boat team, is another option for dragon boat racers. The organization is an open and inclusive LGBT group who seek “to make a positive difference through love, kindness, visibility, and outreach.” Says organizers, “The Honey Badgers DBC was formed because each of us learned first hand that it is not enough to say you are inclusive, you must be inclusive.”
They value creation, connection and commitment a common purpose and goal. They have an experienced coach to help paddlers achieve proper form and with practice and dedication, can become an efficient and powerful paddler. Beginners are welcome.
Practices are held at noon on Saturdays at Latta Plantation, 5200 Sample Rd., in Huntersville, N.C. Signup is available online. Cost is $5 which is used to cover boat and equipment rental.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more or visit honeybadgersdbc.org/.
Those looking to play softball in Charlotte can check out the Carolina Softball Alliance, who play their games at Revolution Park, Clanton Road Park, Ferguson Park and Veterans Park. More information is available at carolinasoftball.org.
Raleigh also has an LGBT softball league, called the North Carolina Softball League. They play their games at Millbrook Exchange Park and can be found at ncsoftball.org.
The Queen City Tennis Club offers competitive and social matches for those at all skill levels. They play on Sundays, 10 a.m. to noon, April through October, at Park Road Park and sometimes at Veterans Park. Learn more by visiting qctc.org.
The Triangle Tennis Club was founded in 2004 and meets every Friday evening, weather permitting, from 7-9 p.m. at the Millbrook Exchange Tennis Center. For more information visit triangletennisclub.com.
The Charlotte Rainbowlers are an LGBT bowling league, part of the International Gay Bowling Organization (IGBO) and the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). They play Monday nights at AMF Centennial Lanes, 4501 South Blvd. To find out more about leagues and schedules, visit charlotterainbowlers.com.
This year also marks the first annual Charlotte Invitational Bowling Tournament, an IGBO tournament to be held June 17-19, also at AMF Centennial Lanes. For more information or to register visit bowlcharlotte.com.
The Triangle Rainbow Bowling League was founded in 2010 and continues to this day at AMF Pleasant Valley Lanes, 5501 Commercial Ave., on Wednesday nights in Raleigh. For more information visit trianglerainbowbowling.org.