We’re glazed in, said a neighbor. Ice, freezing rain, snow,
winds. The streets are sheathed in a thin, treacherous layer of ice.
In the yard the fat little dog crunches through the ice, then sinks
into snow, one paw, two paws, three paws, four. In Sochi, Russia, the
Winter Olympics go gayly forward. Heck, they could luge down our
"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual
must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination
of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual
understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
I don’t remember sports quite like that. Here’s what The
Federation of Gay Games writes on their web site about gays in
“The best gay and lesbian athletes in the world already do
compete in the Olympics (with a large majority of them in the
closet). But the Olympics, and mainstream sport in general, remain a
very difficult place for homosexual athletes to compete, and
certainly to compete without hiding their sexual identity. There are
countless potential champions who under-perform, or simply don’t
participate, in mainstream sport because of homophobia.”
When I was a kid, girls couldn’t use the gym very often. Our
P.E. teachers taught us demure dances in a classroom, while the boys
shouted in the gym, feet and basketballs pounding the wooden floors.
I remember once playing baseball in the junior high playground, but
never got to bat. Girls who played tennis walked over a mile to
courts at a public park and used our own rackets. The gay teachers
were, of course, closeted. The straight girls made fun of them. I
We got more space and time to do sports in college. We even had a
women’s sports association. Again, the teachers were closeted. They
had to be in order to get that space and time for women students. As
obvious as some of the phys ed students were, they played straight or
they left school. Pretty clever, to get a lesbian department head to
weed out any gay girl whose profile wasn’t low enough. The male
phys ed chair tried to lure me away from the English department, but
the phys ed majors avoided my eyes. I stuck with the avant-garde
English majors where I felt safer.
Later, in my late twenties, I discovered women’s softball. Not
to play, but to be a fan at Raybestos Stadium in Stratford,
Connecticut where the greatest women’s softball team was located
and where the greatest women’s softball player wowed the crowds.
Joanie Joyce played with the Raybestos Brakettes, a legendary fast
pitch team that won state, national, and international championships.
Look up Joan Joyce on the internet; she’s had an amazing career in
golf and basketball as well and few people have ever heard of her. I
don’t know how I lucked out to live in the same state as The
Brakettes and Joyce, but I got to see her play and win there and
during the brief professional women’s softball league days in the
I’d go to those games with a mix of gay and non-gay women
co-workers. The small stadium would be half-filled with blue collar
straight couples and wildly crushed out gay women. It amazed me that
most of the Brakettes’ followers were straight and considered the
games family outings. This was a new world for me. I came to enjoy
the relaxed late afternoon games and to admire powerhouse player Joan
Joyce enormously. She’s 72 now and coaching at a university in
Florida, as competitive as ever. She’s still completely gorgeous, a
fitting idol for any young athlete. You knew you were in the presence
of greatness when you followed her team off the field.
The women’s movement came along and proved, once everyone
settled down a bit, to have an interest in sports beyond passing
Title IX in 1972. Suddenly, we were watching or playing softball
instead of talking and talking in consciousness raising groups. The
softball fields of the U.S. proved fertile ground for a meshing of
lesbian feminists and bar dykes. I went to those games to be part of
something. When the lesbian team in New Haven played the straight
girls, the dykes could count on a posse of both head dykes and bed
dykes to be raucous fans in the bleachers. Head dykes, back then,
came out via their feminist politics. Bed dykes just came out.
Softball, so to speak, leveled the playing field. Each side had
something to teach the other.
Today, it’s astonishing for me to see the “free” world
taking up the cause of gay Olympians and gay Russians. We haven’t
been free about anything gay for very long. Is this just another way
of condemning a Communist country or have we at last melted the ice
of repression in America and embraced the Olympian tenet of fair
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 13 books. Her latest, Rafferty
Street, concludes her epic
Morton River Valley trilogy. You can reach Lynch at
Copyright 2014 Lee Lynch.