Tobi Hill-Meyer

Not gay enough, too queer, or uncatagorizable?

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | September 15, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, The Movement
Tags: gay world series, identity, identity policing, softball

The San Francisco gay softball team has been disqualified from the Gay World Series for violating the rule that each team is only allowed to have two straight people on the team. However, none of the six contested team members have identified themselves as straight, just that they aren't gay.

The way the story is being presented, as well as the discussion in the comments section on other blogs assume that these players are straight. But there are a lot of options other than gay or straight. They could just as easily be bisexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, pansexual, queer, and so on.

My understanding is they were read a definition of what a homosexual person was and what a gay person was. How they responded was used to determine whether they were gay or straight. Not one person when they responded ever actually said they were straight. These were not new players; they had played in six Gay World Series already. As long as I've been involved with NAGAA, nobody before has been disqualified.

-- Vincent Fuqua, Commissioner of San Francisco's Gay Softball League

Personally, I consider myself about as queer as they come, but I can't imagine a definition of "homosexual" that I would identify myself with. And depending on what definition of "gay" we're using, who knows. I find it telling that the San Francisco team of all places is the team that has so many non-gay players. Half the queer people I know living in what's often called the "gay Mecca" don't actually identify as gay, but one of a dozen other queer identities.

I think that the Gay World Series had the right idea when they decided to allow players to self-identify as opposed to engage in some kind of sexual identity policing. However, by only focusing on "homosexual" and "gay" identities, and assuming everyone else must be straight, they do our community a grave disservice. They are furthering the assumption that sexual orientation is a binary and continuing bisexual invisibility.

This situation is a real world example to apply our recent conversation here at Bilerico about who the LGBTQ community encompasses. The problem with a binary approach to sexual orientation (or even a Kinsey scale) is that our LGBTQ community includes plenty of people who are on the edges of our identity labeling borders. Where do we place the straight trans person who wants to participate in supposedly LGb(t) spaces? The man who identifies as queer and only dates dykes who use strap ons? The queerspawn who identifies as culturally-queer, erotically-straight? The girlfags? Or the assumed straight person who's been playing on the San Francisco gay softball team through six Gay World Series?

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Looks like an unintended consequence of what I can only describe as alphabet bloat. It was gotten to the point where we have to name a gazillion labels for fear of offending or leaving anyone out. It's gotten to the point where some of us just don't care anymore. After lesbian and gay my ears pretty much tune out the rest.

For the most part gay is an all purpose gender non-specific word. Actually it is pretty everything non-specific. And lest I be misunderstood, I don't care who comes to the gay party. There is plenty of room in here. A while ago there was a nightclub in my town with the tag line, "you'll know if you belong." That describes gay. If you think you're gay or might be, you probably are. Some use queer that way. For me, queer still has too much painful baggage. I'd happily get over it and be queer, if we could only get rid of all the other labels that do nothing but divide us.

See, the issue here is that when I hear "Gay World Series" I assumed it was the inclusive gender non-specific version of gay that you're talking about. I assumed that even if they just said gay they must be including the whole alphabet right?

But that's clearly not the case here. With this development, I'd advocate changing their name to the Homosexual World Series, or the Monosexually Gay World Series, or the Kinsey 4-6 World Series. Names like that would at least be clear about who they want in and who they want out.

I've got my problems with the way some folks assume that something has to be named, categorized, and added to the alphabet soup in order to be real. However, it's cases like this that demonstrated the original need start including more letters in our names. Too many people get really defensive about who's allowed in their "gay" club. That's why we need LGBT clubs.

As a sportswoman, I share everybody's concern, about the definition of "gay" and how the Series applied it in these circumstances.

According to a blog item I read in Edge from someone who was at the hearing, the players being questioned had to toe the line and answer personally to a definition of "homosexual" that you have to be "PREDOMINANTLY having a sexual attraction for somoene of the same sex." If this is true, then the policy eliminates bisexuals, which strikes me as unfair, discriminatory and contrary to the spirit of inclusion that we're trying to promote in the "GLBT community." I'll betcha there were some bisexuals on other teams who were glad that they didn't get put in the investigatory hot seat.

It also eliminates transgender people, and people who identify other than "GLBT."

And it's discomfiting to see this tactic used to single out a team that had been winning. The Series rules may say that every player but two on every team has to be "gay," but I wonder if this specific definition of "homosexual" was applied uniformly to all the other teams in the Series, since it calls itself a "Gay Series" and many people understand "gay" to be a blanket term that applies to LBT as well.

From what I've read, these same players had played in the Series before and nobody said boo. It was not a situation where straight players were brought in at the last minute to stack a team.

I have a feeling that the fallout from this incident will compel the "Gay World Series" to rethink their positioning and their rules. No need to be excruciatingly PC...just find a way to be fair to all the players.


Predominantly -- thanks for pointing that out. I thought we were over the bisexual purging phase of our community, but I guess not. It's just a bit more nuanced now. You don't have to be a kinsey 6, just a kinsey 4, 5, or 6. Kinsey 1, 2, or 3 go home (remember, it's kinsey 0 that's straight). Frankly, that feeble expansion doesn't seem like a victory.

It's certainly true that a trans person can be monosexually gay, but as a genderqueer the whole same gender thing really bother's me.

Being multiracial, every relationship I have is interacial. Similarly, I so rarely meet someone who has the exact same gender as me -- or the exact opposite gender of me.

Some things never seem to change. Back in the mid 1990's I remember a spirited debate within the Indianapolis Men's Chorus, which for reasons after an older debat had decided not to style itself the my local gay "Indianapolis Gay Men's Chorus", like most other members of the gay/lesbian coral movement. The later debate dealt with whether or not staight men should be allowed to join us in song. Putting aside the winks and nods over why any "really" straight male would actually WANT to be in a "gay chorus" unless......well you know the rest......there was talk about "allowing" a certain number of straight men in so long as we didn't exceed some percentage (never hammered out), or they couldn't hold office, or some other kind of justification for just not declaring them sympatico human beings who had reasonably high quality vocal chords.

Then there was the question of a couple of pre-operative transgender singers who said they. felt more at home with us than with our sister Indianapolis Women's Chorus. To our credit we managed to be much, much closer to unanimous acceptance than in dealing with what most of us thought was a clean "straight vs. gay" line of demarcation. I suspect that today's enlightened discussions of sexual fluidity, bisexuality, and the like would have produced additional element of discord then,.....and I don't mean the musical variety.

My active choral singing days ended a number of years ago, and so I don't have my pulse on how those issue are playing out today. But certainly one can validly pose questions of how sexual orientation and gender identity are relevant to musical talent, in much the same way as such relevance applies to the ability to hit one out of the ballpark, steal second base, or pitch a no-hitter.

Now when it comes to synchronized swimming, well, that's a different story entirely (:

This reminds me a lot of the gender testing that goes on in the Olympics (or at least was proposed to happen, I don't know if it did in the end). I can understand the concerns with maintaining an identity based organization for a group that's been historically oppressed. It's where the margins come in that can often be the problem.

I think that Patricia's comment makes a lot of sense, and keeps with the spirit of the rules. Maybe calling it the "Gay League" is enough and people will respect it and not try to overrun the league.

I'm sure a lot of the players left other teams because of homophobia and want that safe space and camaraderie, and that's important too. Something tells me that calling it the Gay League and making it fancy enough will suffice - even if a heterosexual wants to join up, they'd have to be pretty gay to do it.

Yes, but do you really think they can sing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" while executing a double play from first to third? Not to mention the trauma of Toto getting zapped by an intentional wild pitch.

I don't know. I think it's pretty simple actually. Are you straight? No? Then climb on board. "Do you have sex with members of the same sex?" seems pretty "straightforward" to me. (I couldn't resist the joke there!)

Since it's a queer team, it doesn't seem unreasonable that the players should be, well, queer.

As for transgender folk, I don't think any of them were asked their orientation. I'm assuming the league realized that trans automatically falls under "queer" irregardless of sexual orientation - a point we've talked about often here on the blog.

My prior comment may have come across as doubting the wisdom of any group limiting its membership based on sexual orientation or gender identiy, "real" or perceived. I don't really go that far, as, for example, I fully understand the importance of creating "safe space" for people who themselves have experienced discrimination and abuse because of their "queerness". But I think we should always be sensitive to the criticism in that in drawing exclusionary boundaries around ourselves for such purposes, we may fall into the same kind of attitudes and practices which we decry concerning the majority.

See that's just it, it wouldn't be a problem if you just have to be queer. But being queer isn't enough to be on the team. Queer theory about what is the "same sex" and what makes someone queer aside, even if you have sex with the same sex your not clear yet.

Thanks to Patricia, we have their official definition. You have to be predominantly attracted to the same sex. None of the players said that they were predominantly attracted to the opposite sex, they just didn't want to answer either way, and they were specifically told that they're not allowed to be equally attracted to both.

How do you measure predominantly? What if you've only had sex with one person, but you're constantly fantasizing about people of a different sex than them? What if you've had dozens of random one night stands with guys but you've got a long term partner who's a woman? What if you're predominant attraction is to people who don't identify as men or women? What if everyone you date keeps transitioning?

I can't pretend to know what's going on in those player's lives, but I can say that the reality of my queer friends is that many of them would hesitate to say that they are predominantly attracted to the same sex, too. It's very disconcerting to find a "gay test" that half my queer community would fail.

Bill posted:
"Since it's a queer team, it doesn't seem unreasonable that the players should be, well, queer"

And that is the problem for some of us. They defined what they would consider queer enough. And the defined it in a way that would exclude a lot of bi people. So now we have to decide who is queer enough. That is so very late 80s... back when people would flip at me if I dated a girl and accuse me of passing and using a beard and being in the closet or trying to conform because it couldn't be that I was actually attracted to her.
Wow, these people are offensive.

Bil Browning said: Since it's a queer team, it doesn't seem unreasonable that the players should be, well, queer."

Um what happened to the "big tent" philosophy we all must pledge to sign before being granted honorary membership in the LGBT community?

The idea that a team cannot have straighties as allies on a gay team seems wholly hypocritical from the philosophies espoused here 90% of the time.

From my personal perspective, an all gay team is fine, as I believe in the right to free associations.

However the question remains, are only minority "people groups" allowed to be exclusionary or would the others advocating an all "gay" team also be kosher with a all pancake-battered-white-breeder team as well?

Ah the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

Why do we have to have all these idiotic labels? If you like a person then that should be all that matters, not whether or not they are a male or female. It really doesn't matter. Who makes up all these labels anyway? I'm female and if I like this person one day and another person another day that just means I'm fickle. I just can't make up my mind or maybe I like the variety of the people on this earth. As far as a baseball team goes, just pick a team and have fun.