The Gay and Lesbian Softball League Phenomenon

Gay softball players in Chicago

As in most sports, my youthful experience was negative or at least ambiguous. Perpetrating the stereotype that lesbian or “masculine women” and nuns (often equivalent in many eyes to lesbians) play softball, the principal of the Catholic school, the formidable pantsuit-wearing Sr. Judy was obsessed with softball. She claimed I was not playing with enough enthusiasm (she wielded the same accusation during volleyball practice), and I was banished to right field. I purposely let the ball hit me when it flew toward me, and I was banished to the sidelines. And I thought softball would be easier than baseball, because the ball was bigger and softer and supposedly easier to hit and catch. Oh well …

Fast forward several years later, and a work friend told me her easygoing, sports-loving husband saw a group of guys near the lake playing softball. He, like many (or most) straight males, was socialized to join guys playing games outside, and he asked if he could join them. He played with them for a while, really enjoying himself, but after a guy patted him rather too enthusiastically on the ass, he realized he was playing with members of the local gay softball league. He was not homophobic about it, but he was just surprised. Or maybe just a tad homophobic, perhaps, because he was subscribing to the stereotype that gay men did not play sports.

Instead, lesbians did – especially softball. This stereotype persisted, even as recently as the time Elena Kagan was nominated by President Obama to the Supreme Court. The Honorable Ms. Kagan was not married, and she played softball. Therefore, she must be lesbian.
 

Elena Kagan playing softball
Elena Kagan playing softball

And around that time, in an article in the New York Post, the token straight gal (gay teams have rules limiting the number of straight players) on an all-lesbian softball team, says (I don't think she was being homophobic, but I wonder) that her teammates were “so husky you might wonder whether they have a beard to shave.” Yikes. And she says one teammate offered her a toaster to “switch hit.” (What brand? I might do it for a four-slot Kenmore that takes bagels.)

It's a shame that stereotypes obscure the truth about these leagues, that “LGBT sports clubs and events provide an opportunity for individuals to experience a sense of pride, a safe and welcoming environment, and feelings of belonging to the larger gay community” (Sara Mertel in her dissertation on the sociology of an LGBT softball league, summarizing an article by Elling, Knoop & Knoppers). I consider these leagues comparable to the gay chorus movement, which has allowed gay men to teach and learn as musicians on both amateur and professional levels in an inclusive environment. Talent is talent, art is art, but in this context, they become vehicles of liberation and, some might, argue assimilation.

In fact, in the early heady days of gay liberation, gay and lesbian softball leagues sprang up very quickly, beginning in San Francisco in 1974 with the formation of the Community Softball League, which eventually included both women's and men's teams. These teams actually competed against each other and, quite telling, against the San Francisco Police softball team (quite a revolutionary moment, to say the least, given the history of victimization by the police).
 

Gay team vs. police team San Francisco softball game
Gay team vs. police team San Francisco softball game

In 1978, an international organization called NAGAAA (North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance) was formed to govern the many leagues participating in gay sports. According to a piece in Outsports, this organization was a realization of the vision of Chuck Dima, a New York bar owner, who orchestrated a tournament where the gay softball teams from San Francisco and New York played each other. The first women's team competed in 1979. Today, the NAGAAA incorporate 41 individual softball leagues, and hosts the Gay Softball World Series, first held in Los Angeles in 1980.
 

Gay softball game in San Francisco, 1977
Gay softball game in San Francisco, 1977

Now, ironically, the gay softball world faces another challenge, and it's not the holy haters. In 2011, three guys on their gay softball team sued the NAGAAA after they were determined to be non-gay (one was apparently bisexual), and their team was stripped of its second place finish. The National Center for Lesbian Rights backed the men. The Court upheld the straight limit, dismissing the discrimination claims. In the settlement, the players were reinstated and their second-place finish is now fully recognized, while NAGAAA maintained the Constitutional right to limit the number of straight players on a team.
 

NAGAAA North American Gay Softball Division logo

There's the tension: assimilation and identity in a world that doesn't just tolerate LGBTQ persons, but even sees them as exemplars of strength and talent. I don't think I will go out and join a gay softball league (I might get banished to the benches too based on my skill level). But I would certainly watch, and not only the softballs. Or maybe, just maybe, the hot young studs would let me be the “water boy” … hmm …

Rate this blog entry:
182 Hits
0 Comments

Bijou Blog - GLORIOUS GLORYHOLES, OR NOT? PART THREE

GLORY HOLES, THE LAW, AND POLITICS

Yet again, despite attempts to investigate and analyze the behavior from a psychosocial perspective, the issue is also a legal one that that straddles the issues of private and public social norms. The book Glory Hole also contains an article, "Public Homosexual Activity and the Law," which ends up being a critique of the sodomy laws, which outlaw private homosexual sex and ironically force gays in to the public bathrooms, during the period and also the methods of enforcing public decency. This article really attacks the use of the police officer decoy (still a threatening presence today), claiming the practice is hypocritical:

This "decoy" method of law enforcement has lately come under a lot of scrutiny by the courts which would violate the individual's constitutional rights. It would seem that society's interest in protecting the public against lewd solicitation is endangered just as much if the solicitation is made by a private citizen or a vice squad cop.

The article also describes a scenario which could resemble the Senator Larry Craig bathroom scandal that took place several years ago, except the "closet queen" Craig was doing the foot tapping:

The undercover police officer seeks to provide an opportunity for a homosexual to either commit a lewd act or to make a solicitation for such act. In order to invite such solicitation, the undercover cop may sometimes spend lengthy periods of time at the urinals or sinks of a public toilet; he may sit in a stall and tap his foot or clear his throat to attract the unsuspecting homosexual's attention.

Congressperson Larry Craig is definitely a throwback to this era, a conservative married guy whose only outlet for his sexuality was the bathroom. In Craig's case, the hypocrisy (given his public persona and anti-gay voting record) was obviously more on his part rather than on the part of the arresting officer.
 

Larry Craig mugshot
Larry Craig

GLORY HOLES: OUT OF THE CLOSET AND INTO GAY PORN

One wonders if the sexual revolution of the 1960s and post-Stonewall 1970s, and the ensuing AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, really made any change in the  glory hole dynamic describe above. Gay bathhouses (and bookstores today) in the 1970s often contained glory holes, but they were more a sexual fetish tool, for those who are turned on by  that type of sex, located in an environment that was not really public like an actual bathroom.

What the 1970s and 1980s did contribute to the now-iconic glory hole was a slew of porn movies that showed really hot, enticing glory sex. Yes, the sex in these films was obviously staged and thus lacked the danger and anonymity of the real event, but art can often improve on its imitation of life.
 

Roger
Jim Rogers & Michael Braun in Dangerous (1983)
Rate this blog entry:
197 Hits
0 Comments

Bijou Classics for the Fourth of July 2018

I'm feeling kind of blogged out as the dog days of summer approach, so this Fourth of July weekend I am showcasing a couple of our titles that are relevant to the violent tensions between boundaries and bridges, ideals and ideology, illusion and reality that our country is currently wrestling with.

In our title Blue Angel (1986), directed by Jurgen Bauer and produced by and starring Mackenzie Poe, a cabaret gay sex show in the style of 1930's Weimar Berlin draws disturbing parallels between the rise of fascism in Hitler's Germany and the continued oppression of LGBTQ Americans. One could even claim this show is an act of resistance as the performers break sexual taboos but also dress in leather gear that both embodies and transcend the culture's oppressive power structures.
 

Images from Blue Angel
Images from Blue Angel

In our title American Cream (1972), director Rob Simple (aka playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie) has created a masterful three-part pictorial comment on America, masculinity and desire. In the final vignette, “Roles,” juxtaposition of the well-heeled Tom and the rough and studly Doug and their ultimate interchangeability as they play roles speaks to a culture that easily blurs any distinction between illusion and reality.
 

Images from American Cream
Images from American Cream

These movies are both available on DVD and Video on Demand. Don't forget take advantage of our 35 percent off DVDs sale on the website.

Rate this blog entry:
267 Hits
0 Comments

Bro, Some May Think You're Hot, I May Think You're Hot, But Get Outta Here!

Bros partying

I read with undue relish an article called, “The Chicago Bro Is Coming to Ruin Your Neighborhood.” Not that I am thrilled that the beer swilling, lawn pissing, stereo blasting jocks have taken over great areas of the city, but finally someone pinned down what I have been saying for years: most young white guys (not exclusively, but there is some truth to the stereotype) are jerks, and their fathers were probably jerks, and their fathers were the ones who slammed sissies into lockers and grabbed girls (or boasted of grabbing them).

I used to call them spoiled brats. Now, like the article, I think word douche applies. (Hmm … sounds like our Harasser/Douche/Vulgar Boor in Chief.)

The area by Wrigley Field in Chicago is now “bro” central, because of its proximity to a sports arena, but the area has always been bar heavy, but it was more like bars one would go to listen to bands, not scream and yell over monstrous TVs blasting “the game,” whatever it may be.
 

Bros cheering at a sports bar

But it seems like the exodus into the city from suburbia to have more readily accessible sex (one of the reasons many LGBTQ migrated to cities as well) that began with the yuppies in Lincoln Park in the eighties is in full swing, and the bros are now infiltrating areas west and south of Wrigleyville, such as Logan Square.

I must admit, yes, they exude like sweat the hotness of youth, physically attractive in the most overt way without trying to be. Think manspread, which one really notices in those sloppy shorts and T-shirts and overall lack of clothing that conceals the bro wears. He looks hot even in rags.
 

Manspreading jock on subway train

And all those gay porn videos with straight guys, or at least ostensibly straight. And all that cuddling and bromance.
 

Frat house straight boy sex

But if that attraction is welded together with narcissism, as the article claims, “the rules of common decency don 't apply to him,” and the usual “boys will be boys” smack of approval … we might as well run the country like a fraternity house and its worst excesses.

What disturbs me is the overt homophobia and misogyny this culture, but something that happened the other day in Toronto is another disastrous result. A driver of a van mowed down several people, resulting in casualties.

He expressed anger towards women in social media posts. He resented being “involuntarily celibate,” that is, he could not be with a woman and thus be a “real man.” Essentially, he was upset because he did not fit in with what he called, “The Chads and Stacys.” Take that to mean, in some ways, the bro culture.

Toxic masculinity. It's obvious here. Horrifyingly obvious. But are gay guys exempt from participating in this dynamic? That another question. But it's clear that gay guys have been the victims of this culture in its various forms for a long time, perhaps since the beginning of time.

Whatever the case, I am not going to let these bros wreak havoc on me or mine. Grow up, or get outta here. And guess what? You will grow old, and your hotness won't cover up the fact that you are, and always will be, jerks. We all need to make sure, in whatever safe and productive way possible, that you don't raise another generation of jerks.

Rate this blog entry:
248 Hits
0 Comments

LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ONE'S GAY TWENTIES

“His friends decided that Ken had fallen into the trap that had snared so many beautiful gay men. In his twenties, he had searched for a husband instead of a career. When he did not find a husband, he took the next best thing – sex – and sex became something of a career. It wasn't love but at least it felt good; for all his time at the Cinderella ball, the prince had never arrived.” – Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On

I've heard about (and read about) that adolescence for males especially extends until one's late twenties these days. Now, these days is kind of vague, so maybe I am thinking more about millenials, but the reasons for this extended adolescence aren't just psychological stereotypes (guys take longer to grow up than girls, and some never do), but also economic. The rising cost of living and increased compeition for jobs that can launch one into a secure middle-class income are factors that often keep the guys living in their parents' basement playing video games.

The game many guys played in their twenties in the 1970s was the sex game (not that guys haven't done it since time immemorial). Guys had been playing it more brazenly in the 1960s, and many women played along, and as they did so, started to make their own rules, and the win did not always have to occur before an altar.

Gays and lesbians, who for so long had to play in the closet, emerged militantly in the heady days of the seventies, especially in urban meccas. Some lesbians found a home (spiritually and physically) in various waves of feminism, but many gay men fled their tastefully decorated homes and entered palaces – sex palaces, bathhouses, movie theaters, back rooms of bars. I am not saying that no one was looking for love, but the love that used to dare not speak its name was more often than not during that time more like a moan in an orgy room. It was as if men became fertile, and multiplied (not in the procreative sense).
 

Gay men in the 1970s dancing

Steamworks, Chicago bathhouse poster

In the quote above, men like Ken (one of the first victims of AIDS), certainly grew from strength to strength, but for many men at that time, coming out still mean choosing between one's sexuality and a career. Thus the gay life became for many guys a sex life in specific, segregated milieu. Their Land of Goshen was ironically a release from bondage. Until the plague …

When AIDS started smiting these men down like that last plague of Egypt, gay men rallied together, but there was no singular Moses like Harvey Milk to guide them. They survived united, and survived divided. For a while the sex palaces remained open, despite an uncaring Pharaoh like Reagan and his Moral Majority priests with their rhetoric of sin and punishment. Yet that plague, with its relentless physical linkage of sex and death, changed everything.
 

AIDS activists hodling banner that says Fighting for Our Lives

Ken's generation saw death daily; the succeeding generation (in their twenties during the height of the plague) saw death, but many of them survived to explore and enjoy if not a cure, then a way to live, not die. The life was not just medical, but eventually legal, climaxing when Love Won in 2015. 2015 brought out the monogamous couples who had found their princes even before the days of liberation and the plague.
 

Person holding gay pride flag at protest in D.C.

Did the plague in some way make many gay men grow up? Not that gay sex, or any sex for that matter, is in itself an immature, irresponsible act? By its very nature it breaks boundaries, liberates, and orgasm is “the little death.” Growing up is experiencing sex, but maturing is understanding sex and the wisdom to know when sex and love intersect, and when they don't.

For gay men, this process was always more fraught because it did not conform to the social norms that heterosexual men and women usually conform to: in one's twenties, one finds a mate and a career, not always in that order, and it's no longer an either/or proposition. One produces children. One's career climaxes as one's children grow up. The cycle continues. Within that norm, one can usually choose.

Yet gay men who lived in the 1970s, who had lacked so many choices, plunged into a world with a bewildering variety of choices. Now with other freedoms (and in this day and age, still endangered) available beyond sexual choice, are gay men in their twenties at another crossroads?

I just hope many of them realize their prince is not an image on Grindr, and that even the image of a prince doesn't last. But if you are lucky, your prince may grow up to be a king.
 

Grindr profile image
Rate this blog entry:
272 Hits
0 Comments

Contact Us | 800-932-7111 | Join our email list

Go to top