SPORTS, PRIDE & ALLYSHIP
TEXT BY CHRISTIAN BURGOS IMAGES BY DAVID DE LIRA
LIFE Pt. 1
Eric took a sip of his ale before returning to the field with his brothers and friends. They weren’t playing a real game. They were just hitting the ball around for fun. They all pretended they were a team or like they were in Sandlot and shit-talked each other while someone was at bat. Eric was up next and practiced swinging his bat while his best friend Dom taunted him from the mound. “Eric, you couldn’t hit puberty, what makes you think you’ll hit this?” “Just throw the ball, jackass,” Eric called back as he brought the bat up to his shoulder, preparing to swing. Dom lifted his leg up and turned his body, getting ready to pitch. He winded up and turned his whole body, launching the ball out towards home plate. This pitch seemed to travel faster and harder than all the other pitches he had thrown that day. Eric stood, bat in hand, waiting for the ball to get closer. It traveled much faster than he thought it would and began to bat. He turned his whole body, swinging his arms out and the bat forward. A loud clank filled the field. The bat vibrated in Eric’s hands from the blow. He felt the impact in his hands and arms. The violent tremor in his body made him drop the bat after he stopped swinging. He turned to see where the ball went and saw it flying far out into the right field. He started jumping up when it went past the fence and would have been considered a home run. Eric turned to high five his brother who was playing catcher and a few people coming over to congratulate him from the dugout. He felt like the cool guy of the group now. All of a sudden, he felt a hard smack on his butt. He turned to see Dom with a look on his face that said “you lucky piece of shit.” They high fived and then everyone decided that it was a better idea to just stick to drinking than to go after the ball and keep playing. “Today’s the day,” Eric thought to himself. He was gonna come out to his bros.
Pt. 2 Eric, Dom, and their group of friends went back to Dom’s place to keep drinking, making fun of each other, and hanging out. Dom had a big enough place for them to enjoy, converse, and keep drinking. This continued into the night until one by one, people began to pass out from the day’s events or the day’s drinking. This was a weekend they all decided they could spend together shooting the shit and drinking. Those that had them let their wives and girlfriends know this was a weekend for the boys. Eric still felt on top of the world with his game ending home run. Not only did he hit a solid home run, but he hit it on one of his buddy’s Dom’s pitches. Dom used to pitch for their highschool baseball team. Dom didn’t seem to let it upset him too much, but Eric knew that his home run probably hurt him a bit. At that point of the night, Eric knew it was just him and Dom awake. He was fixing drinks for the both of them while everyone else was knocked out. He took a deep breath and decided to initiate the conversation. “So, there’s something I gotta tell you, and it’s because we’re brothers. I trust you man,” Eric started. “Your my brother too,” Dom slurred as he spoke. “Yeah, we’ve been tight since third grade, and I just gotta tell someone. I’m gay man.” Eric turned to his friend to gauge his response. “So you like other dudes?” “Yeah.” Eric began to panic. He had just realized that Dom was shirtless and he was worried that his confession would be misinterpreted. “Why are you telling me? Are you like into me?” Dom sounded insulted. Eric raised his hands and tried to calm Dom. He only touched his shoulder when Dom reacted violently. Eric saw the skull tattoo on his friend’s hand quickly reach his face before getting knocked out. He awoke to his friend crying next to him. Eric looked around and it seemed like everyone else was still asleep. He leaned up and immediately felt the pain in the right side of his face. “I’m really sorry,” Don’s voice cracked as he spoke. “I don’t know what came over me. You’re my bro.” “I get it. The alcohol and shit.” “Still, I shouldn’t have done that.” Eric got up and began rubbing Don’s back. He was gonna do everything to help his friend be there for him.
HE AL IN G Jerry sipped his sweet orange juice as he looked down at the message he had received from his lover congratulating him on retiring from golf. He hadn’t been one of the biggest names, but he was well-known and lived comfortably because of his athletic career. Thomas was everything to Jerry, as he helped him through the dark times that come with a rising career. He had also helped Jerry come to terms with his sexuality and status. Before Jerry could really respond to the message, his wife came through the door gushing about the bouquet of orange flowers that he sent her. She went on about how lovely it was and how sweet it was. Then came the blow to Jerry. She declared that she would cancel her business trip to New York and send someone else in her place so she could stay and celebrate his retirement with him. As she held him and went on about all the things they’d do together, Jerry hid his disappointment with a loving smile and kiss. He didn’t have the heart to break her heart because of the facade he was forced to keep up for his career. Even now that he was retired, he didn’t want to ruin his own name. He smiled through that and thought about how alone he would feel in the coming weeks. If only he could come out; if only he could have come out much sooner.
Sam angrily kicks the ball at the white brick wall of his family’s home. The bricks
remain despite the constant assault from the soccer ball. It loudly thuds then quietly bounces as it returns to the seven year old. He changes his stance and technique several times, trying out different kicks. He begins to gravitate towards kicks that launch the ball with more ferocity. He loses control, ultimately leading to an accident. His kick sends the ball so far to the right that it hits a pot of flowers and knocks it to the ground with a crash that almost echoes through the yard. Sam’s hand shoots up to cover his mouth and he stares at the back door of his home. He searches for his mother in the window. His muscles freeze in place and his heart beats in his throat. He searches; still nothing. For a moment, he thinks he’s in the clear and that his mother did not hear him. But then he sees movement. There’s a shadow in the window. Before he knows it, the door swings open, nearly slamming into the house. His mother steps out into the yard. She approaches him. Her words are a blur to him. He tries not to let his eyes go to the fallen pot, but he fails. She turns to follow his stare and rushes to the flowers. She yells at first, but then sees her son again. She can see that he’s been crying. “Sam. What’s wrong?” His fear begins to dissipate and he speaks. “I just wanna be good at soccer cause some of the other kids make fun of me.” “They’re making fun of you because you can’t play soccer well?” “No.” His face scrunches up as he yells “They make fun of me because of you!” Helen’s heart breaks. She’s always dreaded this moment. She fails to hide her sadness when she asks, “You mean because of me and mommy?” Sam only nods. He turns away when his mother comes to embrace him and kiss his head. They both cry. Despite his misplaced anger, Sam finds comfort in his mother’s embrace. He realizes he made her feel the way they made him feel. “I’m sorry mom.” “It’s okay, Sammy. How about mom and I come out here and play some soccer with you? I can teach you some things I learned in high school.” “Really?” “Yeah, and then you can show those kids what your moms taught you. Then we can get pizza after.” “Pineapple pizza?” She hid her disgust with a warm smile. “Yes, pineapple pizza.”
Sam smiles up at his moms as they all walk away from the soccer field together.
He’s beaming because he scored the game winning goal. He remembers the time he spent practicing and having fun with his mothers, Helen and Jenna. He is happy that they got to be there and witness his game. Helen and Jenna are beaming as well, taking pride in their son. Helen is especially happy that Sam was doing well in soccer and that it seems to be doing wonders for his self esteem. She thinks about the episode in their yard and is proud of how far Sam has come from there. She feels the love from her son and wants to show him that they are both still loving and supporting of him. Helen decides to surprise her son with dinner out and a game of mini golf. They all enjoy some cheap, greasy, fast-food quality burgers and fries before getting to the mini golf part. Helen and Jenna sign their son up for a game, deciding only to watch Sam have fun and celebrate his win. “Thanks mom!” he calls out as he runs outside into the course to begin his game. Sam starts out solid, managing two holes in one and a birdie. However, the mini golf course slowly ramps up in difficulty. Sam’s still doing okay, but he realizes the courses are slowly getting more difficult. At hole 9, he finds another kid he recognizes from school. He hasn’t really met this kid, so he decides to introduce himself. “Hey, you go to Bellvue, right?” “Yeah, I think I’ve seen you.” The other kid turns to face Sam. “I’m pretty new. My name is Sam,” he says, reaching out for a handshake. “I’m Peter,” the other boy said extending his hand to meet Sam’s. They shook hands and started talking about the course. They talk about how they both struggle and then decided that it would be more fun to play together. They laugh at themselves when they miss and make fun of the silly-looking obstacles on the golf course. At the end, they decide they’ll hang out more in school. Peter points to a towering man in the restaurant, saying “that’s my dad. I better get going.” “Okay. I’m gonna go back with my moms.” “Your mom?” Peter questions. “No, moms. I have two moms,” Sam says pointing out his two mothers. “Oh okay. My dad said there was someone with two moms and I shouldn’t hang out with you.” “Well we had fun.”
“Yeah, he’s probably jealous he doesn’t have two moms.” They both laugh and go their separate ways. Helen and Jenna watch their son return to them and are happy to see that he got to hang out with someone new. They are even more delighted to hear that Sam and Peter are now friends. They feel mixed emotions about hearing what Peter’s dad told him and Sam’s response. They feel so much pride in their son and feel lucky to have Sam as their son.
You sit in the cold examination room, patiently waiting for the doctor to return with information. They always say that the cold air prevents the spread of germs. It always adds to the unease you feel, even when going for the smallest things, like a regular checkup; but today, you’re not here for a checkup. The buzzing of the artificial light seems to intensify as time goes on. Everything in the room appears clean, white, and sterile. The coldness, cleanliness, and artificiality of the room make you feel dirty and like you don’t belong. But society as a whole makes you feel that. You think about how this doctor used the same language and mannerisms as all the other doctors, and somehow he made you feel like less than a human being. You think about how being an athlete has made you used to a lot of the testing that you go through all the time, but today’s examination felt more invasive. You think about all the hours of work and practice that go into your competitions. You think about how you pushed yourself to become stronger, faster, and more coordinated to be the best damn competitor you can be. You think about how all of that is invalidated to society because of your skin color. Your doctor returns to tell you the unfortunate news. You are told that your body contains too much testosterone for you to be considered a woman and to continue competing with other women. Now, in this way, you are queered and invalidated. All of the hard work and practice that you put in is invalidated on another level. He repeats some of the rules and regulations of the league and says that there will be changes for you going forward, unless you take action to change that. He suggests hormones to balance out the testosterone in your body. Hormones to balance your body? You ask what that means, saying that obviously the testosterone is in your body for a reason. You think about how you probably have a lot more than the average woman because you’re an athlete who pushes herself beyond normal limits. You get up and walk out, without saying anything else to the doctor. You think about everything you can do now to fight this and keep your name and record intact. So begins the battle to reclaim and validate your identity.
SERENITY Pt. 1
Aaron pulled his helmet from his locker. He stared at the remnants of the hawk logo that was supposed to represent his school. It was scratched up to the point where it could barely be recognized. He thought about how his helmet protected him more than anyone else’s helmet did for them. He took a lot of shots, hits, and collisions to the head. He thought about all the ones that came on and off the field. For a moment, he thought maybe something was wrong with him. He thought maybe he deserved the hate and rejection from his peers. But then he realized how fucked that would be and just realized that his classmates were just jerks. It all started when his father died. He used to be at every game, cheering louder than any of the other parents, even at his high school games. Then the cancer and chemo started, taking him away from Aaron slowly. Even when he could barely leave a hospital bed, he pushed his son on to keep playing. Aaron did this reluctantly and his heart shattered when he heard of his father’s death after a loss. After that, nothing was the same for Aaron. Some people tried to be nice and be there for him during the rough months that followed his father’s death. The football team really rallied to be there for him. But all that changed when he was outed by someone he came out to and trusted. There were whispers and glances in the hallway. People sneered when he wasn’t looking. He became one of the most picked on kids in school. The tragedy his family suffered was overshadowed to many by the fact that he was gay. The football team that once tried to support him turned on him. He thought about quitting, but then thought about what his dad would say. He wanted to push through and try to get some kind of athletic scholarship to secure a good future for himself and make his father proud. A loud bang against the lockers brought Aaron out of his thoughts. “Hey fairy! Get ready to get rocked out there,” yelled Matt, the quarterback.
Stepping on the field, Aaron swallows the lump in his throat. He felt unnerved being out on a field where almost everyone was out to get him. He thought about his dad’s encouragement again and felt that as long as he was doing this, he could play no matter how many people were against him. He knew that his dad believed in him until his last breath, so he had to believe in himself. He was about to get on the field in his normal position as one of the linebackers when the coach called him over and told him he wanted to try something new. Because Gerald, one of the larger players was out, the coach wanted Aaron to try his position out. Aaron now took the place of defensive tackle, ready to counter the other team’s offensive plays. Aaron watched Gerald in the position before, tackling several other players at different times. His goal was just going to be to mimic what the former defensive tackle did. As he lined up, he kept his eyes on the quarterback. Matt was going to be his goal. He wanted to tackle Matt to the ground. He thought about how Matt used to be friendly when they both started playing. He reflected on how Matt would occasionally skip out on practice to smoke or drink, but was still cool with him. When Aaron was suffering, Matt offered a few kind words and did something completely unexpected. The quarterback pulled his bag out of his locker and pulled a case with syringes out to show Aaron. Matt explained that he had been taking “supplements” to keep him in his A-game. The coach didn’t know, but he had to keep appearances up and still be one of the best. He decided to offer them to Aaron because he was probably going through a lot and could have used the boost. Aaron thought a lot about that moment; in that moment on the field, he thought about it and used it to drive him. When the coach made the call, Aaron launched himself forward. His feet pounded the ground and carried his body faster than he had ever gone before. He didn’t see anyone else in his way. He only saw Matt catch the ball and look around the field; there was a moment where they made eye contact and Aaron saw fear. He saw the look of fear in the guy who told others his secret about to get his comeuppance. Aaron’s head went down and then he felt their bodies collide and go down. He got up and heard a long groan from the body on the ground. “Great tackle Aaron!” yelled the coach. Aaron looked down at the writhing QB. He muttered “How does it feel to get rocked by a fairy?”
On my college campus, it wasn’t hard for me to find pickup games of basketball
with other college students. It was always guys, because that’s just how it was. Guys played basketball. And it’s not that I wasn’t a guy, but being trans made me “different” from most people. It was becoming more visible and accepted in society, but in my college, as far as I could tell, I was the only one. It wasn’t the absolute worst though because I passed well for a man. Today was a particularly hot Spring turning into Summer day. The courts were full, but whole groups of people were coming and going. It wasn’t too hard to get in on a game or two. Sweaty college kids everywhere throwing basketballs, missing, and cussing. My team was really good today. We were like one unit in harmony. We were hitting our three pointers, blocking theirs, and making solid passes. As time wore on, I was wearing down. I was really hot because I had my wrap on and a shirt over that. I had to keep the appearance of a man. I didn’t out myself to anyone on campus. I was just like any other guy, playing ball and hanging out. All that came down on me and shattered when in the middle of the game, someone stopped to ask me why I was bleeding down my thigh. My world was about to come crashing down.
Soon, all the boys on that court began asking me why I was bleeding and pushing me. They started asking me if I was butch. They got louder and more violent. Soon other teams stopped playing just to see what all the commotion was on our court. Some of those people joined the hollering and rough-housing. I began to feel light headed and the ground seemed to move under my feet. I finally tried explaining myself to them, hoping they’d stop and just let me leave. I told them I was trans. They threw slurs and insults at me after that. I couldn’t believe how far this had devolved. My heart raced a mile a minute and I tried to run and push my way through people. They shoved me back and kept me in the middle, still throwing slurs. Some people finally were trying to get others to stop and clear a path for me. I took advantage of this and shoved my way through the way I would in a game, trying to break through someone’s defense. It felt like hours even though it only took a minute. I was at the edge of the courts and I just took off running to the safety of my dorm. I took a shortcut through the woods around campus and made it to my building. I locked myself in my room and thought about never wanting to step on a court again.