A new initiative called the OutSport SportZone at this year’s Pride celebration encourages gay, lesbian, bi and trans people to get out and play in one of the more than 20 queer sports leagues in the Greater Toronto Area.
The SportZone will feature games, demonstrations and an information booth manned by some of Toronto’s queer amateur athletes, who will talk up the year-round opportunities to get involved in gay sports.
“Our mantra this year is ‘Come out and play,’” says Ken Meiklejohn, vice-chair of OutSport. “We do want this to be an active sport presence. It’s about physical activity and getting involved. We want to show that sport is fun.”
Meiklejohn says that the Pride season is a great time to take up a new activity.
“Pride falls at the beginning of the summer season. People are starting to get more active than they may have been through the winter. Of course, we do have winter sports as well,” he says.
OutSport was founded last year to pool the resources of 20 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sports organizations in Toronto for learning, mentoring and advocacy. Member groups participate in basketball, volleyball, softball, football, hockey, swimming, cycling, rock climbing, rugby, rodeo, soccer and more. The SportZone at Pride is the group’s first major coordinated effort to market sports to the community.
“Pride is a space where people of all backgrounds and all levels of experience come out,” Meiklejohn says. “It’s a great way to show the community that we exist. We want them to get out and see that sport can be a great fun part of their lives.”
One of the myths OutSport wants to shatter is the belief in parts of the gay community that sports are exclusively for straight guys. OutSport also wants to woo back queers who may have given up on sports or may have become bored with an activity they’ve previously been a part of.
“It’s never too late to get involved in sport if that’s what you want to do. They may decide that they want to try a different type of activity and fall in love with it,” Meiklejohn says. “That’s another purpose of the SportZone — to show the range of opportunities available. A lot of LGBT people approach sport tentatively because of earlier experiences or fears they might have.”
It won’t hurt the cause that the SportZone will be staffed with local queer athletes.
“We’re certainly going to have a lot of attractive homegrown LGBT athletes walking around our SportZone,” Meiklejohn says. “We’re going to have the Downtown Swim Club and the Toronto Rainbow Reef Rangers walking around in their Speedos. Be prepared for some eye-candy, for sure.”