With a population hovering around the one million mark but with an urban footprint large enough to rival that of North America’s biggest cities, it is easy to understand how meeting queer people in Edmonton is hard.
So for the last three years Team Edmonton, an umbrella group that acts as a hub for queer sports and recreation groups, has leapt over the hurdles of urban sprawl and the perceived lack of queer community by using sweat and the lure of healthy living to bring people together.
This summer, as some members of Team Edmonton groups competed at the World Outgames in Copenhagen, Team Edmonton is also proud to be introducing new groups into the mix including a hiking club and extreme Frisbee.
Started around a kitchen table in 2006, Team Edmonton was inspired by organizations like the Calgary-based Apollo group, which would show up at regional queer sporting events “looking like a team” says Jackie Foord, the current president of the Team Edmonton board. She remembers seeing members of the Apollo group enter a stadium, all wearing cowboy hats, embodying the idea of a cohesive group. She wanted to create a similar organization in Edmonton.
Different than other queer sport and recreation hubs around North America, Foord explains that Team Edmonton “does not organize. We promote and help establish new groups. We act as a communication hub and help give people a reason to start new clubs.” Currently there are 23 sporting and recreation clubs under the Team Edmonton umbrella, including two roller derby leagues, a boot camp training group, a yoga club and various winter and summer sport clubs.
Foord thinks that being part of a club in the Team Edmonton group is an opportunity for empowerment, and she hopes that members are able to say, “Yes, I am a strong healthy adult.” She notes that by joining a group, queers can stay fit or simply meet others in a fun, social setting.
“For some people, being a part of Team Edmonton is about social interaction, so we want groups that can accommodate those needs too,” says Foord. She points to groups like Vocal Minority, which is a queer choir that has been part of Team Edmonton since the early days, and active in Edmonton for almost two decades.
Another group on the recreational side, Book Worms, is a new Team Edmonton group that debuted this spring. Edmontonian Vince Buono conceived the group as a typical book club with a queer twist. They meet once every four weeks to talk about a book of the month, often with the discussion broadening to include current and political events. For Buono, this type of collective experience is important and offers something different than the often-intimidating atmosphere that can surround gay scenes, be it online or in bars. As Buono sees it he wanted to “create an atmosphere that acts as an outlet for people to explore and gain awareness around what it is to be gay.”
For more info on Team Edmonton visit Teamedmonton.ca.
To join Bookworms, contact Vince at Bookworm@teamedmonton.ca.