This post was written as a part of our Guest Blogger Series for Pride 2020. This month, we're stepping back and lending our platform to voices in the LGBTQIA+ Ultimate community. Their words and experiences are so incredibly important and valid and too often overlooked.
Our first guest blogger is Seph Tacular.
Seph has been part of the Ultimate community for almost 20 years, after being sired into the fold by a college friend. While he has played in tournaments all around the world, both for fun and to try his hand at being competitive, you'll usually find him trying to take yet another LGBTQIA+ team to the nearest place that allows costumes and temporary tattoos as part of the game. If you happen to encounter him in the wild, feel free to ask for a hug. It may be the best one you've ever had.
Photo by Kat Overton
I am very proud of who I am, but that is a relatively new and growing aspect of my life.
I didn’t have pride for most of my life. I’m big, I’m Black and Asian, I’m queer, and I stick out like a horse trying to blend in among dogs. Mere acceptance, let alone pride, seemed like an impossible task when I was younger.
I wasn’t born thinking to myself “brrp rrgr rgug urbirrup,” which is baby for “I know exactly who I am and I’m proud of the life I’m about to live.” I first had to struggle with my identity and embark on my journey of acceptance despite societal biases and roadblocks. Only then did I start building pride in the person I could become.
I didn’t get here by myself. I am lucky to be “perched on the shoulders of giants.”
The reason I mention this 12th century quote is because the pride I have now is possible only because others established a hard-won foundation on which I could build.
I look to pioneers that give me pride, give me strength, and show me that a world of acceptance is something not just to hope for, but to fight for.
I’m emboldened by Marsha P. Johnson; a woman who fought for equality while also showing kindness, compassion, and strength to the drag queens, homeless youth, and trans women in New York City.
I’m encouraged by James Baldwin. In a time when it was dangerous to be Black, and dangerous to be gay, he was proudly both. He knew it was worth fighting for a world where people could live the life they wanted without having to prove their right to be there. He also taught patience, knowing it would be a long fight, but still worth it.
I am empowered by Bayard Rustin, a trusted advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and key organizer of the March on Washington. A lot of people are in the field fighting for the rights we all look to have, and even more are supporting from the sidelines. We all have a job to do.
These and countless others show that I don’t have to be perfect to be proud of who I am. What is important is that I keep fighting, keep pushing, and keep encouraging others to do the same.
So, what’s all of this have to do with Ultimate?
Well, I’m glad I’m pretending that you asked.
Our times of chasing a polymer disc, donning costumes, and chanting team cheers are so much more than just games. In Ultimate, we have a special privilege — we get to be ourselves.
Few other areas, let alone other sports, allow people of so many varied backgrounds to come together and enjoy spirit and competition.
Those with higher privilege may not fully understand or appreciate how amazing it is to actually get to be yourself, without excuse, in a place where strangers outnumber you 1000:1. In a world full of everyday obstacles and heartache for those of us with less privilege, such as those like myself who must investigate race or queer relations in a country where we’re hoping to attend a tournament, the Ultimate field and community represents space striving for the ideal — where playing and living authentically without fear is not only accepted, but celebrated.
That’s not to say that Ultimate is perfect. As with many areas of society, we have work to do to improve and build equity in terms of gender, LGBTQIA+ openness and participation, and representation from People of Color. The work continues. We’re still pushing forward and building.
We better our community when everyone — with and without privilege, on and off the Ultimate field — works together. Especially for those with privilege, it is important to continue to educate and leverage that privilege to help others. Open yourself to ideas that aren’t your own. Welcome and engage with people that make you feel a little uncomfortable. Prime yourself to fight for and uplift people of all kinds. Keep building an environment that encourages people to be themselves.
We are all here because of the work done by those before us, and it’s up to us to take advantage of that strong foundation.
Look to the future.
And realize that pride has not come easily. It has been fought for and built despite the destructive acts of people who believe that some are not worthy of humanity.
I don’t just write this to tell you some random facts about people you may or may not have heard of. I do it to ask you to join the fight in any way you can.
Whether by donating, protesting, or finding ways to support those who are doing the more “visible” work, it’s on all of us to make this world a place for everyone, a place more like the one we’ve built together on the field.
A place where people can live proud.