Playing for the other teams

No matter who you are, there’s a local gay sports team for you

A little something gay and sporty for everyone. Photo by G Elliot Simpson

[originally printed in fab issue 422 – April 13, 2011]

Spring! We thought you’d never get here. We’ve had some winter sports to keep us busy, but now there are more opportunities to get outside, get active and do it in groups of gays. But how to choose? Whether it’s bone-crunching rugby or genteel badminton, representatives from every gay and lesbian sporting group in Toronto stress that everybody is welcome — regardless of age, gender, orientation, ability, etc. With a bit of prodding, some part-time athletes share a few war stories to help you determine which sport is the right fit for you.

Toronto Gay Football League
For those who are rugged yet surprisingly sensitive.

“It’s not really any rougher then playing soccer,” says TGFL commissioner Ken Scott. “I’d say about 80 percent of the people we had last year had never played football at all before, so it’s definitely a great sport for beginners to come out and try.”

But if you do have a football build, no one will complain. When his team won the championship last year, Scott says, “it didn’t hurt that one of the straight guys on our team had a great body. He did a victory lap around the field in his Superman underwear. It was funny seeing all the guys standing on the sidelines watching him.”,

Cabbagetown Group Softball League
For those out to prove Karen Walker was wrong when she said, “Oh, honey, the gays don’t catch.”

“Our league is over 350 strong, with the friendliest people I’ve ever met,” raves commissioner John Hunking. He’s seen lifelong friendships bloom on the diamond, and, in his case, he met his partner of 15 years on the field.

It might be fair to say that softball players can’t keep their pants on. “We’ve had a few instances where a player was running from home plate to first, and when they arrived at the base, they felt a chill. Why? When they were running, they had tear-away pants on and the buttons had unfastened as they ran down the baseline, so there they were —  standing at first in their underwear.”,

Toronto Rainbow Reef Rangers
For rubber lovers and those who like to go down… about 130 feet.

To scuba dive, says TRRR founding member David Bress, “you don’t have to be a great swimmer — and you won’t be eaten by a shark.” No, the most dangerous thing he’s seen is “a few idiots who don’t know what they are doing or forgetting a piece of gear or forgetting to turn on one’s air.”

“But I did see photos of underwater bondage once,” he says. “It was very intense.” Encasing one’s body in neoprene would seem irresistible to anyone into rubber wear, and yes, Bress says, “there are divers out there with a variety of fetishes.”,

For those who can say “shuttlecock” without snickering.

“All of our members are welcoming and socially minded individuals who have a real zeal for life at any age,” enthuses president Vincent Chan. “We have become more than just individual members in our club; we are a family.”

But that said, Chan warns, “this isn’t the backyard game you played at family picnics — competitive badminton is a high-speed, seriously fast game. With the shuttlecock leaving a racquet at over 200 miles perhour, reflexes must be sharp to return it before it hits the ground — or your face.” Every family has its competitive drama.,

Downtown Swim Club
For a porpoise or an otter or any creature at home in the water.

“We look for people who are open to trying new things, who are fitness-minded and comfortable in a Speedo,” laughs co-chair Phillip Coupal. “And, of course, we love watersports!” No locker room fantasies here either: “Showering with over 50 gay men each week sort of takes away any mystery,” Coupal says. “If you date a swimmer, you know what you’re getting in advance.” He does note, however, fashions in body hair. “Some weeks everyone is covered in body hair, then a month later, everyone is waxed.” But there are no “body fascists,” Coupal insists. “We have men and women of every body type, ages 20 to 79-plus.”,

Toronto Gay Golf Group
For silver foxes and those who don’t want to stray too far from a martini.

“Drinking a beer or a cocktail while playing is perfectly acceptable,” says TGGG secretary Jim Freihofer. “It’s not intensely athletic, like tennis or racquetball or most of the team sports. You’re outside working on your tan, playing on a beautifully landscaped and maintained property.”

But that’s not to say that golf is an elitist sport: Freihofer says the handicapping system makes it uniquely welcoming to new players. And golfisn’t without its butch dangers: “My friend was hitting a tee shot,” recalls Freihofer, “and it ricocheted off a tree trunk and came right back at him and hit him squarely in his junk. He had bruised gonads for a month, and the rest of us laughed our collective asses off!”,

Toronto Triggerfish Water Polo Club
For party boys with just enough body fat to float.

“The Triggerfish have a pretty crazy party reputation in Toronto,” says team member Daniel Bushe, “and, especially, among the other gay water polo teams around the world. We’ve shocked and entertained with our dancefloor antics.”

The Triggerfish boys are relentlessly social, Bushe says, probably because the game itself has a way of breaking down inhibitions. “It’s water polo,” he shrugs. “There’s a lot of reaching, grabbing and pulling going on under the water. I’ve seen many a Speedo get ripped in the heat of battle.”,

Downtown Soccer Toronto
For those with chicken legs who are craving the ultimate workout.

Watching soccer on TV might make it look boring, says DST communications chair Avery Miller, “but once you step onto the field and the whistle blows, your heart races and your mind spins trying to figure out where you should be, who you should cover or where you need to pass the ball.” And that’s before all the sprinting.

But the results make up for it. “We took over one of the ‘Best Legs’ contests at Woody’s,” Avery says, “and turned it into ‘Best Soccer Legs.’ A dozen or so of us dropped our pants in front of the crowd.” This year, he teases, “Stay tuned: we might try it again.”,

Muddy York
For Gods of the Stadium and those who love them.

“Rugby is a daunting game,” says Lino DiNallo, Muddy York’s marketing director, “but many of our players weren’t athletic in high school, and many of our first-time players are over 30.” DiNallo says that even the burliest straight opponents are welcoming: “If we’re ever short players at a game, somebody from the opposition is always ready to (no pun intended) switch teams for the day. ”

DiNallo calls last year’s Bingham Cup (named for gay rugger and 9/11 hero Mark Bingham) in Minnesota, “one of the most gruelling physical, mental and emotional challenges of my life. Oh, and while there, several Muddy Yorkers almost got arrested for public indecency. We were trying to help a girl win her stagette scavenger hunt. She needed a photo of somebody mooning the camera, so several guys dropped their trousers right on a major intersection… just as a cop came around the corner!”,

Breathless Synchro Toronto
For fabulous girlymen who can endure and triumph.

It sounds like team member Nathan Doidge is writing a personal ad: “Open-minded, willing to go against the flow, not afraid of commitment,” until he finishes with, “interest in underwater fun.”

“When synchronized swimming is done well, it looks effortless,” Doidge explains, “but the reality is it’s an extremely intense and exhausting sport.” Synchro is like ballet: exhausting and demanding, hard on the body and best performed by strong, tiny girls. “We frequently perform at local meets and water shows and we always stand out,” he laughs. “A typical show might have a team of 10-year-old girls, 12-year-old girls, etc. Then there’s our team of fabulous men. We’ve always had a warm welcome from the fans wherever we’ve gone.”,

Toronto Gay Hockey Association
For those who can handle a stick and a thick piece of black rubber.

It seems almost unpatriotic for TGHA PR coordinator Stephen Reid to dash the fantasies of so many Canadians. “People think we all have orgies in the locker rooms after games,” he jokes. “We may be totally sweaty afterwards, but we are pretty much exhausted.”

It’s really about “the love of the sport,” he says, and that love can be a demanding one. “Every year, we have a drag show to raise funds for the league,” Reid explains, “by putting hockey players in drag. It is pretty hideous and always a great laugh.”,

Toronto Gay Ski and Snowboarding Club
For fashionistas as cool as the air on the ski lift.

“There are a lot of fashionable options to help stay warm,” says Yanick Landry, TGSC trip coordinator, but he insists that hitting the slopes doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. “With rentals or a modest investment in good basic or second-hand equipment, starting out doesn’t have to be the equivalent of a month’s rent,” he says. “Lots of our members don’t have cars, and we help each other out by arranging rides to events.” Most importantly, Landry notes, “we sponsor a yearly ski day for the youth from SOY, many of whom have never skied or snowboarded before.”

Such generosity of spirit does not go unrewarded, however. “Have you heard of après-ski?” he asks. “It can get very wild when you throw an outdoor hot tub into the mix. Everyone has a Whistler WinterPride story about some hot guy from Utah they met there.”,

Riverdale and Rotator Curling Leagues
For strong-armed Scots who’ve got serious stones.

The Rotator curling team plays on Wednesdays, while curler Rodney MacDonald plays on Sundays with Riverdale, which he describes as “a really fun cult, with many bonspiels [tournaments] at home and elsewhere where you get to meet lots of people.”

As with any gay sport, he laughs, “some low-grade sexual harassment is to be expected.” But overall, curling is a gentlemanly sport of tradition and ritual, but many of these traditions and rituals involve drinking.”,,

Toronto Lesbian & Gay Tennis Association
For young, gay, super-cute Asians… and everybody else.

Comedian and self-described “young, gay, supercute Asian” Vong Sundara also happens to be the TLGTA social committee chair. “At the TLGTA, the love of tennis means everything,” he says, positively geeking out. “Fun social events are sprinkled through the calendar year, including the Bette Davis Cup, where players dress up in costumes and play tennis — quite a sight to behold.”

“As a member of the larger, international GLTA World Tour, many TLGTA members take the opportunity to live out their professional tennis fantasies,” Sundara raves. “You can overhear many hearty arguments over Rafa vs Roger and whether the grass at Wimbledon has been slowed down.” At this point, we’re lost; Vong’s amazing, but can we get a Williams sister to translate?

The TGLTA sponsors the Canadian Gay Open (CGO) in May, one of Canada’s largest amateur tournaments. Now in its 18th year, the CGO has been designated a “Master Series” event by the International Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance. With more than 175 participants competing in five divisions, it should easily out-strip the GLTA’s other 60 events and prove it’s the “Master.”,

Other sporty options:

Toronto Spartan Volleyball League

Gay West Bicycle Club,

TO ’Mo Climbers

Toronto Frontrunners,


About Scott Dagostino

An arts & culture journalist who's the bastard love child of Van Morrison and Jessica Mitford
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