I am what I scrum: Gay rugby team tackles the cliches
You can find them every Sunday afternoon, redefining what the LBGTI community do with their spare time
The Green Point Park in Cape Town is a festive place on a Sunday afternoon, when families soak up the final hours of the weekend sitting on picnic blankets and throwing rugby balls around.
It’s also a popular meeting ground for social sports groups, and the Blight Rugby Club can be found there every week. Blight is pretty much like every other group that uses the facility, except for one thing – most of the players are gay.
“We wanted to make a safe space for people in the LGTBIQ community,” said founder David Lee, 39. “We’re trying to give everyone a chance to play and participate.”
Blight was informally put together in 2011 by a group of friends who found that team sports were less accessible to members of the gay community than they would have liked.“Team sports are more restricted,” said Lee. “Many people leave school and stop playing sport. Even at school I was terrified of playing against the bigger guys and the stigmas didn’t help.”
The group consists of a varying 10 to 20 people, mostly gay men, but the group’s aim to be as inclusive as possible means they warmly welcome people of any sexual orientation. They also form teams and play against other groups who might be sharing the communal space.
“We never hide the fact that we’re gay. Most of the guys are out [of the closet], at least to their families. It’s a social vibe and we try not to be discriminatory, so straight people are also welcome.”Jannie Bean also plays regularly with the group and said that the ability to participate in a social sports event like Blight means that members of the gay community can move away from stigmas and the usual social scene of dating and clubbing that can result in “losing real connections with people”.
“People always ask, are you one of those gays … the type that sits at home, drinks wine and tells lovely stories all day,” the 28-year-old who joined in 2016 said. “It’s changing the norms.”
Bean played rugby in school before he came out as gay, but says that many queer people become isolated from the social sports scene due to public misnomers about its culture. According to Bean, the group is also a place where people can meet without the “expectation” of sex.
“Everyone gets told they’re supposed to be a certain way,” he said. “The dating sites have certain expectations that aren’t applicable here and it’s a great way to build friendships and find support structures.”
The group finishes a light warm-up and is quickly challenged to a game against another group. Although they lose, Lee and his team leave the common to have a drink with smiles on their faces.
“People don’t judge you,” said Lee. “It’s about being yourself and enjoying the day.”