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A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

13 Oct

A  LEAGUE  OF  THEIR  OWN

I was told women don’t play football.
It was suggested that I stick to training and support the men’s team.
It was mentioned that a women’s league would not be embraced.
I was told we would have to play with a kid’s size ball so the ladies would not break their nails.
It was recommended we play a shorter game time because women aren’t fit enough.
I was reminded that no one would take the girls seriously.

These were the comments and statements from officials and fellow male players in 2003. I heard similar sexist messages during the 1970’s as a young girl growing up in Australia. How could a neighborhood girl ever make the transition from backyard footy to a real field when there was no opportunity? How could a girl be good enough to be the top pick in the neighborhood but the wrong gender for the school team? It had been 20 years since I touched a football, the sexism was no different, but I was.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of turning a dream into a reality. The dream, playing in the first ever women’s match of Aussie Rules Football on American soil. Our reality was recruiting and teaching American women how to play this foreign game in less than six weeks, and convincing football officials we could pull it off in time for nationals.
The women’s exhibition game was approved by the USAFL board. It was agreed upon that I would form a team from southern California and the USAFL development officer, Denis Ryan, would coach a team of “All Comers”. At the time, I knew of one other woman who wanted to play footy, Kathryn Hogg. Kathryn was from Minnesota, we had connected online through the football forums. My team, the Orange County Bombshells, now had two players on the roster, Kathryn and Leigh.

Martin Mondia offered to be our coach and it was my job to recruit players. The first three recruits were Helen Mondia, Danica Lisiewicz , and Katie Wigenroth. The team we took to nationals consisted of women who’s significant others played for the Orange County Bombers, a retired LAPD detective and her 14 yr old daughter, plus Gaelic football player Jacqueline Hruby.

Bombshell coaching sessions were held in Simi Valley, Los Angeles, and Orange County to accommodate the varying zip codes of our players. Some players were driving two hours just to come to practice. The only training session we had as a whole team (except Kathryn who lived in Minnesota) was the final week before nationals. It was during this practice some of the men from the OC BOMBERS joined our session and participated in a mock game. They had been very supportive by supplying us with footballs, cones, and training jerseys; however, this was the first time they came out to play and train with us. The Orange County Bombers were the first men’s club in America to have a women’s team. Perhaps what had started as a fun thing in their minds, was now something to be proud of. David Thurmond, Donnie Lucero, Mike Russell, Mike Hrzic, Burt Heymanson, Roger Carton are just a few of the names that come to mind, came to train with us, and supported us any way they could.

During practices, the Bombshells discussed what playing at nationals really meant to them. It wasn’t about the competing, it was the creating of camaraderie and convincing other women they could play too. Both Min and I were mindful of the reality at hand. We had to convince the men’s league that women had skills, took the game seriously, and this was not a kick and giggle type match. We did not want this game to be a one off. We wanted to show US FOOTY that women had a place on the field, and could have teams of their own.

We arrived in Kansas City on Friday night. Many male players approached me giggling about the impending women’s match on Sunday. Some of the questions thrown my way prior to the match included: were any of the female players attractive, how many were gay, can we really kick a ball, are we wearing skirts for the game, and will there be any cat fights. I think the silencer of all comments came when both Min and Mike “Diesel” Hrzic donned our team shirts that said “CHICKS PLAY FOOTY TOO”. Having the men wear these shirts somewhat normalized the reality that women were playing at nationals and it wasn’t a joke.

On Sunday morning leading up to the game, it was suggested by officials that the ladies play with a kid size ball. I found this to be very condescending and sexist. The “Bombshells” had been training with a regular size ball. The official told me he was worried about our fingernails breaking. I never thought I would be negotiating the ball size based on our fingernails. We did reach a compromise though. The women could play with a regular size ball, however, the ball could not be leather, only synthetic.

With game time looming, I was a bundle of nerves; yet, feeling very confident. Min and I knew we had done everything possible to prepare and protect our players with skills and game strategy. Our two woman rule, ensured we would never be bunched up, and our players would be spread out and running through. We had noticed watching some of the newbie men’s teams that bunching up was rather common, and having no one to kick to is problematic.

Ten minutes before game time, the “Bombshells” were huddled, and final instructions were being given. Kat and I noticed we had attracted a huge crowd for our game, and they were already getting rather noisy. Sideline comments ranged from positive, sexist, negative, and finally the sitters in silence…they were simply staring at the sideshow.
If playing our game in front of a large crowd wasn’t enough, we also had to manage live commentators calling the match over the PA system. Some of the commentary during the game was rather clever, colorful and at times rather sexist. It didn’t seem to matter though, within minutes of the game I knew we had already achieved our goal when I heard this sideline comment “Man, this is a real game of footy!”. The spectators had forgotten about sexualizing the match, and seemed more focused on rooting for the respective teams and applauding the skill level.

Both teams, the “All Comers” and the Bombshells played hard, and earned the respect of the men’s league. The Bombshells won the match, 61 – 17. For me it wasn’t about us winning the match, it was more about planting the seed, convincing, and demonstrating that women had a place on the field as players. Since this match, women now have their own division at Nationals and a U.S. national team that has played internationally in both Canada and Australia.

Happy ten years Women’s Footy, this experience has forever changed me. Women’s footy proved that “it” can be done! When your ideas and dreams are laughed at…be encouraged, it means you are on the right track. Sometimes you will find support where you least expect it. Remember there are some amazing men out there supporting women in sports. Finally, always remember, it’s not about the competing; it’s about connecting, camaraderie and community.

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Ask Questions, Look For Congruency….

28 Sep

Ask Questions, Look For Congruency....

LOVEBOLDY released an official statement a few days ago regarding their stance. I personally take issue with them having a booth at PRIDE, apologizing and hugging vunerable LGBTQ, yet not publically supporting human equality. I am not talking about marriage rights per say..its the U.N treaty the US signed in 1948.

It has been suggested that by supporting EQUALITY, it may alienate conservative Christians and closeted gays who have no other safe place to talk about their concerns.

I have been pondering this, and for me this is where “Sociological Imagination” is required.

Ok, I am teen in a conservative church in Kentucky, I stumble across your website.
LOVEBOLDLY offers to help me talk to my pastor, offers an anti-bullying seminar in my church, and perhaps even help facilitate a conversation with my parents. My church offers me celibacy and non-participation in leadership roles. My parents love me but cannot accept my homosexuality, yet LOVEBOLDLY seems to want to have more conversations about my reality.

What does that really mean?

Offering me a way out of homosexuality? (Side B )

Referring me to a church that embraces me? (like some of my conservative pastors are doing)

Perhaps remind me I am loved, lovable, but still civically and biblically unacceptable?

I think what it really comes down to for LGBTQ is shame. For me, it feels like your are negotiating shame, your shame, our shame, church shame, societal shame and civil shame. This is the shame that oppresses, weakens, and kills. SHAME is a form of toxic bullying. It is so deeply internalized, and mirrored back from society in a way that it feels impossible to ever have hope of being a happy, and healthy human being. I can empathize with my friends who have taken their lives over the years. Their emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical shame was so paralyzing and debilitating that death seemed kinder. It was usually their death that sparked an idea of change in thoughts, hearts and minds. Sadly though, death by shame has yet to create congregations coming together with their pastors and asking the big questions. I think that as long as LGBTQ are not seen as equals civically, the conservative church message of “less than” is somewhat co-signed.

http://loveboldly.net/maintain/2013/09/25/a-response-to-our-critics/

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JOHN PAULK – Renounces and Apologizes For Harmful Ex-Gay Movement

24 Apr

JOHN PAULK - Renounces and Apologizes For Harmful Ex-Gay Movement

Imagine if I asked you to change your heterosexual orientation to homosexual. You then enter into a same sex marriage in order to illustrate your change, and continue to spend the first half of your life trying to be someone you are not. It seems unimaginable doesn’t it? Yet for some people I know this has been their reality. The only difference being, they were homosexuals trying to change their orientation to heterosexual.

As many of you know, I lecture about the harms of ex-gay programs (reparative therapy) due to both personal and professional experiences. Over the years I have come to realize that many of the Ex-Gay leaders and poster children for the programs were no different than their clients. Ex-Gay leaders were modeling a surreality that is humanly impossible to sustain. It left many with chronic depression, anxiety, self loathing and perhaps an internal isolation that even the most imaginative could never understand. Their reality resembles that of a self-imposed prison. For many, it’s a life sentence of playing both the guard and the inmate. Living between these dualisms can hold someone hostage for a lifetime.

I feel and believe Ex-Gay leaders during their tenor truly thought they were being helpful. Their intentions were good, but there is no denying their message of change has left a lot of carnage for all involved. No one comes out unscathed, the leaders, the ex-leaders, the clients, the families, friends, and let’s not forget the future leaders, clients and family members.

Today a friend of mine, John Paulk, has joined the growing group of former Ex-Gay leaders who have publically apologized for their role in Ex-Gay ministries. John released his public apology today, and has given me permission to share it with you.

~ A Formal Public Apology by John Paulk ~

For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the “ex-gay movement,” where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not.

So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman for the “ex-gay movement.” I began a new journey. In the decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay” and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.

I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past. Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.

From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.

Today, I see LGBT people for who they are–beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.

I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take this initial step of transparency. Even while promoting “ex-gay” programs, there were those who called me on my own words and actions. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but they have helped me to realize this truth about who I am.

This is a life transition that has been and will continue to be, challenging. Sadly, my marriage of 20 years is in the process of ending. I want to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of truth and authenticity. Therefore, I’m drastically limiting my public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly anticipate giving back to the community.

Finally, I know there are still accounts of my “ex-gay” testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote about my journey. I don’t get any royalties from these publications, and haven’t since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my “ex-gay” story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.

John Paulk

Apologies are very personal, for some rather private, while for others they tend to be very public. In my experience, apologies tend to connect us to our past, present and future.

The past tells me apologies from Ex-Gay leaders are important, and very necessary in order to facilitate change within the Ex-Gay movement. Even though this movement boasts a forty year history, it’s undeniable its days are numbered.

The present leaves us with survivors of Ex-Gay ministries who have lost years of their life trying to change, they have been abandoned by their families and religious institutions, not to mention years of unexpressed feelings of hopelessness, shame, depression, anxiety, guilt, anger and deceit.

Living in the now, I am grateful to Ex-Gay leaders who have come forwarded and renounced their ties to the movement and continue to be part of the healing process. Last year I was fortunate enough to met and interview Darlene Bogle. Her authenticity and heartfelt honesty forever changed the way I related to Ex-Gay leaders. Michael Bussee continues to inspire me. Without his daily efforts of outreach and support, many Ex-Gay survivors would have never found a community of understanding.

The future… I see myself and others in the community continuing our pursuit of dialogue with Ex-Gay ministries and organizations. I look forward to the day we can write the final chapter in the Ex-Gay movement’s history. Our future is not one of shame and blame, but more a recipe of hope, truth, and ultimately reconciliation.

As John Paulk so beautifully said – Today, I see LGBT people for who they are–beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.

SONG OF THE DAY

23 Apr

SONG OF THE DAY-PROUD

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IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED….

23 Apr

IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED....

It has been suggested that I start a blog page since I am always seeking the grey in topics, conversations and debates.

For me, removing the black and white of an issue and focusing on the grey permits one to examine, challenge, and question ideas in a kind and respectful manner.Taking the emotional investment out of a debate has led to conversations, unexpected friendships,and at times placed me in some rather unique positions on the play ground.

The grey allows me to ask in kindness, challenge with compassion, and respectfully disagree..yet still looking for congruency in words, actions, and behaviors.

My grey means I can be a critic and fan.Some may think ideas are written in stone, however I like to believe they are authored in sand..it allows more room to move, grow, and self evolve.

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