By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly
As an out lesbian who’s played sports all my life — specifically basketball — I am thrilled that Portland has the Portland Gay Basketball Association (PGBA), a part of the National Gay Basketball Association (NGBA). Started in 2007 by Ben Richardson, PGBA is now in its fifth year. The association offers weekly open gyms for basketball and recreation league teams with a mission to create a safe and friendly sports atmosphere for members and supporters of the LGBTQ community.
Jeremy Munro and Peter Myers are PGBA commissioners. They organize and run this group and are excited because in the 2012-2013 season there were 32 people participating, making up four teams. It was their first league and they hope to continue growing.
Currently there are no women’s teams in this league but Munro is hoping that this will soon change.
“The men’s PGBA members will be excited to see [more women joining] and we’ll want to help in any way we can,” Munro says.
Portland boasts many sporting organizations that cater specifically to the LGBTQ community: the Rose City Softball Association, Portland Frontrunners, Amazon Dragons Paddling Club, NetRippers F.C., PDX Pride Bowling League, Ruby Red Flippers — not to mention Portland’s two LGBTQ-friendly women’s football teams — and the list goes on. It occurs to me that there is a niche for the gay-centric sports organizations that include queer women.
I personally believe that, more often than not, queer athletes are drawn to LGBTQ organizations for one main reason: people feel comfortable and enjoy hanging out with people of similar backgrounds and life experiences.
“For me, the gay basketball organizations across the country have brought me great friendships. I have made lasting friendships with players who live all over the country, and I’m very proud of that. I can’t recommend gay sports organizations enough to everyone,” Munro says.
But as a basketball player myself who identifies as a queer woman, I had to ponder the question, why aren’t more queer women signed up to play in this fantastic gay league? Is homophobia so much more prevalent in men’s sports than women’s sports to the point that they need a separate league? If more queer women knew about a gay-centric league, would they join?
I know many groups of women of all ages and backgrounds that play both pickup games and official leagues basketball weekly. My personal experience has been that homophobia has not been an issue. The women I’ve played with and talked to about this issue consistently comment they aren’t concerned about someone’s sexual orientation, they just want to play basketball.
Liz Leavens runs one of the women’s basketball pickup nights and identifies as a lesbian.
“From my experience as a woman, I don’t need a ‘gay’ league to feel comfortable,” Leavens says. “I’d prefer it though.”
Long time basketball Player Rebecca Darling-Budner says that homophobia doesn’t seem as thick in women’s sports as it does in men’s.
“In fact, it seems like straight and gay women enjoy just playing hoops — regardless of sexual orientation,” Darling-Budner says. “Given how much hoops there already is for women in terms of the leagues and pick up, it might be hard for them to make it happen anyway. “
All this being said, it’s fantastic that we not only have our own Portland Gay Basketball Association but they are truly welcoming of everyone. In addition to weekly pickup games and league play, the PGBA also travels to other cities. They’ll represent Portland this weekend with two teams heading to Las Vegas to play in the “Sin City Shootout,” and in April they’ll be heading to the Coady Roundball Classic in Chicago.
Shaley Howard is a sports writer for PQ Monthly as well as an athlete, sports enthusiast, and organizer of the annual HRC Women’s 3×3 Basketball Tournament. She is also is the owner and operator of Scratch N’ Sniff Pet Care, which she considers the best job in the world. Shaley can be reached at email@example.com.