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    Summer Sports Staycation


    It’s Summer, Get Outdoors

    By John Chen

    Summer has finally arrived after a much needed, but tremendously wet, winter and spring. For the LGBT community, summer holds great significance because, across the country, we celebrate our gender identification and sexuality, strengthen our unity, fight for equality, and entrench ourselves in the uphill battle against stigmatism, marginalization and heteronormativity. Summer also happens to be the perfect time of the year to be outdoors, enjoy the warmth, frolic, show some skin and get healthy! So I say to you, show your pride and play!

    For the last year and a half, I have written about many LGBT sports and organizations, all the while encouraging and imploring you to give them a try, even if you’ve never played sports before. Sports, in my humble opinion, provide a great way to get healthy, level the playing field, build self-esteem, and meet people—friends, tricks and maybe that special someone.

    Now that summer is here, go out and play social doubles with the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Federation (gltf.org); sign up for Friday Night Lights with the San Francisco Gay Flag Football League (sfgffl.org); kick the ball around with Spikes Soccer Club (sfspikes.com); bump, set and spike on luscious green lawns with Oakland LGBTQA Volleyball (Meet Up); or hit, throw and catch large balls with Silicon Valley Gay Softball Summer League (svsl.org).

    What? You say you aren’t athletic? Well, I’ve got the perfect sporting activity for you: hiking. It’s the ultimate outdoor activity where boundless nature, wonder and beauty are literally at your feet. My good friend Nino (last name withheld) currently helps lead the 3rd Saturday Hiking Group, where they select moderate scenic hikes to wondrous local destinations—such as Alamere Falls and Big Basin—on every 3rd Saturday of each month (surprise!).

    Nino tells me that although the group consists of mostly hirsute men, more commonly known as bears, they welcome everyone regardless of animal species, gender and gender identification. In fact, Nino says they often encounter hikers who ask the name of this attractive bearded men group. Answers range from a social group to tryouts for Naked and Afraid, since many clothes have come off on hot days.

    Nino also enthusiastically conveyed that their hikes can be very educational. For example, some members are geology, local history and flora and fauna experts who are more than happy to educate your eager and willing mind. The 3rd Saturday Hiking Group (same name on Facebook) can be a great workout for both the body and the intellect! Oh, and they even go drinking after the hikes! What more can you ask for?

    You say you can’t make 3rd Saturdays of every month? There is no need to twist your underwear into a frenzy, because there are plenty of other LGBT outdoor and hiking groups that are sure to fit into your busy social calendar. On Meet Up, you can find the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Chapter of the Sierrans, Lesbian Friendly Hikers Over 50, East Bay Gay Men’s Hiking Group, and Bay Area Out and Outdoors. Got any more excuses?

    Now that summer is in full swing and Pride festivals across the U.S. are underway, we have much to be proud of, but there’s something that’s still very telling regarding our overall progress as a community. Talking with numerous LGBT athletes and even dedicated leaders, many do not feel comfortable with their names mentioned or photos taken specifically associating them with a LGBT moniker. For most, they fear both direct and indirect discrimination, mainly at their workplace.

    It is now summer of 2017, and yet there is still enough fear of workplaces and communities harboring homophobia predicated on social and religious stigma. Despite all the progress Pride has made, we are still not comfortable with how some people may perceive us and the potential dangers of marginalization, discrimination, backlash, and even violence.

    One day, all of us shall take great pride in being positively identified as LGBT without stigmatization and the act of discrimination. To get there, we must all get out to celebrate who we are and show that we can play on the field, in the workplace, anytime, any task, anywhere. The sun just came out—you know what to do!

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.