Pride Month Spotlights

To celebrate Pride month, we talked to a few players in the quidditch community who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and asked them about their perspectives and experiences within and outside of our sport.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. The last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as "Gay Pride Day", and this soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include: pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia, and concerts. LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

Some important pioneers of Pride Month include Brenda Howard and Gilbert Baker. Howard (December 24, 1946 – June 28, 2005), a bisexual woman and lifelong militant activist, was known as the "Mother of Pride" for her work in organizing the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Howard was also credited with laying the foundation for the weeklong celebrations of Pride leading up the modern day Pride parades. She also cofounded the New York Bisexual Network in 1988. Baker (June 2, 1951 – March 31, 2017) was an American artist, gay rights activist, and designer of the rainbow flag (1978), a worldwide symbol of LGBTQIA+ pride. His flag became widely associated with LGBT rights causes, a symbol of gay pride that has become ubiquitous in the decades since its debut. 

To celebrate Pride month, we talked to a few players in the quidditch community who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and asked them about their perspectives and experiences within and outside of our sport. Thank you to everyone who talked with us! 

Beckett has played quidditch for a year with Tufts Quidditch! They are a co-manager for Tufts University Quidditch this coming year and they are also the social media manager for Fast Break News. They have also been able to publish quidditch comics and Tiktoks through Fast Break News. 

Dana Niswonger has been playing for over 4 seasons. She is also a referee and has been involved in the leadership of a couple initiatives to provide resources to and advocate for transgender, non-binary, and women players and coaches. 

Alexandria "Lexi" Raffa started playing quidditch at Stockton University and she now plays for Philadelphia Freedom during the regular season. She will also be playing with the New York Titans this summer for her first season with Major League Quidditch (MLQ).

Elizabeth "Liz" Stone plays for Philadelphia Freedom Quidditch Club, she is also certified as a head referee, and is a co-commissioner for East Coast Fantasy Quidditch!

Nicolas Roman has been a part of quidditch since he started his freshman year of college back in 2017. His first year he was just a player on Texas State’s junior varsity team, the Sharknados (later renamed Bobcat Quidditch), but starting his sophomore and junior year he was the events coordinator on Wizengamot eventually being elected President his senior year. He has participated in both USQ year round season and Texas Secede League (TSL) during the summer and also had the honor to compete as a part of Team Mexico during the 2019 IQA Pan-American Games in Richmond, Virginia where they placed third. He has also volunteered for USQ during 2020 Southwest Regionals in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Peter Lawrence has played for the Middlebury College Quidditch Team; this past year, they were a captain. In addition, when they were abroad, they played for the Holyrood Hippogriffs in Scotland. This summer, they are making their MLQ debut as a member of the New York Titans. 

What does Pride mean to you? How do you celebrate it?

"Pride has always been something quiet for me— it’s the little moments when I feel like I’m entirely myself. This is my first Pride Month completely ‘out and proud’! I don’t know how I’ll celebrate, but I’m so happy to have made it to this point of my journey." -Beckett

"To me, Pride is a way to connect to my people. The LGBTQIAP+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and plus) community is spread across different cities, towns, and cultures and there often is very little communication between the different enclaves of LGBTQIAP+ people. This can have the effect of making the LGBTQIAP+ community feel like a less important subcategory of local cultures, like I’m a part of the Bloomington community and I just happen to be transgender and lesbian, rather than my LGBTQIAP+ identity being a celebrated focus. When I attended my first big Pride event in Chicago, the Chicago Pride Parade in 2019, I finally felt like I was part of a real community and culture and that part of me matters, is loved, and is something to be celebrated, not merely accepted. I felt truly safe for the first time since I came out." - Dana

"Pride for me is a celebration of being able to be myself without worrying about what others think. I celebrate it by going to pride parades (when it’s safe to do so) and being unapologetically myself!" - Liz 

"To me, pride is reminding myself to never hide who I am to others, even when it’s hard to sometimes have this confidence. I’ve gone to several Pride parades in NYC but now I mostly celebrate it by spending time with friends and family who have always supported me and have never made me feel different." - Lexi

"Pride to me is a celebration and recognition of not only who I am, but of all those that came before me, now and those that will come after. It takes a lot of courage and strength for one to be open and honest about oneself and who they truly are because even in 2021 there’s still the question of "what if the world doesn’t like you?" I celebrate pride by just reminding people, just like in my everyday life, that at the end of the day no matter what, they are not alone and at least one person loves them as they are." - Nicolas 

"Pride is an experience of internal and external love. Love for oneself, love for those close to you, and love for your community at large. It is a constant celebration not limited to a single month. For me, Pride exists in moments of care, learning more about your history and the history of  LGBTQ+ folks throughout history, queer BIPOC folks in particular, advocating for the most vulnerable in our community, and continuing to exist in what every level of visibility one feels comfortable with." - Peter

What do you think people can do this Pride month to raise awareness of important issues that impact the LGBTQIA+ community?

"I think people should follow and engage with queer creators to raise awareness this month especially. Learning about LGBTQ+ issues is always amazing, but people really need to be listening to the voices of people who are being directly affected by the results of homophobia and transphobia. Of course, this also means creating spaces where LGBTQ+ people feel safe to talk and have those conversations." - Beckett

"I’m heavily involved in activism, so I’ve got a laundry list of things that people can do, from holding educational events and protests, to calling your elected representatives, to pushing your bosses or administrators to provide explicit protections for LGBTQIAP+ folks, but the most important thing that people can do is the hardest. What people really need to do is to ask uncomfortable questions. To be that person who asks their homophobic, transphobic, and/or racist family members why they are homophobic, transphobic, and/or racist and convince them that LGBTQIAP+ and BIPOC folks deserve to exist. Because legislation and court decisions are worthless without the will of the people to support them. Legislation codifies what is accepted and provides a mechanism for enforcement, but if there are still large groups of people who hate LGBTQIAP+ folks, then you get anti-queer and anti-trans laws like those that have been passing in state houses across the US. The most important thing that people can do to support LGBTQIAP+ people this Pride month is to put the hard work in to help shift the acceptable range of political thought regarding us. The most important thing that you can do is to fight the hate you know, because ignoring it just perpetuates the violence against us." - Dana

"Elevate voices that are speaking out about these things, if you see someone post information, check it out and educate yourself!" - Liz 

"Before buying pride merchandise, do some research on the company. Some corporations that don’t do any tangible work to support LGBTQIA+ communities just slap a rainbow on their merchandise and call it allyship. Research is really important this pride month." -Lexi

"Be informed, ask questions, look for ways to help, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn where you falter and how to improve, listen and embrace someone you know even if everything’s fine." - Nicolas 

"Raising awareness during Pride about issues impacting LGBTQ+ folks can happen through a couple of routes. First, listening and learning from the queer folks in your life as they speak about issues facing them and their experiences. Second, check out master lists of resources about issues facing LGBTQ+ folks. Finally, following celebrities and activists advocating for LGBTQ+ folks on social media (some folks, I think, are doing great work: Alok Vaid-Menon, Laverne Cox, and Chellaman)." - Peter

Is there a piece of literature or media that is important to you that you encourage others to explore in relation to the themes brought about during Pride month?

"I’m a big fan of comics so I have to recommend webcomics like Check Please! (a queer hockey comic) and Rock and Riot (it takes place in the fifties but covers a huge span of queer identities— it was one of the first places I saw my identity represented)." - Beckett

"I’m a long time fan of Star Trek, and I’d encourage people to examine the differences in LGBTQIAP+ representation between Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 80’s and 90’s and modern shows like Star Trek: Discovery, and see how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. I’d also encourage people to watch She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, as it’s a LGBTQIAP+ story that is not focused on homophobia and coming out and is set in a world where being LGBTQIAP+ is just accepted without question. Finally, I’d encourage people to find stories and pictures of LGBTQIAP+ folks from before the 80’s and see that we have always been here." - Dana

"I would highly recommend Pose on FX. It is a show that speaks on a lot of themes and issues that the LGBTQIA+ community has faced and still faces today, especially those in the BIPOC community but also celebrates those in the community. I also recommend Andi Mack and One Day at a Time for its positive and progressive portrayal of LGBTQIA+ youth and how friends and family react to their coming out." - Nicolas 

"In terms of media, I feel like Paris is Burning is a fantastic and honest look at Drag Culture in NYC during the mid-to-late 1980s, absolutely essential viewing. I also am a sucker for young adult fiction and would recommend Song of Achillies and They Both Die at the End as they are great representations of queer young adults." - Peter

Thinking to the quidditch community, what are ways people can make our sport more inclusive and diverse as we prepare for the upcoming season?

"Listening to queer voices is super important right now. While I appreciate allies, I’d love to see trans voices amplified in quidditch and in the ways our teams can support us." - Beckett

"I have found that there is quite a bit of acceptance of LGBTQIAP+ people in quidditch, but there is always more work to be done. I think that providing more resources for coaches and captains that are less inherently binary, and analyzing accepted assumptions about genders would be a major step forward. Many trainings that I’ve gone to for women players have assumed that all women are smaller and weaker than men, but have not considered transgender women and men, and have ignored non-binary people altogether. Worse, a common assumption is that non-binary people are uniformly assigned-female-at-birth and are small and thin. A common assumption outside of quidditch as well, but the perpetuation here still causes issues. For example, I am usually bigger and stronger than anyone else on the pitch and I am a woman, a transgender woman, but a woman all the same. The training and coaching materials that are available for women don’t apply to me at all, and a new captain trying to implement those resources would have no idea how to work with a player like me. Providing transgender and non-binary specific resources would help make quidditch more inclusive. Lastly, the intersection between race and gender creates additional obstacles for the people in that intersection. Expanding the inclusivity and accessibility of quidditch for BIPOC is necessary for quidditch to grow as a sport." - Dana 

"Include pronouns when doing introductions, be supportive of everyone, put the same effort into developing the talents of female and gender non-conforming players as you would a male player." - Liz 

"Get to know all your teammates, new and old. Something I heard at my last MLQ practice really stuck with me and that’s ‘when one member of your team scores everyone scores’. Passing to women, gender non-conforming players, and nonbinary teammates is a big way we can make our sport more inclusive." - Lexi

"Reach out and advertise to other organizations on campus or in the community that could have people who have potentially never heard of quidditch or have been nervous to approach your team before. It would also be good to showcase members on your team that are out and proud and volunteer with local organizations in the community." - Nicolas 

"Personally, I think we need a more honest discussion of challenges that trans athletes face entering the sport. As a non-binary person raised as a man, I have often felt a sense of being an outsider in the community. At least for me, there is a fear that my value as a player will be reduced to someone who exists to take advantage of the gender rule. I know that this is something that women also experience. I think addressing this requires a more extensive discussion of gender within quidditch and the role that the gender rule plays in the sport, and how teams ‘exploit’ it, for lack of a better word. Another fear that I often have as someone who does not ‘present’ as nonbinary, is that my presence on the pitch will lead to other teams or spectators to make comments about gender rule. I know that when I was abroad there were very explicit discussions before games between both teams and officials about which players on either team were outside of the binary. While this was public, it helped to ensure that teams did not make unjust gender calls during games and would also properly gender the players while on pitch." - Peter

What brings you joy in the quidditch community?

"The people! Maybe that’s a cliche answer, but I’ve really made the best friends because of quidditch." - Beckett

"Quidditch is one of the first places that accepted me as who I am. I have made lifelong friends in the sport and have made memories that I will cherish forever. Quidditch has and continues to shape me, and I love every second, from when I’m on the pitch to just hanging out with my team. There are so many amazing people in quidditch, and they do incredible work, both inside and outside the sport. I love that I have friends across the country because of quidditch, and I even have friends all around the world because of quidditch. It’s amazing that I can be chatting with Chicago United players about everyday things like proper hot dog preparation and also be chatting with Peruvian and Italian players about similar things, with absolutely none of it being related to quidditch, but all of us have been brought together by our ‘made up sport’. It’s incredible." - Dana

"All the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet over the years!" - Liz

"Traveling, meeting new people, and being competitive. Quidditch has introduced me to some really great people and now because of it I have a friend group who likes to road trip together. We drove 24 hours to Texas for Nationals in 2019 and still missed each other when we got home!" - Lexi

"The people. I love the sport and competing but it’s the people I get to meet through quidditch that brings me the most joy because we all come from different backgrounds and have different reasons for playing." - Nicolas

"The love for the game. We come together, at multiple levels of competitiveness, to run around a field on brooms. You really have to love what you do. We stick around despite the ridicule, and I love that." - Peter

Do you have a favorite Pride song or queer anthem?

"I love the song ‘Daughter’ by Ryan Cassata. It definitely got me through some rough patches and it is great for belting!" -Beckett

"I’m kinda basic and I love ‘Born This Way’ by Lady Gaga." - Dana

"‘You Need to Calm Down’ by Taylor Swift and ‘girls/girls/boys’ by Panic! at the Disco." - Liz

"I don’t have a song in mind, but I have two artists. Lady Gaga and Kesha have always shown support for the LGBTQ+ community in their songs, concerts, and daily life." - Lexi

"‘No Matter What’ by Calum Scott." - Nicolas 

"‘Let’s have a Kiki’ by the Scissor Sisters. An absolute banger with one of the best intros ever." - Peter