After playing with the Outfit for over three months now, I've been going through the process of telling my friends, family and coworkers what I've been up to. When I started talking to people I knew, I had no idea that roller derby would have its own “coming out” process. It’s just a sport—I had no idea I’d be hearing so many different reactions.
“So, you play roller derby… that’s where chicks beat each other up, right?”
I never saw roller derby on television while growing up, and I have only ever known it through the less violent, more athletic revival. Roller derby of today does have bumping and blocking, but no fists flying or dog piles on the track. When one of my friends likened derby to wrestling WWE style, I was surprised. After explaining the legal blocking zones and block types, they were less concerned for my safety but also less excited about watching a game. At first I was bummed that they weren’t as on board with an athletic game as they were for a theatrical game, but I got over that pretty quickly. I love the challenges derby presents and wouldn’t want to see it changed.
“So, you play roller derby… that’s a gay thing, right?”
So, I get it—ladies in short shorts, tights pants, touching each other and knocking each other down with a booty bump, it all seems pretty gay. And there’s probably even a fair share of queer ladies on derby teams (myself included). Huffington Post even wrote an article called “Does Joining Roller Derby Make You Gay?”. Really though, roller derby isn't about your sexual identity. To me, it’s about being a strong woman, playing a sport that is physically demanding, requires skill and strategy, and, at times, is a great outlet for aggression.
“So, you play roller derby… that’s amazing.”
My favorite reaction is the one of support. I've had several coworkers who ask me when our first game is weekly, promising to come. One of them even bought me the roller derby girl Lego mini figure when he found out I made the team. I get into conversations with these friends explaining the rules, which turns out is pretty difficult without a visual, and they get excited for me when I tell them about a new skill I learned.