This weekend I attended the Stonewall Sports National Tournament. I want to preface this post by stating I had a wonderful time and was captain of an amazing team.
Friday, there was a summit that was heavily focused on diversity and inclusion and the keynote speaker was someone who is sober and shared their story of recovery. They ended their talk with challenging us to create spaces where sober individuals can feel include. This stuck with we through the weekend and has been something I have actively struggled with the league in Charlotte.
Aside from the games, every event was heavily centered around alcohol – an opening party sponsored by Corona, daily happy hours, and dinners at breweries. I noticed there really wasn’t any activity to socialize or build community that seemed to be designed with sober players in mind. I attended a lot of these events and found myself standing around with a club soda feeling bored after an hour or so. I am fortunate to be able to be in situations like that and not struggle with the obsessions of drinking, but what about players who don’t? Or those who want to play sports but don’t feel welcome at events like this? One of my pieces of feedback is going to be to create this space – maybe a social hour at a coffee shop or café, rather than just happy hours at bars.
As I realized there wasn’t a sober LGBTQ+ space (that isn’t tied to a specific recovery program) at the tournament, I also remembered that we don’t have that in Charlotte either. Stonewall Sports has been my source of community since shortly after I moved to Charlotte – it is how I met most of my friends and became a part of my identity. Since I’ve stopped drinking, this has shifted. I realized that while sports is a central part of Stonewall Sports, but the community building aspect is heavily centered around alcohol which is not what I was looking for anymore. I was looking for this league to create a space where I could be sober and social, without the focus being on alcohol. Some strides have been made – there has been a shift from bars to restaurants for after game activities, but the main activity typically involves drinking.
I have been waiting on someone else to create this space, but it has not occurred to me prior to this weekend that I can create these spaces myself. I am starting a book club, where I can spend time and get to know people in a place that is safe & inclusive for both sober people and people who drink. It has a lot of interested so far and I am interested in seeing how it goes.