“There shouldn’t be a code of ethics that is different on the court or in the locker room than there is when you are out in broader society. If you don’t believe in racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, ableism for example when you are at home or at work then call that out when you see it in athletic spaces.” Founder of GLOBETHOTTERS, advising cisgendered men to call out hate in athletic spaces. We also discuss with Keegan, the responsibility and influence athletic bodies have in raising trans awareness, the impact of “Queering sport” and more… GLOBETHOTTERS a contemporary basketball viewing party based in L.A. features art, comedy and performance art whilst creating a safe space for LGBTQ sporting fans.
Founders KEEGAN and SMEZA
Celebrating Queer culture through sporting culture may seem radical given the prevalence of ingrained sexism in sports. Talk to us about the inception and meaning of GLOBETHOTTERS and why such a progressive intersection of cultures is paramount?
I am a performance artist and a huge fan of basketball, but when I came out as trans, the way I interacted with the game changed. I used to go to a bar or a local spot to see if a game was on TV and watch it. Now, that kind of act that seems so simple – is so much more complicated because of the way I navigate the world as a trans person. I found myself losing all passion for athletics. Alongside my creative partner and fiancée Smeza, we launched GLOBETHOTTERS, a periodic event that combines basketball, art, and comedy, while also building a safe space for LGBTQ sports fans. The next event takes place at the Friend in Silver Lake, L.A. during Pride Month on June 4th. This event offers an alternative take on the salon-style performance revue in which queer creatives use the social atmosphere of a viewing party as a platform to present their work and connect with each other. Featuring some of L.A.’s finest queer comedians as the night’s halftime performers, attendees can enjoy a stream of the game that is stripped of the commentary and supplemented with a DJ spinning music as well as video art that is provided in lieu of commercials.
In recent years, the NBA has made strides toward inclusivity. In the fall, the Lakers held their first-ever Pride Night, where they honored Jason Collins, the first (and so far only) player to come out while playing in the NBA. Reggie Bullock has worked with GLAAD and recently made a donation to the organization in honor of his sister, a trans woman who was murdered in 2014. Even LeBron James has shown support of trans women with a shoutout to the stars of the FX series Pose on Twitter. People listen to that. Their platform is huge and whether young queer people engage with mainstream sports or not the impact that pro athletes have on society is monumental and it affects us. While the NBA is catching up with its practice of inclusivity, the WNBA is ahead of all the men’s leagues in terms of racial and gender diversity and inclusion. The most recent study released by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which assesses the racial and gender hiring practices of professional sports leagues gave the WNBA a combined grade of an A for race and gender, which included individual grades of an A+ for race and an A for gender. This was the 13th consecutive year that the WNBA has received at least A’s for its overall race, gender and combined grades. L.A. is a great place for a queer basketball viewing party because we are a city the LGBTQ community flocks to for our inclusivity. On top of that, L.A. is a basketball city – from the Lakers to the Clippers to the Sparks. Athletics is constantly at the epicenter of pop culture so for that reason, I believe the NBA/WNBA taking a stand for inclusivity and allyship is extremely valuable.
As a trans female basketball player, your best and worst moment on or off the court and what you learn from those experiences?
Best Moment: on the court while playing at the local hoop I frequent near my apartment in L.A. a few months back I was shooting around by myself listening to music on my headphones like I normally would do and was just having a good day I guess, hitting shot after shot when a group of kids came up to me and asked if I was in the NBA. I replied, “No, but I wish I was in the WNBA!” In that moment it was so clear through the awe in these young kids’ eyes that they don’t see someone who is different, someone who is a man in a sports bra and yoga pants; they simply see a basketball player that they look up to and are inspired by. These powerful moments usually at the hands of children remind me that all our hate is learned and not truly innate.
Worst Moment: off the court came while taking the train to a friend’s show when I was the victim of harassment and violence from a very, very angry man. The worst part though was that the train was full of people watching the altercation go down and [nobody] said or did absolutely nothing. I even saw a few queer community members heading to the same show as me and they just watched as I was harassed and assaulted. As I cried and waited for the next stop to get off the man kept yelling, “That is how I feel every single day.” It truly broke my heart. Not the harassment or violence, but the silence from my peers and the pain this man was obviously in.
How has your relationship with health, fitness and masculinity developed and what advice would you have for cisgender men in the context of sporting spaces?
I grew up heavily involved in athletics in Orange County. I played everything from Baseball, Soccer, Basketball, Swimming, Water Polo to Rugby. Water Polo and Rugby led me to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, M.D. where I played a couple of seasons before transferring after my sophomore year. After leaving the Academy and entering my early twenties I started to really struggle with my gender identity and got really depressed and unhealthy. I stopped engaging with athletics like I used to, but I still watched it on TV. I got involved with the theatre for the first time in my life and everything started to click. I found a new relationship to my body rooted in self-expression not competition and I began exploring who I was. When I was 26 and had been basically living in the closet for a lifetime I finally came out as trans. For the first time in my life I had confidence in my body and re-engaging with athletics has been extremely empowering. I started playing pickup basketball daily in Chicago when I was living there and haven’t looked back since moving to L.A. There is a magic on the court I feel when I play now. I am just dancing, moving, having fun and feeling one with my physical body which as a trans person is a daily struggle.
My advice for cisgender men is to stick up for what you believe in off the court when you are on the court. For a lot of men athletics heavily shapes and defines their lives and personalities. This space is an extremely valuable platform to exchange ideas, beliefs, and attitudes. There shouldn’t be a code of ethics that is different on the court or in the locker room than there is when you are out in broader society. If you don’t believe in racism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, ableism for example when you are at home or at work then call that out when you see it in athletic spaces. The athletic patriarchy is alive and strong and will take generations of dismantling to eradicate. Calling out your friends’ bigoted comments is a great start.
Different to a traditional viewing party, GLOBETHOTTERS features Queer artists and comedians during the game’s halftime. What impact do you see “Queering” sport having at large for all sports enthusiasts?
I truly believe through “queering” sport we can see the art that lays within sport and when we view it from the lens of the theatre, performance art, dance or music we see how expressive these games can be. Our generation has been great at bringing variety to our viewing experiences, whether on screens or on stage we like taking in different viewpoints, forms, and mediums. Sport is just another one of those mediums that if we twist and distort it from its oppressive roots something really beautiful can be seen.
“These powerful moments usually at the hands of children remind me that all our hate is learned and not truly innate.”
What does redefine “Health and Fitness” mean to you?
To me redefining “Health and Fitness” means taking the competition out of traditional athletics and finding the truth in expression that can be found in exploring your relationship to your body and how it moves with different objects. I think of all the possibilities available when the focus in athletics is not to win, but to heal.
You’ve mentioned the importance of inclusion, visibility and have encouraged trans athletes to “find your own court.” Can you expand on this and what role basketball has played for you in exploring and owning your identity?
As a white able-bodied trans woman, I am well aware of my privilege. I know not everyone has the opportunity that has been available to me as a trans person who received overwhelming support when I came out, that being said, I believe it is very powerful to leverage that privilege by putting myself into spaces where our community is less visible.
The basketball court is just a small version of that for me. When I go to these parks, gyms or wherever to shoot around, not only does it help me find the confidence and empowerment in myself as a trans person, but I also believe I am acting as a representative for my community and even in the simplest of ways I can help shift the narrative around trans people and what we are capable of. I know not every trans person can insert themselves into these spaces in the world for fear of their own safety, but I still urge my trans siblings to find even the tiniest spaces where small amounts of change can happen and make a large impact on how society views us.
The Season Finale of GLOBETHOTTERS is June 4th. What can a newcomer expect and who does the lineup of performance artists include?
A newcomer can expect a community space where throughout the night we bring up queer creatives to showcase their work and break up the viewing experience. The game is a vehicle for community space so we center the night around the artists and let the game float in the periphery. This month we have an amazing lineup of artists including:
Comedy from Kyle Mizono @jylemizono, Christine Medrano @chrissymeds, Corie Johnson @uncoriedinated, Mary Jane French @maryjanefrench, Teresa Bateman @badgaltuhriri, and Margo Bateman @averagelover69.
Music from Cat Mahatta @catmahatta and Moisture Boys @moistureboys
Visual/Video Art from Rebecca Diablo @reboxadee
Performance Art from my partner, Smeza @smezameza), and I @future_keegz
Wellness Goals for 2019?
A goal of mine when I started GLOBETHOTTERS was to find a way to take the ethos of the event and put it into a performance piece. As a performance artist, I love curating and I find even greater joy in creating my own work alongside my partner, Smeza. This June we are honored to be participating in the Bubbly Creek Performance Art Festival at DFBRL8R in Chicago. We will be debuting a new piece entitled Work/Out. Work/Out is a durational performance piece that intersects athletics, performance, and installation art with trans/femme/queer identity. Through collaboration and team dynamics, Smeza and I use the sport of basketball fused with our own relationships to our identities to challenge and bend the norms and rules found in a culture of athletics dominated by masculinity. Work/Out investigates the “work” that takes place in asserting your identity and living “out” in spaces you are not usually represented (the work to be out is truly a workout). This performance/installation is inspired by our curation of GLOBETHOTTERS and puts the intersection of basketball, art, and trans/femme/queer identity into practice through an intricate dance on the court and the steady perseverance of obstacles created by patriarchal standards that permeate even our most recreational activities.
What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?
TRANS IS INFINITE
“There is a magic on the court I feel when I play now. I am just dancing, moving, having fun and feeling one with my physical body which as a trans person is a daily struggle.”
GLOBETHOTTERS Pride Month Editon.
“This is a space centered around connecting queer-identifying individuals through mainstream sports – which are usually not a welcoming or supportive space for LGBTQ community members,” says Smeza and Keegan, the duo that hosts and curates GLOBETHOTTERS.
When: Tuesday 4th June, 7:30pm. (Free Entry)
Where: The Friend, 2611 Hyperion Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027.