Having played in the WNCAA for two seasons and in two sports, I had the chance to compete with the best athletes in the country. Some were even chosen to don the national colors. However, the stereotype remains that basketball is the sport of lesbians. Yet, not everyone in a team is one. Some may look like one, but isn’t. Others can be described as boi, butch, or androgynous. I’d describe myself as androgynous to leaning femme.
How would one know? Perhaps you have a ‘gaydar’ or a third eye for you to be able to spot. Since coming out to myself (late last year) and to a few friends early this year, I’ve been picking up the vibes, so it’s easier for me to know. Although I would say that it is quite confusing with femmes. Altogether, I just keep it to myself, and say, at least that they are just being themselves, unmindful of others!
Perhaps, the stereotype lesbian ball player would look like: thin, flat chest, short/tall, quick and agile, or strong and forceful, and has short hair. In addition, they thrive on aggressive plays and initiating contact with the opposing player. At times, some would ‘psyche out’ the other team’s best player by doing annoying gestures in front of them (i.e. hit them w/o the referee/s seeing, or do any type of boasting to throw off the opposing player). Moreover, they have their own legion of viewers in: girlfriend (if they have one, and when they do, they snag the prettiest girls out there that will make any man jealous), friends and/or classmates who cheer them on.
Off court, usually after games, some really prep in men’s attire as they meet their supporters. With them, you will be surprised at the change of their demeanor: some quiet, others playful, unassuming, ordinary person that doesn’t brag about their achievements. Instead, they let their play do the talking, and the Filipino culture has a big influence to this.
In the Philippines, society has defined masculine and feminine roles. Men are perceived as the head of the family, the breadwinner, decision-maker, logical, tough and aggressive. Meanwhile, women are seen as followers, shows emotion, approachable, caring and loving towards the family and to those that need her. In short, women are seen as ‘handmaid’, ‘helpmeet’ to complement the husband.
I’ve realized that what these ‘lesbians’ have shown on court is just a mirror image of the signs of the times: a dynamic Philippine society where women, regardless of orientation, can be at par (or even better) than their male counterparts, in any field that they set their hearts and minds into. As society limits opportunities for the Filipina baller/sportswoman to shine beyond the college level, then this becomes the challenge to simply play their hearts out and show what they’re made of.
For example, women college players have a higher graduation rate compared to men because there is no women’s professional league to showcase their skills. While amateur leagues in WPBL and PWBL have uplift the status of women’s basketball, heavy sponsorship is needed for both as they thrive on school tie-ups, while some teams in the PWBL participate for the love of the game. Hence, if you’re a really good player then you have a shot at playing in the WPBL via try-outs or with your school’s partnership. Otherwise, you have the PWBL wherein you form your own team and raise the necessary funds to be able to play.
Some have been fortunate enough to have remained involved in basketball or in other sports through their work as: coach, trainer, instructor, lecturer, or even in sports management level. Meanwhile, the rest of us will just reminisce the old days by supporting our Alma Mater or play pick-up games as form of exercise.
The stereotyping of pinay ballers/sportswoman may never go away, but really, who cares? The bigots who profess that they are morally upright? Yeah, right! The school admin remains neutral, while their loved ones happy to see them comfortable in themselves.
As someone who has always defied the odds, this quote summarizes the point:
“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”
I came across this quote while browsing through Lisa Ray’s site. Lisa Ray is a Canadian-Indian-Polish model-actress in the award-winning independent films of novelist and director of Shamim Sarif’s I Can’t Think Straight and The World Unseen. Both films were produced in 2007 and portrayed gender equality, social justice and visibility for the lesbian community (IMDb, 2009).
In essence, the quote struck me hard, left me thinking on why should sexuality (be it mine or others) be anyone’s business? It doesn’t matter really, what others think, say or do. Just keep playing your hardest, by being yourself and don’t waste time on others. Play on!
IMDb, 2009. Lisa Ray.