Not Now, Honey. I’m Late for Gay Softball

Henry Belanger, a straight man, loves his gay softball team. This is his story.

Let me get this out of the way: I’m straight. While I am thin (see my skinny legs above), anyone who knows me can tell you that I am not particularly neat. I enjoy having sex with women—or, I should say, with one beautiful, sexy woman: my wife. In the not-too-distant future, she and I are likely to make babies, and when we do, it will be the old-fashioned way, through persistent copulation.

Even so, next weekend I will get together with a few dozen gay men for a few hours of hot, sweaty action. It will probably be in the nineties, but we’ll all be wearing leather.

When I get home at the end of the day, I’ll be filthy, and so exhausted I’ll be unable to perform for my wife. I might even phone a buddy or two and brag about my exploits.

I am a straight man. A straight man who loves gay softball.

♦♦♦

Six years ago, when I was in grad school, I was looking to join a softball team. I had played in a rec league in college, and though I wasn’t very good—I played back-up first base behind my sixty-something philosophy professor—I loved getting out in the sun, chasing down fly balls at practice, and being part of a team.

I asked around and found that the men’s league in my town had a waiting list. I also found that, as a first baseman, my prospects for playing on a team in that league anytime soon were slim—first base being the position usually reserved for rotund power-hitters, the guy with bad knees, and old-timers.

So when my friend asked me if I’d come out for his softball team (no tryout required), I said yes before he had a chance to mention that it was a gay softball team, in Boston’s gay softball league. (Each team is allowed three heterosexual players. Though limiting the number of breeders caused some controversy recently in a national gay softball tournament, there have been no similar problems in Boston.)

Our first practice was on a dark, rainy afternoon in April. I remember being pleasantly surprised on a couple of counts: first, despite not playing for five years, I wasn’t the worst player out there. Going into it, I knew I wasn’t great, but to be the worst guy on a team full of fairies would have been a serious blow to my ego.

Second, it wasn’t a team-full of fairies; these were some of the most un-flamboyant, “straightest-acting” gay guys I had ever met. (I learned later not to use the expression “straight-acting” when referring to masculine gay men. “We’re not acting straight,” one told me. “We’re not acting at all.”)

I’m not going to tell you that gay softball is the same as straight softball, because it’s not. They weren’t all masculine gay jocks. We were among the worst teams in the league, and a few of our players were terrible. Some threw like girls and possessed a level of fabulous daintiness that would’ve made them stand out in any other league.

One of the guys took dressing for the game more seriously than the game itself. Our standard-issue uniform was a simple blue baseball shirt, but our catcher showed up on opening day in a full uni—complete with stirrup socks and the tightest pair of gray baseball pants you’ve ever seen.

He proceeded to go 0-for-5 in that and almost every game we played that season. But he looked fantastic doing it. (If you’re tempted to make a pitcher-catcher joke here, don’t bother—I’ve heard them all, many, many times over.)

I was playing well and having lots of fun, and I only missed one or two games that first season. This presented a problem when I had to explain to my straight friends why I couldn’t stay out all night drinking, or go to the Sunday afternoon Red Sox game.

Initially, I’d tell them I had a softball game, but depending on how open-minded I thought they were, I might or might not include any details. (Not surprisingly, my dad was the last man in my life to learn of my “secret.”)

Eventually, I had to come clean to them all, and I felt obliged to explain away their look of disbelief: “Dude, I’m not gay … I just want to play … The straight league had a waiting list …”

If that didn’t work (if they wondered if my years of chasing girls was an elaborate cover), I’d explain that I joined to meet girls. Stay with me… the gay guys I knew in college always had hot female friends, and I thought that being the teammate of these hypothetical girls’ gay friend might give me some cred as an open-minded, datable—or even just doable—guy.

Now, in my sixth season in the league, I know how incredibly silly that idea was. Most gay dudes don’t hang out with beautiful women—they hang out with other gay dudes.

Invariably, my straight friends would want to know if I got hit on that first season, or if the guys were checking out my ass all the time—didn’t that make me uncomfortable? I don’t have much of an ass to check out (I’m 6-foot-7 and two hundred pounds), and if any of the gay dudes were checking it out, I didn’t notice.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t hit on once in a while (though not by teammates, who know they’d be wasting their time). I was, and I took it as a compliment. I rarely get hit on by anyone, so if you’re telling me I’m good-looking, I’m all ears.

There are times, though, when the language on the bench can get a little too, well, gay for my taste—“Mmm, who’s he?”—but I’ll just roll my eyes and take some more practice swings. Occasionally Coach will remind the guys that they’re in mixed company: “C’mon, boys, you’re freaking Henry out.”

People want to know if gay softball is like real softball, or if guys are skipping around the bases and stepping out of the batter’s box to fix their hair.

Um, no. But there are other differences. (And I’d know, because I’ve played in a couple straight softball leagues.)

First, the better teams in the gay league would absolutely wipe the floor with the straight teams I’ve played on and against.

Second, there’s a lot more grab-ass and crotch-adjustment in straight softball, and when someone gets a hit, their teammates yell “nice piece!”—a phrase that strikes me as a little gay.

Third, there’s a lot more whining and pouting in straight softball when an ump misses a call.

Unfortunately, I’ve brought some of the whining to gay softball. In my early years in the league, I developed a reputation as, well, a hyper-competitive bitch. I complained a lot more than the other guys when calls didn’t go my way, and I used to get down on myself and throw my glove into a fence, or curse a blue streak when I made a costly error.

I’ve come close to getting tossed out of a few games for arguing with umpires (most of whom are also gay), and a few times my coach has had to get in my face and tell me to shut the hell up.

My aggressiveness on the base-paths—trying to break up double-plays, for example—has probably contributed to this reputation, although I don’t do it maliciously. For me, playing hard is part of the fun.

In recent years I’ve made a conscious effort to be more like my teammates, and not take myself so seriously. It’s not that they don’t take the game, and winning, seriously. It’s just that they have a much healthier perspective on why they’re there—to have fun.

Most teams, anyway. There’s one team in our division, The Force, that’s coached by a chain-smoking lesbian who takes gay softball really seriously. She can be delightful when not playing softball, but on the field she runs a tight, highly competitive, profanity-laced ship. “That’s fuckin’ bullshit!” her players will yell at umpires after they make a call that displeases them, even if they’re up fifteen runs at the time. They don’t like losing, and to their credit, they rarely do.

Most teams in Boston’s gay softball league aren’t out to prove their toughness, or to pretend like they’re playing major league baseball. When someone bounces into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded, or runs into an out, they don’t give the guy dirty looks. And they don’t relegate the guy to the end of the bench.

In 2006, my contracting company began sponsoring my team, and we became the Brushbacks. In 2008, our team split into two (some of the guys wanted to move up to a higher division), and I sponsored both teams: the Brushbacks and… wait for it… the Studs.

I wanted a carpentry-related name, but they were not amused by my suggestion: the Hammerin’ Homos.

In 2009, with the recession hitting my business pretty hard, I couldn’t afford the sponsorships anymore. The new sponsor, a gay nightclub, bought us fancy new jerseys that replaced the cotton T-shirts I’d provided. I was honored when the guys decided not to change our team name.

In March of this year, the friend who brought me into the league wrote me an email—he was changing teams. Some of the other original members were moving on to new teams as well. Did I want to come with them? I didn’t even consider it.

I love my team, and look forward to gay softball so much, I can’t really imagine a scenario—aside from maybe breaking a leg—in which I wouldn’t continue playing.

Anyway, you need to be in the league ten years to be eligible for the Gay Softball Hall of Fame.

Photographs by Patrick Lentz.

About Henry P. Belanger

Henry P. Belanger is a writer, reporter, and an editor-at-large at the Good Men Project. Contact him via email.

Comments

  1. David May says:

    All of this, of course, underlines the obvious truth that gay men have more in common with their straight brothers than they do with their gal pals.

  2. Nice article, but could do without the perpetuation of the stereotype that gay guys are neat, straight guys are messy.

    I had a gay roommate in college. He was the messy one, I was the neat one. Go figure.

  3. Michael Rowe says:

    God, I loved this piece.

  4. It doesn’t surprise me that gay softball teams could be more relaxed when competing. A lot of supposedly heterosexual athletes spend a lot of energy trying constantly to show that they are not gay. Openly gay players don’t have that hang up.

  5. wellokaythen says:

    I think the controversy in Seattle was really fascinating, and I wonder if there’s a possibility that as gay softball becomes more embraced by straight people that there will be similar controversies in other cities. First Seattle, and eventually Boston?

    I think it’s interesting from the standpoint of how people define and redefine differences. Apparently in the Seattle case there were people in the league trying to come up with some sort of verification system to confirm that teams were not fielding too many “non-gay” players. (That would be cheating or violating the integrity of the league, etc.) And, whether someone who self-identified as “bisexual” counted as gay or “other.” Then again, if the leagues become really popular with lots of straights, then what happens to gay softball as gay softball?

  6. “Some threw like girls” ? Really? It was a great article, but this part just made me want to stop reading. I’m tired of seeing these kinds of sayings. If you’re a girl, you can’t throw a ball. If you (a man) do something that is considered feminine, girly etc, it’s bad and unwanted.

    • Women on average can’t throw with as much strength men. It’s because of how testosterone affects muscle growth. Duh?

      • Testosterone does affect muscle growth, you’re right. It doesn’t affect the ability to throw in a straight line, aim, get the ball where it needs to go or participate in sports. If you’re competing in a “who-can-throw-the-ball-the-hardest” competition then, yes, one would be valid in making the ‘throw like a girl’ point. As a lot of sports are not about throwing a ball as hard as humanly possible, softball included, this is an invalid point.

    • Thank you, Claire! I thought and felt the exact same thing. I can’t believe people are still using such blatantly sexist and derogatory comments with no consideration! Mind blowing really, especially in an article such as this.

  7. Funny funny funny stuff

  8. Frankie Sweet Music says:

    Pauly Boy,

    Funny article brother. I had a good laugh with the wife while reading this. Keep up the good work up there.

  9. I’m shocked they actually let you play in that league. I saw recently where this exact scenario was at issue somewhere else in America.

    Anyway, great share. Thanks.

  10. Henry Thank You and from a 25 year member You are a good man and we in the League appriciate all you bring to the League and your team. God Bless

  11. If there’s such a long waiting list, why not create a new team? That’s what most softball leagues do.

  12. I love Henry’s story about a straight man fitting into a gay man’s world while playing a traditionally straight man’s sport. Having played on several gay softball and football teams, I think it is good experience for hetero gays to be in the minority for a change, and to experience some of the excesses (the teasing and jokes) of the prevailing sexual orientation. And it sounds like Henry has learned that “camping it up” does not change one bit of his sexual identity; it just makes him a more fun, well-rounded man. Great article.

  13. Charles says:

    Henry, great article. Now imagine it the other way around. One of the best feeling is being accepted, whether a straight guy in a gay league, or a gay guy in a hetero evironment. I currently play fast pitch/modified/slowpitch softball in the country of Costa Rica, and have been blessed with being involved with a great team for the past 5 years. Most in the league are aware of my being gay, and that does not matter as I am the number 1 pitcher in the country, and also one of the most feared batter. I have been asked on many occasions to switch teams, which shows that I am respected for my talent and who I am as a person, and not my sexuality. I hang out with my teammates for drinks after, and have a great time. and while the gay jokes do go around, it is just that, jokes, and that is what makes it great. Acceptance is a great thing to achieve, gay or straight, and congratulations to you and your temamates for that.

  14. Henry, you are one excellent writer. Loved your article all the way through. Your observations are great, and you can be humerous and open-minded, and present a great story. I fully enjoyed about reading of your experiences, and I think you’ve got a future in writing…and in softball…you’ve enhanced the game, gay or straight….and showed, yes, that men do play softball, unlike the women’s version of the game….and it’s a great game…..glad you’re in it!

  15. paul kidwell says:

    Henry,
    Nice story. Reminds me of when I lived in NYC a bunch of years ago and met a group of gay men at the Metropolitan Opera through a friend. We bonded over this shared interest and soon enough they lured me into pre-performance dinners and , on occasion, drinks afterward to disucss the opera. Just a bunch of dudes hangin’ out and talkin’ Verdi and Puccini. Much of what I learned about opera from these men rubbed off on me and; surprise, surprise their sexuality did not. I assume they are still gay and I remain dangerously heterosexual.

  16. I play on the CBLSL in Philly, started 2006. I was picked up (to play softball) while watching an old girlfriend play. I heard all the same comments which made the first year very interesting. I also had a hard time finding a team in Philly to play on. After I started playing in the CBLSL I ended up playing on 6 teams in one year for the next 3 years. I have lots of fun playing and love the fact we travel all over the country. I am going to the Gay Games in Colonge Germany in less then 2 weeks and then to the NAGAA World Series in Ohio next month. Many people question our straightness Henry but we both know that a good woman is what we want. Thats just who we are. Good luck making it to 10 years.

  17. As much as it is a great story… it’s not new. In i978, I pitched for, and was player representative for San Francisco’s Oil Can Harry’s Softball team in the S.F. Community Softball League. The first gay organized league in the country in 1974. Our league was open to straight players, provided they accepted the different lifestyles of all the players. This was the times of Anita Bryant and the Briggs Initiative, that would of made it legal to fire gay teachers in California. Our team had city firemen, doctors,Fortune 500 executives and represented the great diversity that helped make S.F. a great and progressive city. The straight players brought their mothers,sisters,wives,their children and girlfriends to watch our games. Mayor Moscone gave our team a Citation for the good sportsmanship and diversity on our roster. However, after wining the League Title, and the right to represent S.F. in the 1978 Gay World Series… our team was kicked OUT for having too many straights. Please read all about that great team: http://jerrypritikin.blogspot.com/search/label/Gay%20Community%20Softball%20League
    That was over 30 years ago, and I still keep in touch with them.

  18. bebenic says:

    great article. you are, indeed, one of the good men. your wife is a lucky woman, perhaps as lucky as you are of having her. peace and love, dude. btw, ain’t nothing wrong with your legs, bro.

  19. Nice coming out (as a gay ally) story. I can only imagine all the lame jokes you’ve had to endure from your gay team members! And I really admire your loyalty to your team.

  20. Hello Henry… great article. I play in the Orlando Florida gay league… 36 co-ed and womens teams, and we have a lot of straight friends who play in our league. Everything you said is true… and the “breeders” are some of the most passionate when it comes to looking out– and speaking up for– their gay friends. Thank you again for the insightful article… and I’ll be looking for your team in upcoming tournaments!

  21. Some – if not all – of my straight friends I met on my gay softball team! And I’m going to share this article with them, thanks.

  22. Great story… What I like the most is that you show that we can all get along regardless of what we do off the field… Thanks for a great perspective…

  23. Oh I knew wearing those tight pants would be forever memorable! Miss playing softball with you Henry! I am still wearing the same softball pants! 🙂

  24. Henry, you wrote a great story and glad to hear that you’re still playing. By the way, that catcher still has those “tightest pair of gray softball pants”… it’s just now they are being flaunted on the west coast. Anyway, we miss you and the Brushbacks!!

  25. Fabulous story, Henry. Now that you’ve conquered Gay Softball it’s time your Remdial Sondheim Class.

  26. David Wise says:

    Good story. Who knows, one day you might become a good switch hitter. Hee, hee

  27. Great story! As a sports-loving gay guy, I think you are pretty much in the same league as most of my friends–great straight guys who figured out that guys are guys, even the gay ones. Thanks for posting your story (including your honest yet awkward thoughts on some of the gay-straight interaction).

  28. Great story! I play church league co-ed softball which is the least competitive atheletic endeavor you can participate in. Being ultra competitive, this doesn’t always agree with me. Just last week I was called out for sliding on a girl. Softball is fun though so we play where we can.

  29. Great story. It’s too bad you had to hide it from your friends and explain to your readers that the gays didn’t pin you down and rape your butt, but nice story.

  30. Nice story, but I am sure the highlight of the league is all the ball jokes you must hear.

  31. Kevin Dark says:

    Great story Henry.

  32. Henry,

    Good story. While there are certainly many different opinions and beliefs regarding homosexuality, we take great steps toward understanding each other when we realize we are all men created in God’s image. We can remain confident in our own belief systems and still emerge from our comfort zones, as you did, and positively impact others around us. It’s called brotherly love . . . and there’s nothing wrong with that from any perspective.

    Thom

  33. I’m kind of over these attention-seeking straight guys who wants all the sort of kudos in the world for associating with gays. There were just so many childish, unnecessary comments.

    Quote: <<<<>>>>

    I’m happy his friend taught him not to use the term “straight-acting,” but when he opens bis piece raving about how he doesn’t like Broadway musicals, it kind of kills any maturity. He may know what terms not to use, but has no idea exactly why someone might not want to hear that.

    • I’m gay and use the term straight acting and hear a lot from other gays too. Who cares? We know what it means. Sometimes PEOPLE are just too sensitive.

  34. Occasionally you will see a gay male player who takes a base kiss the opposing team’s player covering that base.

    I enjoyed the story and it brought back some old memories of my first days photographing the league.

  35. Wait, so like: you haven’t become gay based on your exposure to these gay softballers?

    I kid.

    Thanks for sharing.

  36. Tom Matlack says:

    Great story! You do have great legs and, I am told, quite an arm.

Trackbacks

  1. […] do well in considering this issue to look back at this story in the Good Men Project from almost a year ago. Allowing straight men to play in a gay softball […]

  2. […] kinds of stories can be hard to pull off.  I think back to a story last year in the Good Men Project about a straight guy who plays in a gay softball league.  That was an […]

  3. […] wondering, yes, that’s the same Beantown Softball League that GMPM editor Henry Belanger wrote about this […]

  4. […] “Not Now, Honey. I’m Late for Gay Softball” by Henry P. Belanger […]

  5. […] Madison Avenue marketers deem guy-appropriate. Our most-read stories (like the ones here, here, here, and here) have done just that, proving that the common conceptions of what guys will read are […]

  6. […] And here’s the story of a straight man playing in a gay men’s softball league. (The Good Men Project) […]

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