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It Isn’t Roller Derby if it Isn’t Intersectional

Photo Credit: Paul Daugherty
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The Boulder County Bombers team on how they found a safe space in the game


*Photography by Paul Daugherty

More than fundamental societal institutions, sports can be transformative spaces for revolutionary inclusion and profound social impact — as long as we open our eyes to the multitudes of intersectional identities.

That’s the goal of the You Can Play Project, which works to promote acceptance of queer folks in sporting spaces through its support of athletes, parents, coaches, administrators and other leaders with direct impact on the sporting experience. The org also encourages teams, schools and fans to create videos meant to highlight personal experiences through a thoughtful and honest message on inclusivity in sports.

So, in partnership with videographer, editor, and skater Emilie Johnson (AKA Rickashanaynay) and the Boulder County Bombers, I directed the first Roller Derby You Can Play video.

For many, Roller Derby represents a safe space.

“Having the space to introduce myself as my full self feels really empowering,” skater Paws O Fury, who identifies as gender fluid, explains in the video.

“It’s been a big family atmosphere for me — empowering,” says skater Downton Stabbey, who identifies as lesbian. “It’s a place where you can show up and fail and still be OK.”

In her 2017 book Living a Feminist Life, author Sara Ahmed reminds us of the importance of staying students in feminist study. In sporting spaces, this means learning and using affirming words, and according to Boulder City Bombers Bombshell team member Butters Stotch, that’s not a problem in Derby.

“I think it’s about the sport and about the community because I can go and talk about my wife, who plays with me, and talk about queer things,” says Buffy the Jammer Slayer, a nonbinary/agender member of the team. “[I can] say the word ‘queer’ without people getting all [gasp] ‘queer!'”

The way people are able to understand and express themselves depends on the words and discourse used in society. To create inclusive spaces in Roller Derby and in all sports, people need to learn about the multidimensional lives of the queer community.

Learn more about Roller Derby and support a league near you by clicking here.


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