Outwoods is a volunteer-run vehicle for the GLBT community and allies to publicize quality, enjoyable, non-competitive, outdoor recreational activities. The best way to learn about Outwoods and meet other people is to participate in an event. There is no person or committee that plans activities; trips happen when individuals submit their listings to the newsletter and/or meetup. The one principle underlying all Outwoods activities is volunteerism: the success of the club depends on the willingness of people to organize activities.
Since 1982, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Frontrunners has been a running and walking club for GLBT people and friends. The group organizes weekly runs and walks and periodic social events. If you’re thinking about joining for a run or walk, let the group know you’re coming and they’ll keep an eye out for you. Everyone is welcome, including out-of-town visitors and area residents who would like to join. The Frontrunners have three outdoor runs/walks per week during the warmer months and a Sunday outdoor run year-round. People of all abilities and fitness levels are welcome and encouraged to join.
Tennis & Volleyball
GLASS, or the Gay and Lesbian Amateur Sport Society, seeks to foster and coordinate local, national, and international amateur competition, to promote sportsmanlike conduct, and to provide positive social activities for the GLBT community and their allies.
Funday Monday Bowling League
12 weeks, beginning in January
A non-sanctioned GLBT (and allies!) league that plays with three-person teams.
April – June
The Minnesota Machine are a sixth-year women’s tackle football team here in the Twin Cities, a member of the national Women’s Football Alliance, and comprised of women from the age of 18 to the upper 40s. Proudly representing women of all shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities, backgrounds, and experience, the Machine play full-pads, full-uniforms, 11-v-11. Coaches are former NFL, semi-professional, and college athletes. Many of the athletes come from Division I or II in college, and some haven’t played since high school but still have the ambition. Bree Murphy says that in order for her to join a team, there has to be a good vibe. “I look for teams that feel like family. This is why I love playing for the MN Machine,” she says. “I’ve played lots of sports on many different teams, but nothing compares to the family feeling I get from this women’s football team. The MN Machine is how all teams should be. We are supportive, encouraging, and not only help each other with being a better player, but are receptive to the advice.” She also enjoys that the Machine isn’t a strictly GLBT team, enjoying the support regardless of personal differences. “The MN Machine brings people together that would normally never hang out. This team has provided friendships to those who are not great at making friends and has given women who feel unappreciated the gratitude and support they need. We are all parts of a larger machine that only works if we are all together.”
April – June
Established in 1999, the Vixen are the longest continuously operating women’s American football team in the nation. The team plays full-contact, tackle football following a combination of NCAA and NFL rules. The season is from April to June each year with playoffs in July. 2015 marks the beginning of their 17th season. In 2014, the Vixen’s record was 6-2 with an invite to the inaugural Legacy Bowl in South Carolina. As part of the Midwest Division in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL), the Vixen will face the Iowa Crush, Wisconsin Warriors, Madison Blaze, and the Nebraska Stampede in 2015. Women’s tackle football football has an ally in the Minnesota Vixen. “We’re a proud women’s tackle team that accepts everyone from different walks of life,” says Drue Barber, a player in her 14th season with the team. Her teammate, Amanda Barbier echoes those sentiments. She says, “As a woman it can be hard to find a sports team to join that is very serious about playing hard and winning games. As a lesbian it’s even harder to feel like you’ve found a team environment that is completely accepting. The Minnesota Vixen offer both those things.” Markeeta Shannon, another player, says that, on the field, it’s about the game. “Being a part of the MN Vixen is a great way for ‘us’ to shed light on the stereotypes people have given us and create the image we want for our GLBT community,” she says. “Although I personally am a proud individual who identifies herself as a bisexual, I feel it is also just as important to emphasize that not all female athletes fit into this category. Several of my teammates are heterosexual with husbands and kids but find themselves consistently being wrongfully labeled. To be honest, none of us are here to fight the perception people have about us…we are simply here because we are athletes who love the game.”
Spring: April – June
Summer: June – August
Fall: August –October
“Through diversity in sports, athleticism, inclusivity, and brotherhood,” the Minneapolis Mayhem Rugby Football club has been “empowering gay men and their allies through competitive rugby” for the last eleven years. With this mission statement at the core, membership is primarily comprised of those who self-identify as gay, but many allies are also active members of the club and board. The Mayhem competes in the Minnesota Rugby Football Union against other rugby football clubs in the area, as well as in the International Gay Rugby (IGR) Union against national and international ones. “It can be quite scary off the bat, especially for guys who have no idea how rugby works and maybe haven’t played a team sport since elementary school, but players who dive in and challenge themselves usually get hooked,” says Matthew Alley. “Once we get outdoors for practice and can actually get into contact, rugby becomes really exciting. Nothing is more gratifying for a veteran player than watching the transformation that occurs when a rookie makes their first big tackle.”
Northern Lights Women’s Softball League
May – August
The Northern Lights Women’s Softball League was created in the ’80s by women, for women. The league is committed to providing and promoting a fun and friendly environment for all women, regardless of age, ability, or sexual preference. “The Northern Lights Women’s Softball League fits nicely among all the opportunities for women to play softball in the area,” says Suze Swanson. “It has always been important to the league to welcome women a place to play softball that is more about fun and community than it is about winning.” While games are competitive and there is typically a tournament at the end of each season, the primary mission of the league is to offer a summer’s worth of fun playing softball. Every summer, more than 100 women gather on Sundays for an afternoon of fun, community, friendship and softball.
Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League
May – August
The Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League (TCGSL) is about to embark on its 37th season. With over 550 players making up over 35 teams, the league is one of the largest and most successful members of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA). Allowing players of all backgrounds, orientations, and abilities to have fun while competing may be the key to TCGSL’s success. The league is also a place for competition, and is open to anyone with a desire to play. Kevin Johnson said, “I love that no matter what your player skill level is everyone is supportive of a player and makes them feel welcome. The league is like a huge family. And we all look after each other.”
Twin Cities Jacks
Pick-up: May – October
League play: Year-round
Founded in 2007, the Twin Cities Jacks is the only GLBT soccer club in Minnesota. The TC Jacks field teams in local, national, and international tournaments, host social outings for GLBT soccer fans, promote the sport of soccer to the GLBT community, and educate other soccer organizations about homophobia in sports. The team is a safe space for members of the GLBT community to enjoy the sport of soccer, either as a player or a fan, and welcome all members of the GLBT community (and allies!) to join in the game. Andy Birkey, player and team treasurer, says that being a part of a sport team that doesn’t judge you on all the orientation and gender norms makes sports fun again. “I remember hating organized sports when I was younger due to having to be a fake me the whole time,” he says. “I loved the game but I hated the ‘me’ I had to be to be able to play something I enjoyed. TC Jacks changed all that.” Team member Robert Felton found a sense of home among the team. “I just remember that when I moved to Minneapolis I was excited to meet people and the first thing I did was Google ‘gay sports teams’ and I was amazed by the options,” Felton says. “I made friends and started having new people of all unique backgrounds to do social activities with. I really see me joining these groups as the beginning of myself referring to Minneapolis as ‘home.'” The Jacks have weekly pick-up soccer matches in the park all summer.
Mill City Hoops
3-on-3 Pride Weekend, 5-on-5 beginning in October
Mill City Hoops is a Minneapolis based basketball league for gay men and straight allies that debuted last summer during Pride. Prior to then, the Twin Cities hadn’t been home to a GLBT-centric basketball league in approximately five years. The mission of the league is three-fold: to foster community pride, support healthy lifestyle choices, and nurture and grow Minneapolis’s national reputation. League events include the Pride Week Shirts and Skins Tournament as well as a 5-on-5 Full Court League that runs in the fall.
North Star Gay Rodeo Association
The North Star Gay Rodeo Association was founded by five rodeo enthusiasts in October of 1989. By mid-January 1990, NSGRA was officially recognized by the International Gay Rodeo Association as a member association. Membership grew quickly from five to 75 in less than one year. However, due to a shaky economy, the NSGRA decided to postpone hosting rodeos in 2011 until sponsorships and community support returned. After a several year hiatus, the rodeos return in July. “I’ve been involved in gay rodeo for almost 30 years,” says Dan Van Wyk, the president of NSGRA. “Like many sports and teams, we’ve had good years and bad ones. But what draws me, and I think many people to it, is the down-to-earth aspect of it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on equipment, unless you are involved with horses. You can train at your own pace, and compete in many events for decades.” He goes on to say that it’s important to support GLBT teams and players as much as possible. “They are important role models for the younger generations, and provide safe meeting places and social opportunities that are important for people to get to know each other somewhere other than over a drink or on a dance floor. It’s a great way to build self confidence, to learn to be a good loser, and a good winner.”
Minnesota Valkyries Rugby
August – June
The Valkyries have a 30-plus year legacy of rugby in Minnesota. The team is a GLBT-friendly group of strong, driven women. There is a great mix of competitiveness along with the ability to have fun and truly enjoy the sport. “The Valkyries are a group of women who are all trying to succeed in life,” says Amy Curtis. “We all have to find the balance of work, family, relationships, personal growth and, of course, rugby. We are all strong women with opinions and ideas and we know what we bring to the team. But, what overshadows that, is the fact that we know and appreciate what our teammates bring to the team more. We work hard at practice and expect our teammates to do the same. It’s often said, ‘Play to make your teammate look good.’ That’s pretty remarkable and selfless. That’s the reason I play for the Valkyries.”
Twin Cities Friday League
September – April
A sanctioned GLBT and straight-friendly league with a handicap structure that plays with four-person teams.
Wednesday Rainbow League
September – April
The Wednesday Rainbow League is an organization of gay and straight bowlers that get together every Wednesday night during the fall/winter season to have fun, socialize, and compete in a friendly game of bowling; ultimately winning prizes at the end of the season. At the end of each season, the organization gets together for a banquet to hand out prizes and say their good byes until the following year.
October – April
Founded in 2004, the Minnesota RollerGirls are founding members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the preeminent governing body for female, skater-owned, flat-track roller derby leagues. All participants are unpaid amateurs and the league provides insurance coverage for practices and bouts. The Minnesota RollerGirls were the first league in the country to have a professional arena for practices and bouts. Sheena McColum (aka Obscene Sheen) says it’s great to play with other GLBT athletes. “Roller derby, in general, is a pretty inclusive community, meaning that no matter who you are or what you identify with/as, you are welcome,” she says. “Only rule is don’t be a D-bag. One of the things I love most is the acceptance we as members of the GLBT community get from [straight] teammates and the community. People love sports and women who play sports. Yes, I’m a member of the GLBT community but ultimately I’m an athlete. Our sexuality doesn’t show on the track/court/field…our skills, passion, and love for the game shows.”
North Star Roller Girls
November – March
Now in their 9th season, the North Star Roller Girls have built a legacy of roller derby in Minneapolis. NSRG formed in June of 2006 as an offshoot of the now-defunct TC Rollers. They loved skating together but desired the control of being skater-owned and -operated. Skaters play a version of the roller derby you may have seen on TV in the ’80s, but on a flat track instead of a banked track. It’s a full-contact athletic competition with rules and regulations. NSRG’s main focus is athleticism and the empowerment of women both on and off the track. A member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, NSRG advocates for the growth of roller derby in Minnesota and throughout the world. Liz Lorge (aka Jackillope) just finished skating her second season with NSRG. “Like many women who nervously walk into our empty warehouse and onto our league, I hit a particularly low time in my life and found myself coming out of it in a pair of roller skates. And I’ve never looked back,” she says. Lorge played boy’s lacrosse in high school. “I loved showing doubting pubescent bros what a strong woman can do,” she says.” She tried no-contact rugby and women’s lacross in college, but they didn’t live up to what she was looking for. “With derby, you get a room full of women who know they are smart, independent, and strong; getting stronger by the minute,” she says. “And no one is afraid to show their muscle or take a hit. We face aggression and embrace physicality while bearing our competitive teeth. It’s empowering. It’s uplifting. And I know I haven’t just gained a solid GLBT community along the way, but I have an incredible amount of allies. I’ve never felt so sure-footed or valid in my life. And the fact that I can find that through skating in the Metro…well, what better experience could a gal ask for?”
Hump Day Bowlers
November – March
Steve Nardini joined the Hump Day Bowling League nine years ago as a way to meet others in the GLBT community and was hooked after the first year. The second year, he got more involved as the league’s secretary and spent the next few years building up the league with the motto, “The more, the merrier.” He says, “I’m very proud to bring new people into our league, reaching out to the community, along with anyone that wants to bowl.” The league has a GLBT majority, and split just about down the middle with male- and female-identified players. This year, the league welcomes their first transgender bowler, and the league has always welcomed those from the straight community. “I do believe having outlets in the community, other than places like bars, play an important role,” Nardini says. “It gives a chance to meet others with similar ideas. It also gives us an opportunity to help those in need.” This past year, the league held a tournament that raised $400 for Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly and their outreach program. Similar tournaments over the past four years have raised over $5000 for organizations. “Our league is a family. We look forward to bowling each week. We look forward to seeing our friends each week. We cheer each others good throws and scores. And although our league is over for the season, I know everyone looks forward to the next.”
Minnesota Men’s Roller Derby
November – April
Founded in 2007, Minnesota Men’s Roller Derby holds claim to being one of the largest and most competitive male derby organizations in the United States. With a roster comprised of former hockey players, aggressive inline skaters, and competitive jam skaters, MMRD is widely regarded as the definition of a new style of roller derby. Each year the league hosts a home season, a series of bouts designed for the local audience. In the MMRD off-season, the All Star team known as the Twin Cities Terrors (or TC Terrors) hosts and travels to other Men’s Roller Derby Association leagues to compete for national standing.
For expanded profiles, go to lavendermagazi.wpengine.com/sports.