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Dyke Soccer New York Dazed queer football
Dyke Soccer New YorkPhotography Rebekah Campbell

Dyke Soccer is helping people embrace their inner lesbi-jock

The bi-coastal community is creating an essential queer space in football

I can still remember the first time someone called me a dyke because I was playing football with – and beating – the boys. I was ten or eleven, and I’m not sure I really knew what the word ‘dyke’ meant, but from the way it was snarled at me after I slickly worked my way past one of the boys, I knew it was not meant to be a good thing.

As Megan Rapinoe, out-and-proud lesbian, celebrated the USWNT’s World Cup quarter-final win over hosts France in which she scored two goals, she was asked if the fact it was Pride month made her contribution more personally significant. Her response was unflinching: “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team – it’s never been done before, ever. That’s science, right there!” She continued: “For me, to be gay and fabulous, during Pride month at the World Cup, is nice.”

Rapinoe’s words feel like a much-needed balm to any queer-identifying women still stuck with painful memories of the too often male-oriented and homophobic culture endemic in the world of football. Alex Schmidt, co-founder of Dyke Soccer –  an inclusive football crew open to “dykes and anyone who sees that word as a compliment” that grew out of a park in Brooklyn – agrees: “Even though so many of the best athletes are gay, I grew up believing I needed to prove my straightness to fit in with my soccer team. Blake Lively in Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsBend it Like Beckham – the plot of (Mary-Kate and Ashley movie) Switching Goals is literally ‘Sam is a star soccer player and a tomboy; however, she wants to attract boys.’ The recent celebration of the gay players, their lovers, and their haircuts in the World Cup is incredible.” 

Dyke Soccer now runs weekly sessions with both its New York and LA chapters and is designed to be the antithesis to common not-so-pleasant experiences faced by queer women wanting to play team sports. (For this article, we sent photographer Rebekah Campbell to an NYC practice to shoot a series of images – check them out above). “Whether it was the cis female ‘I’m not a lesbian!’ culture when playing with the blonde Catholics in North Chicago suburbs, or the ‘we-need-women-to-fill-our-quota-but-aren’t-so-interested-in-passing-the-ball’ vibes of most co-ed leagues… it’s taken a while for me to find My People,” Schmidt says.

“What Dyke Soccer has blossomed into is a community for dykes ‘and people who don’t mind being mistaken for one’, a safe haven for people of different levels, body types, and backgrounds”

What Dyke Soccer has blossomed into is a community for dykes “and people who don’t mind being mistaken for one”, a safe haven for people of different levels, body types, and backgrounds. As Schmidt explains, “Soccer can be a very cis, white space in the US. I’m always looking for ways to be more inclusive towards POC and gender-variant and trans players. We’ve advocated for gender-neutral signage and kept the project free because we want this to be a space you can walk into without barriers.”

The positive impact of Dyke Soccer on the people that make up the community is undeniable. JJ Mcdonald, who uses both she and them pronouns, says the feeling was instantaneous. “From the moment I walked into my first practice I was surrounded with acceptance, positive energy, and a bunch of cuties!” they say. “Dyke Soccer brings individuals together and forms a community centered around pleasure and connection.” It can also help people with self-acceptance – Maddy Rojas, another community member, says that the group helped her to accept and embody her queerness. “Playing with this team is a respite from the authenticity vs safety calculations that I feel inclined to do in most settings. I feel encouraged to be whoever I want to be while playing with this team.”

Queer, specifically lesbian, spaces are few and far between in 2019. The majority are bars built around alcohol consumption (which can exclude swathes of the community), and even those are shrinking in alarming numbers. Lesbian spaces that are sober and promote both mental and physical health and wellbeing are desperately needed, as they remove the oppressive heteronormative expectations that can make a trip to the gym a traumatic – not to mention expensive – experience for dykes, queer women, and gender non-conforming individuals. 

Dyke Soccer is simply an essential space. As Schmidt puts it: “This project is free, has a non-hierarchical leadership structure, and the primary goal is to support our mental and physical health through soccer pickups and community. This kind of project is needed.”

Keep up with Dyke Soccer on Instagram here. Follow Rebekah Campbell here.