It’s hard to find the words to talk about this.
As someone who trades in words, word play is my forte. Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning in the deluge of words around all of the kinds of things I want to know and care about. Learning and writing, back and forth, is a never-ending feedback loop that washes over me.
Derby is at its solid center.
The derby community is its solid center.
This year has been one of many, many things. Of many, many feelings.
And the derby community has felt all of them.
Last year, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association gender statement released at the end of season quietly set some people free. And then in April WFTDA also made an open commitment to diversity in its many iterations and faces.
But a number of events in the broader world have shouted more loudly than these things for many of us. Today another heartbreak, another life.
For me, especially the recent events of Orlando and the lives lost there have echoed heavy and hard.
Waking up from a night that was Pride weekend here in Los Angeles, and having spent those same hours in a similar space that was such a different space ultimately, there it was reverberating through the news.
I had to try to squeeze this into my head while trying to also juggle the unfolding of Pac Destruction and weighing up whether I could try to attend the LA Pride Parade that I’d skated in the last two consecutive years.
I arrived at the tournament just as I read the news that a man had been pulled up outside the LA parade, his car full of weaponry. And my heart suddenly found the incredible game play in front of me so hard to focus on. I checked immediately in on those leaguemates who were skating at the parade.
And then I thought non-stop about the choices we make when we grieve, when we turn to community, when we draw together our loved ones and who those people look like, and how we care for them. I still keep thinking about that.
That week, I went to practice and threw my heart into the contact between our bodies. Into our mutual passion for this sport. Our hits reminded me again and again of the joy between us, the pain, of what we build and rebuild in these moments.
I missed a memorial service for practice because something in me felt that those things were the same. My friends wrote words of love on the giant rainbow flag another friend sewed into the wee hours of every night until that moment, because this memorializing was crucial. Because hearts were broken and bleeding across that flag. How I wish it was less literally so.
These words may be an accurate reflection of how I feel, but they seem to lose so many important things. They may not cover so many things. They surely miss so much. This is what happens when you work with words – they are so much and so little, always.
The identities and locations of those people who are the most affected are important. So important. The most important thing of all. And always the question: How do we care for them? For us?
And derby, we have some work to do. It looks like love and it looks hard.
And I’m standing up here and committing to it along with the WFTDA.
We need to witness the hard things inside our community. We need to look directly at what we do wrong. At how we fail people. And we need to double in on committing to caring so, so hard – because those things might actually save us. And it doesn’t need to be devoid of joy and fun.
It’s no accident that those who lost their lives in Orlando are people of color. It’s no accident that they are part of the LGBTQIA community and their loved ones. And while our hearts break, we need to work out how to re-double the joy and care, and embrace in our contact sport and its community.
So this is what I’m committing to:
We will be starting an ongoing series that looks directly at the hard things, and embraces diversity.
We will publish your words about race, transmisogyny, representation, and more.
We want your voice, we want to sustain you, to push back, to help mold this community into something that makes these things begin to be impossible in the world, to reach to more people and fold them into our community and sustain them. It starts here.
Write to me. Let’s make this happen.