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#Red-Carded: How I Got Pushed Out of an LGBT Soccer League for Gender WrongThink

The high-school years can be a painful time. But for me, the normal adolescent angst was exacerbated by a slow-motion mental struggle over the fact that I was attracted only to other boys.

I came of age in the early 2010s, when the shame and stigma attached to homosexuality had started to fade in the United States. Barack Obama was president, the Supreme Court had ruled to legalize same-sex marriage, and gay rights were ascendant across the commanding heights of Western culture.

Yet my high school, situated in a largely rural Massachusetts exurb, hadn’t yet caught up. There were few gay students and staff. And my knowledge of gay life emerged from media stereotypes, like the effeminate, high-voiced Kurt on Glee. I never saw myself in that archetype, and so my journey to self-discovery was complicated and protracted.

No, I never worried that I’d get beaten up by jocks and stuffed in a locker. At 6’4” and 200 lbs, I was a jock. But I truly believed my soccer and basketball teammates wouldn’t look at me the same way if they knew I was gay.

So I lied—to my family, to my closest friends, and, most vigorously, to myself. This was a common and understandable coping mechanism. But in hindsight, it fills me with sadness. I can’t help thinking that my entire high-school experience, especially my career as a student athlete, would have been more joyful if I’d felt free to be my authentic self.

This sense of longing and regret helps explain why, a half-decade later, as a fresh college graduate living in Washington, D.C., I signed up with the local LGBT soccer club. The teenaged me couldn’t have imagined something like that existing in my community. Here was a chance to play a sport I love without concealing anything about my identity. How utterly naïve I was.

By this time, I’d already experienced shunning from the so-called LGBT community at my undergraduate university—not due to my sexual identity, but, rather, my political views. As the only openly conservative columnist working for the school newspaper, penning columns against affirmative action, supporting pro-due-process reforms to campus sexual-assault proceedings, and, yes, even advocating for gun owners’ Second-Amendment rights, I quickly became persona non grata within the local gay community.

That included the dating scene. In many cases, I either had to lie about what I believed or face rejection. Dating apps, which are supposed to facilitate romance and hook-ups, now became just another way for people to excommunicate me. (One gay fellow kindly took the time to tell me I was a “traitorous faggot” before blocking me on a dating app.) Some angry students posted my dating profiles to public Facebook groups as a way to mock me, despite the fact that I hadn’t yet come out to my family. For all progressives’ talk about social justice, it became clear that many campus LGBT activists were eager to use the most ruthless methods at their disposal to punish “traitorous faggots” who dissented from their left-wing agenda.

Campus life can be a social fishbowl. But Washington, D.C., with its big, vibrant LGBT scene, would be different, I hoped. Alas, no. By the time I joined my gay soccer club in May 2019, I’d already built something of an online profile as a gay conservative writer. And as I learned, the Internet has the power to turn even a large city into a fishbowl.

At first, things went fine. I signed up for the club, paid my dues, and started attending scrimmages and pick-up games. Eventually, I was drafted to play on a few teams. While several members were standoffish and distant, I had no particular reason to think this had anything to do with my background.

As the weather got colder, I wrote on the club’s widely subscribed Facebook group, asking about opportunities to join a winter league. That’s when things went downhill. Posting to an audience of hundreds, an employee of the D.C.-based anti-conservative group Media Matters publicly branded me a “transphobe” and exhorted other members of the club to ostracize me—a campaign subsequently cheered on by a Media Matters project director. Some of the other club members then piled on, including folks I’d played with just the week before. One unhinged commenter even called me a “segregationist.”

Let’s be clear that I never mentioned politics at a single club event. To the extent that any transgender people were actually involved with the club (its membership being comprised almost exclusively of gay men), I would never have dreamed of being anything but polite. This wasn’t about my behavior. This was about my thoughtcrimes, which apparently could make (theoretical) transgender members feel “unsafe.”

As for those supposed thoughtcrimes—no one on the Facebook page could even point to anything legitimately transphobic that I’d ever said or written. In fact, I have a lot of compassion for transgender individuals. I can’t imagine how difficult their lives must be. But putting aside all of the inclusive sloganeering that goes along with LGBT+ acronym building, I simply don’t think that I, as a gay man, actually have a ton in common with the trans community at large. As many gender activists themselves are quick to insist, sexuality and gender identity are distinct concepts—which is why, as I’ve argued in Quillette, the LGBT umbrella concept is more usefully divided into two separate groups, one for sexual minorities and another for those with atypical gender identities. This apparently makes me an evil segregationist.

I also believe that transgender people should have the same (or analogous) rights as gay people under law, and have advocated as much in conservative publications. Ultimately, I do acknowledge that biological sex is real and determined in part by chromosomes, but I also think adults should live however they want. And if that means living as the opposite sex and transitioning, more power to them.

But I won’t ever cave in to progressive gaslighting by pretending there are no real differences between biological males and females—or, more specifically, that these differences don’t manifest themselves in women’s sports. I’ve also expressed deep discomfort with the idea of pre-adolescent children being fast-tracked into irreversible therapies and surgeries before they’re old enough to truly understand complex concepts such as sex, gender and sexuality.

That’s it. That’s the extent of my wicked “anti-trans” views that supposedly make me unworthy of acceptance in the gay community.

It’s important to note that I wasn’t officially kicked out of the club. I chalk this up in part to the fact that many of the club leaders are older gay men. Though they might not be as vocal on social media, they have their own views on such matters, and sometimes are skeptical of the dogmas that now dominate young progressive activists within D.C.’s gay community. I believe there was also some appreciation of the fact that expelling me for ideological reasons could invite a legal challenge (though I didn’t threaten any). Moreover, my critics knew they didn’t have to actually expel me: All they needed to do was make club life sufficiently unpleasant and humiliating such that I would simply leave on my own. And that’s what happened.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a big deal for me. I can find another team to join. (Ironically, as a gay man, I’m now far more likely to find acceptance among boring, straight, suburbanite soccer players than among the rainbow ideologues at Media Matters.) And, like many adults who’ve moved on from their teenage dramas, I no longer depend on the validation of this or that clique for my self-confidence.

But this little fishbowl fiasco is emblematic of previously disadvantaged, left-leaning communities that now kick people around in the same way they themselves were once treated. The fact that I can no longer play soccer with people who might disagree with me politically is just another sad reminder that “inclusivity” advocates now have become a leading source of division and intolerance—even when it comes to enjoying the simple pleasure of sport.



Brad Polumbo is Deputy Opinion Contributors Editor at the Washington Examiner. His work has also appeared in outlets such as USA Today, National Review and Quillette. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_Polumbo.


  1. A great story, and one that is quite frankly all too reminiscent of Douglas Murray’s assertion that there is a difference between politically active queerness, and your regular run-off-the-mill gay or lesbian. I find it shocking that someone who espouses conservative views can be viewed as no longer black, a race-traitor (or worse) and can be excommunicated from aspects of their community, like any other political heretic within their specific minority, and exposed to the types of ugly epithets that one would normally expect from white supremacists or the most fundamentalist types- but it just goes to show exactly where the real intolerance lies, when overwhelmingly white, mainly upper middle-class, kids of rich parents, can get away with hurling insults at people usually a lot less fortunate, by birth, than they are.

    One of the Left’s most dangerous fallacies is that one should be intolerant of intolerance, as though the world were some Manichean stage. It is based on the foolish notion, proven wrong over the past thirty years, that by making certain forms of speech almost blasphemous, it will necessarily kill the ideas that drive them. This makes the inaccurate assumption that racism, and all the other -isms and -phobias are based on ignorance and hatred, when in almost every case resentment precedes hatred (although this resentment is itself, often caused by ignorance), as the key driver and most likely culprit for intolerance- even in the historical past, prejudice was often driven by resentment over stepping outside the perceived bounds of social norms, and ones own ‘place’ in the social order.

    In the old days, we used to say that sunlight is the best disinfectant. But I think a better analogy would be say that prejudices are, like many other bad ideas, like mushrooms, in that they grow best in the dark. They are also fed on mostly shite. Steven Pinker has observed that for young men, raised in the ideologically constrained, knowledge-restrictive confines of secondary education, followed sometimes by a university, the lack of exposure to a particular fact or idea robbed of it’s broader context, leads a young person feeling somewhat betrayed when encountering hidden knowledge for the first time, and extraordinarily vulnerable to having a collection of controversial facts and ideas framed into a broader, twisted narrative, meant to subvert them into effectively, what is a cult. Far from killing the idea, censorship makes it thrive, like a fungal infection never seeing the light of day.

    We should know this- indeed, we used to, given that Daryl Davis was once lauded and celebrated for his tolerant approach to diffusing hate, collecting the robes of former clansmen, after becoming their friend. Of course, these days he is more likely to be labelled a white supremacist himself, for committing the sin of talking to a broad range of moderates, centrists and conservatives:

    I wonder whether the Left’s peculiar blind spot to resentment as the key cause of intolerance, springs from their own susceptibility to it. Orwell observed that Marxism itself was driven more by a resentment of the rich, rather than by an earnest desire to help the less fortunate. It also explains why they seem so intent on replacing an economic system that admittedly has it’s flaws, with one that has been proven to fail every time, often horribly- with deaths by Socialism, estimated to be somewhere in the region of 100 million people.

    And this is, of course, the key problem with intersectionalism. It may well be well-intentioned, especially amongst those adherents who are followers of this new religion, and not privy to the inner working of the priesthood of the Grievance Studies. For many, it represents a genuine effort to build empathy, even though studies have shown that it does nothing of the sort:

    The problem is that at it’s heart, intersectionalism is a retrograde step, a reversion to status, instead of contract- when everything in our culture, from the Civil Rights Era onwards was pointed towards progress, with contract, rapidly superseding status. Granted, we weren’t there yet, largely through the perverse operations of constituencies and the media painting narratives, which cast what was a relative minority within communities, as the preeminent stereotype, there were many areas in the operation of the law, that needed reform. And, as in Northern Ireland, Equality under the Law is usually the easy bit, with socio-economic progress often painfully slow to follow. But as Coleman Hughes has so eloquently demonstrated, in recent Quillette Articles, there are genuine statistical reasons for optimism.

    The reason why the Left’s reversion to status is so dangerous, is because it’s the legacy of what we’ve been trying to escape for nigh on 50 years. Their reinvention and reinstatement of that age-old status hierarchy- this time inverted, is a huge mistake. There were very good reasons why we threw it out in the first place, mainly I suspect, because for many it wasn’t conducive to looking oneself in the mirror. The usurpation of our inherent value as unique individuals, as human beings, is an abomination whatever form it takes.

    So, imagine you’re a young white men, in your teenage years. You’re poor, you’re not doing well at school and your father is long gone. Don’t you think that your arbitrary placement at the bottom of every social victim hierarchy, might strike you as unfair? You weren’t responsible for slavery. You weren’t responsible for Jim Crow. And you certainly aren’t responsible for writing all those nonsense News scripts about superpredators. Yet somehow you are tainted by the Original Sin of just happening to come from the same arbitrary group that intersectionalism casts as the bad guys in history, when every culture, at every time was implicitly worse- for not, almost by accident, having found an escape hatch out of the hellhole of human tribalism.

    Don’t you think it would make you extraordinarily vulnerable to the ideas of white supremacy, and lap the pure conspiracy theories expressed in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion like some gullible fool? I think the intersectionalists are soon going to have to own up to the fact that it is their resentment spreading ideology, that is fuelling the rise of White Supremacy. But then a part of me, the cynical part, wonders whether they don’t already know all this, and that having been left in the lurch at the altar by the working classes, they aren’t trying to fuel the fires of intolerance in order to achieve their bloody revolution, and the Utopia of the Dead, that always follows.

    I would like to think this is untrue. That they really don’t understand that they are the ones creating the very intolerance they seek to expunge- but I cannot be certain. We need to get back to contract over status, to common humanity instead of the sectarian nightmare, along arbitrary and political lines, towards which we are headed. We need to remember that intolerance is not a battle to be fought, but rather a condition of ignorance that can only be killed by kindness and salvation. Otherwise providence will extract a heavy blood price from us, and our descendants will be left wondering- how could we have been so wilfully and ignorantly evil?

  2. “We need to remember that intolerance is not a battle to be fought, but rather a condition of ignorance that can only be killed by kindness and salvation.”

    Well said. Few people understand the definition of tolerance. Tolerance is not acceptance of people within one’s group, that’s congeniality. Tolerance is acceptance of persons outside of one’s group or point of view. For instance allowing Mr. Polumbo on to my soccer team (I don’t have a team or play, example only) would not be tolerance, as I am sympathetic to his point of view. However allowing a devout SJW to also play would be an example of tolerance on my behalf.

  3. “But I think a better analogy would be say that prejudices are, like many other bad ideas, like mushrooms, in that they grow best in the dark.”

    I think these days a lot of prejudices and bad ideas actually grow in the light (or out in the open of the internet). Posting vitriolic (and often untrue) garbage about a person gets someone a lot of attention online. Specifically, in this story, the Media Matters folks, et al, were piling on the author and one-upping each other to the point they label the author a segregationist. I doubt if any of them, in their quiet moments of solitude, would ever have gotten to that point alone.

  4. The fact that I can no longer play soccer with people who might disagree with me politically is just another sad reminder that “inclusivity” advocates now have become a leading source of division and intolerance—even when it comes to enjoying the simple pleasure of sport.

    I’m saddened, though unsurprised, to read of your experience. A problem, perhaps the problem, is the shift from the call for tolerance, which I think is a reasonable one in almost all cases, to one demanding embracing and celebrating. The former is live and let live and the latter requires affirmation. And party balloons.

    Monnica Williams writes in Psychology Today:

    Consider that the word “tolerate” implies that something is painful and possibly harmful and it must be endured. Tolerance reinforces the idea that by putting up with all this stressful diversity, a person can build up immunity or resistance to it. This mentality does not take us in the right direction in terms of valuing others.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    A professional development firm writes:

    Tolerance is condescending. It’s most often touted by the dominant group within a culture, organization, or bureaucracy (like school systems). Being on the receiving end of being tolerated is rarely uplifting. . . . When we’re responsible for leading others, we need to move past the limitations of tolerance toward acceptance. . . . When we grow comfortable with acceptance , we can progress to celebrating our differences—the deepest meaning of celebrate to is assemble to honor.

    (Emphasis author’s.)

    In a world where divisive language is seemingly everywhere, and arguments over who “belongs” and who doesn’t seem pointedly heated, there are a lot of people talking about the importance of teaching our children “tolerance.” And while those intentions are definitely a step in the right direction, in reality, tolerance simply isn’t good enough.

    (Emphasis author’s.)

    That’s from the Girls Scouts in a piece to parents titled “Why Tolerance Isn’t Working”.

    Note the end state. You will be required to honour people simply due to their immutable characteristics. That’s a big ask. I’d like to think the person we’re honouring actually did something worthy of veneration. Something more than being around and breathing. And I also recognise what I find worthy of honour does not mandate you do so as well. Be assured that the LGBTQ+ community does not honour Mr Polumbo, much less value and tolerate him. There’s no give and take here. The embracing, the celebrating, and the honouring are directed one way.

    Reading the criticism of tolerance, the authors often tell us that tolerate comes from the ability to bear pain. But is this entirely accurate?

    As we all know, words’ meanings evolve over time. Yet, the talking point puts us back in the days of the Roman Empire, with its socialist roads and aqueducts and its tolerare.

    Keep in mind that the calls for tolerance came from the marginalised communities. “What does it matter to you what two consenting adults do?” Fair enough.

    Perhaps the (reasonable) call for tolerance was merely a nudge, the first in a line of subsequent nudges to manipulate you.

    If you want to drive down that path, that’s your choice. But it seems to me that those being taken for a ride ought to be told and consent where they’re being taken.

  5. Terrible story. Suggestion to the author: Join a plain ol’ straight soccer team. At 6’4", if you can run and pass, you’d be an asset to any team. Keep your affectional interests quiet - don’t ask, don’t tell. And have fun.

    Straight people today are far more tolerant than alphabet people.

  6. The Trans movement is perhaps one of the first test cases of the “end of politics” era in the developed world. The developed world is starting to run out of clearly political disputes - particularly in the civil rights space - and therefore, issues which are largely enveloped by medical, social, and cultural considerations are being forced into the civil rights space.

    This was triggered, ironically, by the success of the gay rights movement - of which, the author likely supported. There are many places one could trace the transition point, but I think the 2015 Obergefell case is as good as any. Looking back, I think gay rights will be seen as the last cognizable civil rights movement and since 2015, movement politics has been desperately searching for the next thing. It’s trying to make “Trans” the next thing, but it’s causing all kinds of problems - namely, it’s just not particularly coherent. And, in two key respects, it’s causing significant tensions: 1.) tensions with women’s rights; and 2.) tensions with children’s rights.

    The latter is particularly troubling because we’re likely to see in the US litigation by de-transitioners picking up speed in the next decade or so. The former is also troubling, given that women’s sports can, and already is in some instances, be ruined by the Trans movement right at the time that women’s sports has found its stride. The Trans movement has all the markings of a disaster for movement politics.

  7. The T movement was a factor in Donald Trump being elected in the US. The Democrats imagined it would be the G movement all over again - a gift that keeps on giving. But for many people, it was (quite obviously) contradictory to other movements, and when Trump enthusiastically supported the Gs and enthusiastically opposed the Ts, Democrats had no answer.

    Even today Democrats are screaming that Trump is anti-G, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. When asked to support their claims, they cite anti-T behavior, then declare that “LGBTQ+” makes anti-T equivalent to anti-G.

    They have no concept of what “begging the question” means; their ideology is self-justifying.

    And Trump broke them.

    Transgenderism was the beginning of the end for wokeness.

  8. Every sport that an M2F trannie is competing is is ruined, because men (M2F trannies) have an “intolerable advantage” biologically. It’s biology trumping ideology. Men are bigger, have stronger muscles, have denser bones, and will win. A trannie pretended to be a woman at a weight-lifting event, and broke 9 world records at one event - these were thrown out immediately after officials learned of his faking. In CT, 2 guys are faking being women, and immediately won the state track records, coming in 1 & 2.

    Women are excluded from races by trannies.

    Women lose sports scholarships due to trannies.

    Women are injured by trannies in contact sports.

    M2F trannies need to be excluded from F contests. And, no, I really don’t care whose tender fee-fees I hurt with this position.

  9. There is also that “woman” in MMA who has literally fractures 2 actual females skulls. Joe Rogan is concerned this person is going to actually kill someone soon.

  10. First, losing is not the problem. It’s the playing field. It’s like saying that if 11 year olds had to compete against adult professional basketball players they should be cool with it because “there is a loser in all sporting events”.

    As to examples, track, cycling, wrestling, just to a name a few. And much of it is taking place at youth levels. Also, it doesn’t take much to ruin a sport. The Canadian Trans cyclist, for example, wasn’t even a professional athlete and just picked up cycling and started breaking world records against professional women who had been cycling most of their lives. All you need is a few trans athletes to destroy women’s sports because it renders it pointless to even try, if there’s no hope of winning.

    People who are confused by the dramatic differences in male/female athletic ability are either dishonest or simply have minimal experience with sports.

  11. WHy would you want to play footer with a lot of poofs? If you like the game, go and play it with people who play the game because they like it and not for politcal reasons.

    It is interesting that in the last 20 years so many people seek power through glorying in the least interesting thing about themselves. The first question I ask about someone is whether he or she is a good person. Anyone who makes his or her race, sexuality or political outlook the core of life is someone to despise and scorn with maximum prejudice. This prejudice is not against the fact that the person is black, gay or whatever, but because they are gits.

    And that is the issue that @Geary_Johansen2020 was getting at in his first post. Most of what gets labelled something-ism or something-phobia is not a dislike of the characteristic in question, but an objection to the power-grabbing and whining of those who think that they deserve special treatment for being different.
    They don’t.

  12. They’re certainly being replaced on the winner’s podium, regardless of whether they’re dropping out of competition. How does it not ruin a sports league for it to be impossible for members of the group for whom the league was created to succeed in it? Would it not ruin a featherweight boxing league for heavyweight boxers to be allowed to compete? By definition it would no longer exist as a featherweight boxing league, just as women’s leagues cease to exist if they allow men to compete.

  13. You really don’t know anything about sports, do you?

    When people run track, they run in heats. If you have 32 runners, they start in 4 groups, and the top 4 in each group are advanced, until there is a final heat.

    The presence of 1 trannie means that an actual normal woman does not run in the final heat. College scouts watch that heat to decide who gets the scholarship. Woman #8 will not be there. If there are 2 trannies, Woman #8 and #7 will not be there, because trannies are men and they have an advantage.

    In women’s rugby, men are breaking bones by pretending to be women.

    Some sports, like weight-lifting, have already ruled out trannies. Other sports must do the same, or women’s athletics will descend to “which team has the most trannies”.

  14. @Geary_Johansen2020 I think the phenomenon we are discussing was well summed up by the Little Britain sketches about the "only gay in the village.’’ He was a character who dressed in outlandih gay outfits and loudly declared at every opportunity that he was ‘‘the only gay in the village’’ when of course he wasn’t. Moreover he continually complained of being discriminated against when everyone was more than tolerant of him. This character is not objectionable because he’s gay, but because he’s a prat. The problem is that the progressives of this world cannot distinguish between character and characteristics. For that they must be condemned.

    Edit: I almost forget a short clip of the only gay in the viallge, to put things in context for American readers
  15. Your critique of the author’s article doesn’t make sense. You appear to conflate identity and ideology by suggesting that an LGBT soccer team is a “private group based on beliefs.” Being gay is not a belief or an ideology any more than being black is a belief or ideology. Creating a social group for LGBT people in no way presupposes a shared belief in the best way to arbitrate sexual and gender equality movements. Just because they play soccer together does not mean they must also conduct political advocacy together. That’s a strange conflation.

    I think it’s entirely fair to compare discrimination against homosexuals with discrimination against political opponents. The author at no point suggests these forms of discrimination are equivalent. He does not argue that the plight of conservatives is the same as the plight of homosexuals, nor does he suggest these prejudices are equally immoral. He simply establishes a comparison through which to analyze his experience.

    Finally, just because people have the right to be assholes does not mean they are immune from criticism for behaving like assholes. I may have the right to form a group of like minded individuals but I fail to see why this is a license to target, bully, slander and ostracize people with immunity.

    I find it odd that you don’t see any value in reading this author’s experience simply because the discrimination highlighted doesn’t constitute systemic discrimination. Like this author I am a right-leaning gay man with similar, albeit, less dramatic experiences. When meeting new people or entering uncertain situations I reflexively censure and lie about my personal life, such as the existence of my fiancé, until I know I won’t face prejudice for my sexuality. This is a burden I share with most gay men. Unlike most gay men, however, I cannot rely on LGBT spaces to provide me refuge and the freedom to be myself. My political beliefs mean I must censure and lie even within my own community. The resulting loneliness and self hatred can be, at times, unbearable. I suppose it’s my fault since I “chose” my political beliefs, but to force myself to adopt new beliefs would be to rob myself of the only place left I am free to be honest: my own mind.

    I think this is what the author is trying to highlight with his article. It’s not about condemning the LGBT community as morally indistinguishable from homophobes, it’s about the often overlooked burden placed on minorities to submit ourselves completely to the culture, attitudes, and ideology of our own community.

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