3 years ago I was introduced to futsal by a friend who is both a soccer fanatic and a sport organizer. He was hosting casual coed futsal games in the west-end of Toronto for players who were intermediate to competitive – I tried it one night with his group and immediately felt it would be an excellent game for women and transgender folks who wanted to develop their skills. So that’s where that part of the story starts.
As you can tell, Lace Up Your Cleats (LUYC) is more than sport, it’s about community. I use sport as a vehicle to create connection, inspire fun and support individual empowerment as a player and person. I think for the most part I succeed in these goals and I try to tweak LUYC so that it appeals to more and more people.
In my early twenties I was involved in the activist scene in downtown Toronto, which was racially diverse, included people on all points of the gender spectrum, some had disabilities – some didn’t, mostly-if-not-exclusively queer, feminist in nature, there were people who identified as working-class, as hipster, as everything you could imagine. I tried to find my place in all of that, but it was hard. I was young, insecure, overwhelmed, in pain and generally alone. I wanted to belong and I wanted to be loved – doesn’t everyone?
I was friends and lovers with so many different people. I worked with those who had been activists for years and some that were newbies. I saw people change genders, change partners, fuck-up and do good work all at once. It was an illuminating time and it taught me that: A. I wanted to be a part of social change; and B. I was drawn to leading and creating community that was comfortable, down-to-earth, inclusive and challenging (in a good way).
So I learned these things, but I also racked up a lot of hurt, misunderstandings, burnt bridges that towards the end of my twenties I had had enough. I couldn’t be and fuck in the thick of it anymore, it was just too much. At the same time, I fell in love again with sport, particularly soccer (and then futsal), and embarked on a journey of self-discovery in sport. I became a certified soccer coach, I worked in sport as a leader and facilitator and then I launched LUYC, partly on a whim and partly because I yearned to create a sport community that spoke to my needs and the needs of so many like me who had experienced, and continue to experience marginalization both within the broader echelons of society and within specific niches and identity groups in Toronto.
I like to think of LUYC as a project in order to keep my expectations of it and myself in check, but I also don’t want to downplay the success and coolness of what I’m doing, where I come from and how my past and current experiences have shaped my approach. I love community, I love connection, I love sport and I love fun. None of that should be difficult, it should all be easy. That’s why LUYC started and why it continues.