Pride, Soccer, Identity

Over the weekend I was at Pride Toronto, celebrating my community and the people in my life, many of which represent the spectrum of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) that the festival honours every year. My schedule was pretty jam packed: Friday was the Trans March followed by dancing at the Two-Spirit Rainbow Pow Wow, some sleep time, and then the next day brunch, Dyke March, 519 Beer Garden, sleep time, rest time, and Sunday night at Black is Black: Blockorama 18 with a final night cap at the 519 Beer Garden. All in all it was fabulous.

In between all this I watched the weekend quarter-final games of the UEFA Euro 2016 – Italy vs Germany and France vs Iceland – the former being so intense I could barely watch the penalty shoot out. As an Italian-Canadian, when men’s international soccer tournaments take place my allegiance is always with the Azzurri. I love it when they win and I love it even more when I get to gloat about their dynasty. The Azzurri are one of the most accomplished and decorated national team in the history of soccer. That is no easy feat.

(I have yet to watch Italy’s women’s national team and this is one of the things I hope for: that they will qualify for the next Women’s World Cup or that I will make the journey to Italy some day soon to see them live in action. For a brief moment I had an arms length experience of this when Carolina Morace was the head coach of Canada’s women’s national team).

However it was also strange to be ‘so Italian’ in and amongst being ‘so gay’. Sometimes this doesn’t make any sense to me, to be Italian, to be Canadian, to be openly lesbian, to be an athlete, to be a soccer fan, to be a woman, to be an ally with marginalized groups, to be living all these things. Sport is already hard enough when you are a woman or transgender, sport becomes even harder when you recognize the layers and layers of politics, oppression, joy, pride, corruption, complexity and stereotype that govern your body.

Sport and sexuality as a topic has made huge gains in the mainstream over the last five years – some elite athletes who are part of the LGBTQ community are becoming more open about their sexuality and leading by example, others are providing advocacy at the grassroots level. This is refreshing. I love it. And I understand how hard it is to occupy this space.


Groundswell: A Sport Movement is Happening in Toronto and the Feeling is Good

Last night I was driving back from the Niagara Region, having spent a couple of days out of town for celebratory reasons, and as per usual I was listening to sports on AM radio. I’m not sure how many folks across Canada, let alone in Toronto, would rather listen to sports on the radio then watch live, but I’ve found it less anxiety provoking. Moreover, the commentators are AWESOME!

At the beginning of the NBA playoffs, the few times I watched the Raptors-Pacers series I felt nauseous at what I was witnessing: terrible shooting, sloppy plays, bad decision-making, etc. The Raptors were getting their jinx/demons out but as a fan it made me ambivalent about being so committed to the franchise. However, after listening to their second half dismantling of the Miami Heat in Game 7 of Round 2, my ambivalence has subsided and I feel good about whatever happens here on in. This team has broken a number of major franchise records, and they are making the rest of the NBA (and the broadcasting landscape of the USA) pay attention and take them seriously.

There is a bigger sport movement going on in Toronto right now that is pushing all teams to be better, expect better, win Championships and rally their fans. When I was listening to the Raptors-Heat game last night, I took a few moments here and there to switch over the Toronto Blue Jays-Texas Rangers game, which was ridiculous (full coverage is here and a great Sportsnet analysis here). At the heart of what happened was Texas crying over spilled milk from last years Blue Jays playoff win. They didn’t, and still don’t like how the Jays play with pride, guts, big bats and no apologies. Well, too bad … that’s the kind of competitive edge you need at the professional level.

As the owner of the majority of professional sport franchises in the city (the Blue Jays are owned by Rogers), Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment has done a good job of investing in better leadership, coaching and talent over the last few years, and this is part of the reason why Toronto’s expectations and the appetite for sport has become insatiable. As Toronto FC continues to gel and improve, as the Toronto Argos settle into their new home at BMO Field, and as the Toronto Maple Leafs rebuild with one of the best coaches in the NHL, Toronto will be experiencing more thrilling games and successes, not to mention a Championship or two or three. I’m excited … how about you?

PS: Tomorrow, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia – honour, educate and celebrate accordingly!

PPS: Round 3 of the NBA playoffs begins tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. where the Raptors take on the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Woohoo!


TORONTO2015: After Pan Am Comes the Parapan Am Games!

When I was working for TORONO2015 earlier in the year, one of the projects I was working on was a conference we nickname “Are You Ready?“. The conference focused on how businesses in the Greater Toronto Area can get ready, to be great inclusive hosts for the Pan Am / Parapan Am Games. It was my introduction into the intricacies of talking in-depth, and in such a public forum, about accessibility and disability.

Working at TORONTO2015 also introduced me to the plethora of para sports that span from goalball to wheelchair rugby to sitting volleyball, which I’m hoping to see next week at the Parapan Am Games. This year has been an incredible one for sport in Canada, it’s like a never-ending shopping spree of sport!

At the Pan Am Games, I got to as much as I could: track cycling (Milton), handball (Toronto), women’s soccer (Hamilton) and women’s basketball (Toronto). I visited the Toronto sign at City Hall, and checked out the pavilion at Exhibition Place, which was pretty rad. I also Sandra Shamas at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District as part of Panamania. All in all, TORONTO2015 was a joyous frenzy and a chance for Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe area to shine.

There is a debate going on about whether Toronto should put in a bid for the Summer Olympics of 2024. Some have suggested that a tournament of that magnitude would be too financial stressful on Toronto, and instead we should bid for Expo 2025, which is a an almost year-long festival showcasing cultural diversity and technological advances. Hard to say what would be best.

Pictures*** from the Pan Am Games below. Hope to see Toronto welcome and support the Parapan Am athletes just like we did for the Pan Am Games. Support, visibility, and money – the trifecta that allows sport to grow.

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***All pictures © Cristina Murano