Community and identity in an LGBT softball league: constitution, practice, negotiation, and problematization
This study situated a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) softball league within the logic of homonormativity and queer futurity and explored how community and identity were constituted, practiced, negotiated, and problematized. The project endeavored to address the questions: What is the meaning and significance of community for the League participants? To what extent and how does participation in the League affect gender and sexual identity discourse and practice? And, in the context of the League, how are dominant ideologies and power structures reinforced, disrupted, and produced? A critical ethnography was undertaken to render lives, relations, structures, and alternative possibilities visible. Data was collected through participant observation, interviews, open-ended questionnaires, and archival document analysis. A three stage process was employed for data transformation including description, analysis, and interpretation. LGBT identified sports clubs, formed as a result of identity politics, are understood to be potential sites of transformation and/or assimilation. Although the League was imbued with the discourses of inclusion and acceptance, the valorizing of competition and normalization led to the creation of hierarchies and a politics of exclusion. The League as an identity-based community was defined by what it was not, by what it lacked, by its constitutive outside. It is possible to learn a great deal about community by looking at what and who is left out and the conspicuous absence of transgender and bisexual participants in the League highlights a form of closure, a limit to the transformative potential of the League.