Stonewall Sports, Fargo’s Premier LGBTQ League, Breaks Down Barriers and Builds Community – InForum

FARGO — The grassy terrain of Gooseberry Mound Park was bursting with mauve, periwinkle, cardinal red and lemon on Sunday, Aug. 14, the day of Fargo’s downtown Pride Parade.

On one side of the playing area, named Boschee Field after Democratic Rep. Josh Boschee, the Fargo Freeballers practiced stretching and warming up in the summer sun. The excitement for the upcoming kickball game was contagious.

On the other side of the pitch, the Kick Me Baby One More Time team talked strategy.

Stonewall Sports parades in Fargo’s Pride Parade on Sunday August 14, 2022.

CS Hagen / The Forum

For decades, the metropolitan area did not have a regularly open bar or meeting place outside of the

FM Pride Collective and Community Center

where gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and non-binary people can meet. But that changed last week when Stonewall Sports, a national LGBTQ+ organization and allied nonprofit, added its 24th chapter to Fargo.

“We don’t have gay bars here, and it’s all about getting involved in the community. An organization like this doesn’t even exist in the state at all,” said Scottie Knollin, gatekeeper. word of Stonewall Fargo.Like many others, her cheeks shone with glitter, remnants of walking in the Pride parade that thousands of locals attended.

“It was a necessary thing,” Knollin said. “I’m not an athlete, but I like to have fun.”

A man in a bright pink shirt and a backwards hat speaks into a microphone.
Stonewall Fargo spokesperson Scottie Knollin addresses an audience of several hundred at Gooseberry Mound Park in Moorhead on Sunday August 14, 2022.

CS Hagen / The Forum

Knollin’s sentiment represents the heart of Stonewall Sports. Anyone can participate, and competition is healthy, but the most important exercise is having fun, said Stonewall national athletic director Candi Wills.

Wills flew in from Boston to watch the first kickball game for the organization’s new chapter.

The process for a Chapter to be accepted into the league is not straightforward: a proposal must be written, budgets must be arranged, sponsors must be found, and the community must show a need, which at Fargo was more than ‘obvious, Wills said.

“In Fargo, they were like, ‘We don’t have anything for the queer community. We don’t have queer sports,'” Wills said, adding that online membership and event attendance were close to rivaling. with major cities.

The lack of a place for LGBTQ+ people to meet and socialize was an issue that needed to be addressed, especially when lawmakers across the country, including North Dakota, sent an “unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ measures to state legislators in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an organization created in 1989 to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

“We have seen time and time again that for every step of progress, sometimes we see two steps back. Our rights will continue to be trampled on if we don’t fight back,” Boschee said during a speech after the Pride Parade.

Sport, for some members of the LGBTQ+ community, caused stress growing up, which compounded emotional issues for many.

“Most people have been taught that being gay is wrong or bad. Imagine the thought that if someone finds out there’s something wrong with me, and about something, they don’t have the choice,” Wills said.

Two people in yellow shirts walk hand in hand through a grassy field.
For the first time in decades, LGBTQ people in Fargo have a community they can join to meet in a welcoming environment, according to attendees.

CS Hagen / The Forum

One of the club’s founders, Trevor Nordquist, said he already has 11 teams and 159 registered players. The group’s Facebook page has 400 members. All members pay a small fee to participate in the games, which for the first half or so will be limited to kickball.

Later, the league may add additional sports like pickleball, tennis, dodgeball, and others that can be played indoors during the cold winter months. Next spring, other sports like cornhole and trivia could be added to Fargo’s roster, Nordquist said.

Nordquist moved from Atlanta to Fargo in 2021, and he saw the need “to help build the community,” he said.

“Having Stonewall in Fargo is extremely important as the city continues to grow. It provides a safe place where the LGBTQ community and its allies can come together,” he said.

Suzanne Blum Grundyson, the Minneapolis representative on the national board, said Stonewall Fargo is a managed chapter, which can compete with other Stonewall groups and potentially one day compete nationally.

“But the most important part is being in community with queer people and allies. Men and boys grow up in sport learning that it wasn’t a safe place for them. As a girl growing up, I was proud of my athleticism, but I couldn’t get out. It was a secret place, a painful place. But that has changed,” Blum Grundyson said.

“I know people are really excited to be visible in the community, and I can tell you there are so many cool connections you can make through sports,” she said.

Wills shared a similar story about his childhood – having to keep his sexual orientation a secret and always being afraid of someone finding out.

“The people who want the most change are the ones who have to wait the longest. It’s always two steps forward, one step back,” Wills said.

Stonewall is not just a sports league, it is also involved in LGBTQ+ issues.

“We go to protests and marches, and we hope to see that in Fargo,” Wills said.

In places like Boston or New York, the queer community has outlets for fun and sport, she said.

“Getting to come here to a small town like Fargo is really important to us. Places that may not yet be quite sure to be open. At Stonewall, trans, gay, everyone should feel welcome,” Wills said.

Representative Josh Boschee, wearing sunglasses, speaks into a microphone at an outdoor event.
Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, speaks before Stonewall Fargo’s first kickball game on Sunday, August 14, 2022.

CS Hagen / The Forum

Bias against the LGBTQ+ community still exists in Fargo, Nordquist said.

Three playgrounds have been named after LGBTQ+ pioneers, including: Boschee, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker; Jon Lindgren, the mayor who declared the first Gay Pride Proclamation in Fargo history; and Carrie Evans, North Dakota’s first openly elected lesbian.

“It’s a way to connect, a great way to welcome people into our community. It’s exciting,” Boschee said.

Not all Stonewall Fargo members are LGBTQ+ people, Knollin said, adding that some queer people are hesitant to join other already established regional leagues.

“Many adult leagues are at a different level of competition. While we encourage competition, we strive to have a league where everyone is welcome. All skill levels. We can be competitive, but above all, have fun,” Nordquist said.

Registration is closed for the season, but those wishing to join the winter season can start through the Stonewall Sports – Fargo Facebook page at

www.facebook.com/groups/stonewallsportsfargo/.

Jennifer C. Burleigh