Newfoundland’s first LGBTQ+ curling league is providing a safe social outlet for community members who don’t want to spend their weekends downtown.
Adrien Doucet sat in a terminal at Pearson airport in Toronto contemplating the results of his first curling tournament.
“We finished dead last, proudly,” he said, without a hint of bitterness. “We were the bottom of the bottom.”
Doucet is at peace with his performance at Halifax’s Bluenose Bonspiel. After all, prior to January, he had never curled in his life except for a couple of junior high field trips. That’s when he and his partner joined Odds & Ends — a LGBTQ+ curling league based out of St. John’s.
To his surprise, the club and the sport has quickly become a regular part of his social life.
“It’s actually been our social thing just as a totally casual, totally easy and accessible thing to do on a Friday,” he said. “Instead of going out downtown on a night because it’s the weekend … we’ll go and have a few beer and curl with the LGBTQ+ crowd.”
Odds & Ends organizer Corey Follett has been an active member of the St. John’s Curling Club since 2011. He was part of the club’s first gay men’s team in 2014 and helped set up the LGBTQ+ league in 2016.
Follett believes queer-friendly recreational groups can serve an important role in giving members of the local community a safe space to socialize and express themselves openly.
“It fills a gap for people who don’t want to hang out or spend their time in a bar, but still want to be social in a queer community where they feel safest and can feel like they can truly be themselves,” he said.
Doucet echoed this sentiment.
“This is more about actually just being comfortable with yourself and doing a sport, playing curling in a safe space where you feel like you’re not necessarily going to be judged,” Doucet said. “Or you can actually strike up a conversation about identity, about sexual or gender identity. It’s a safe space to have those conversations.”
Based on the response from the local community, demand for these groups is on the rise. Odds & Ends started in October with 14 curlers meeting at the Remax Centre every Friday night. By January, that number had ballooned to 25.
In addition to filling a social niche in St. John’s, Follett thinks the league can open opportunities for people who might be too insecure to try new sports in what can be perceived as a masculine setting.
“The club has given us tremendous support.”
“A lot of queer people have had negative experiences in sports because there’s that whole jock culture,” Follett said. “So a lot of people have been afraid to even put themselves out there to see if they’re even good at a sport because of that.”
That isn’t to say Follett or other LGBTQ+ curlers have had negative experiences with the local curling club. In fact, as Follett is quick to point out, the club has been overwhelmingly supportive of their league.
“I’ve never experienced or felt any kind of hostility or homophobia at the club,” he said. “Every night we step onto the ice, we hang a rainbow flag in the window of the sheet we’re curling on … The club has given us tremendous support.”