By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)
The United States Gay Sports Network, better known as USGSN is run by Sports Diversity Leader, Tyler Foerster, who wants to help connecting athletes to local LGBTQ+ sports teams, leagues, and events. USGSN originally started in 2010 and focused more on sharing results from LGBTQ+ tournaments but after “a brief hiatus” is establishing a broader network to connect LGBTQ+ to the sports leagues, teams and events in their own communities. Our managing editor, Dirk Smith caught up with Tyler to learn more about USGSN.
Dirk Smith: Tell me more about USGSN and your inspiration to start it?
Tyler Foerster: I attended a flag football tournament in Phoenix and while there I read an article from Compete Magazine about the top three teams that finished first, second, and third. At that time there was no women’s division, just the men’s open so it was a brief article. It made me curious to know if there was any kind of website that had sports scores and statistics on tournaments such as this. I’m a huge statistic nut and this was right around the time when league apps came into play, so USGSN started that way. It was focused on football leagues that didn’t have a platform to host their website and their scores while having, as an example, 10 leagues in it. Which was a lot of work. When I would go to these tournaments where I was playing, I would in-between games, and at the end of the night, crunch numbers. I was doing all this work myself, pro-bono and it got to the point where my website was being used by a lot of people in the tournaments who were going to my website instead of the actual league tournament. So, then the tournament’s brought me on board which evolved into me doing live scoring while the tournament’s happening but that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I was doing everything myself and it’s a lot of upkeep. So, after five years offline it evolved into just being a resource for people to play in tournaments in sporting leagues that are close to them. We’ve done away with the scores, schedule, and statistics. We just want to make sure that people who want to play in sports are aware that they exist.
DS: What inspired the transition from LGBTQ+ sports results/statistics to a directory?
TF: When I graduated from school I moved to Chicago. I didn’t know that a gay league existed, so I was playing on a straight soccer team. I played about three games with this team when they found out somehow some way that I was gay. They either saw me at a gay bar or something, I’ve no clue. The coach never told me, but he kicked me off the team. I was shocked because I had never dealt with this kind of discrimination before. My buddy at the time asked why I was even involved with these straight leagues and said I should go play in a gay league. That’s how I was introduced to the LGBTQ+ sports community and learned it existed. I fell in love with the football League and the soccer league in Chicago. So, I realized that is where the website needed to go. It needed to pivot from the things that don’t matter, which is standings and scores to something more meaningful which can involve more leagues, rather than just the 12 to 15 football leagues I had before I stopped doing it.
DS: Yeah, I can certainly relate to experiencing discrimination in straight sports, it’s never easy. But I am glad to see such a positive resource for the community come out of your experience. How are you expanding USGSN?
TF: I want to have every league in the United States. We have about 600 leagues in America right now with another 150 to add to it. Then we’re going to get other countries starting with Canada involved and add tournaments as well. We want to feature everyone’s tournament, which will be the next phase and then we’ll go globally after that’s done.
DS: That’s awesome and there is certainly a huge need and a niche for it. What’s driving you to put in all this work?
TF: I think with all the politics that are going on, especially because of the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” in Florida it’s perfect timing to continue the transition that I started in late 2019 just before COVID hit. My main passion is that I don’t want people to suffer what I went through. I know that’s minimal compared to some people, but I just want people to know there is a resource, there are people out there that have a safe space to play sports, to feel comfortable and to get that enjoyment that they might have missed out on. I do know that from playing in both straight leagues and gay leagues, also running a football league here in San Diego; the biggest takeaway from our allies is that we are way more organized. They will come back to our leagues because we’re more fun to play with and it’s maybe not as competitive, but it’s very organized and structured. Sports and competition, especially full of masculinity can sometimes be toxic. But, if you’re in the right environment it can be more social and fun, and we need to build up these communities. I like seeing a newly formed league when they go from one team in a straight league expanding into their own gay league.
DS: When you mention allies, you mean straight people who join LGBTQ+ leagues?
TF: Yes! The biggest misconception from our allies is that you must be gay to join. I had a friend ask me about going to Gay Games and competing but wasn’t sure if they were allowed to because they are straight and saying, “it isn’t okay if I have my own event that I can only compete for being straight.” Well, that’s kind of the point. We have events like Gay Games for us to compete in because we’re often excluded, and straight men don’t have those oppressions we may encounter. I do mention that they are more than welcome to join us, these events are welcoming for everybody. I explained to him also that if he joins, he’d have to be okay with a lot of things. Someone might say something that’s inappropriate or see behavior that he is not used to, just a heads up.
DS: Great points there! I appreciate you taking the time to share with me your story and your passion for the community. USGSN is a great resource and I love that you’re so passionate about it. I can’t wait to see it expand more.
TF: Thank you and the rest of the team at Compete Sports Diversity for helping inspire me!
Learn more about the United States Gay Sports Network at https://www.usgsn.com/