Featured in our July/ August Swimsuit Issue of Compete Sports Diversity!

As you look at our latest swimsuit issue, you’ll notice that the athletes we feature all have one thing in common – they are all softball players. Specifically, they’re all softball players from Kansas City who were kind enough to strip down and model their hottest swimsuits for us in anticipation of the 2019 Gay Softball World Series (GSWS). It’s set to take place this fall in Kansas City, Missouri and make sure the date – September 2-9 – is marked on your calendar.

This fun photo spread also sends the message that athleticism is not defined by appearance, that everyday athletes reflect a wide spectrum of different sizes, shapes and ethnicities. Unfortunately, our culture makes it easy for us to define ourselves based on how we look. It’s certainly no secret that toxic body image issues affect many people, including a large proportion of the LGBTQ+ community.

Years of real and photoshopped images of athletes with six pack abs and tiny waists have been plastered all over the place. And when you add the never-ending social pressure to conform, many people refuse to play sports because their bodies don’t match that unrealistic body image of an athlete they have stuck in their minds. However, athletic ability is not necessarily synonymous with aesthetic appearance; one is not defined by the other!

In my own experiences at several Gay Games and other major sports events (especially LGBTQ+ ones), I have often experienced people criticizing me for not having a body that looks ripped. Even after winning eight medals at the 2014 Gay Games IX, people have actually reminded me that I “just didn’t look as good as I could have.” I often hear people say that they’re not very athletic and it always bothers me. On one hand, I can understand where they’re coming from because they’re comparing athletic ability to a certain body image. But on the other hand, by participating in an athletic competition, they are an athlete: by definition, their participation makes them athletic!

All this is tied to our ingrained mindset of what makes us athletic. Physically and mentally we, as human beings, have an enormous potential to achieve whatever we put our minds to. At the risk of sounding like an after-school special, we are all born with the same muscles, joints, bones, metabolic energy systems and capabilities to achieve whatever we mentally decide is our goal and then physically work to attain.

Body positivity is about celebrating the diversity of our bodies – all our shapes, sizes and colors. And there is no better way to do that than through sports. Our athletic capabilities are defined by the work we do in training for our chosen sports and then putting forth our best efforts in competition while having fun throughout the process.

The softball players featured in this swimsuit issue embody this positive mindset. They are playing the game and training hard for the 2019 Gay Softball World Series because they love it. The moral o f the story is this: if anybody makes fun of you at a sports competition because of how you look, just slap them with your gold medals (those suckers are really heavy!).

By Dirk Smith