According to the Trevor Project, a number of LGBTQ+ youth reported choosing not to participate in sports due to reasons related to discrimination or fear of LGBTQ-based discrimination. In creating a gender-inclusive safe space, one sports league is making sure everyone has a chance to play.

Sports can help advance understanding, acceptance and equality by judging on skills and talent rather than identities, and giving everyone a chance to play.

“It's just nice to give an outlet for queer people to come and play sports,” general manager of Rochester Outloud Sports Ty Wilson said. “Queer people don't always have a space to call their own. So for me, it's just about facilitating a fun, competitive, athletic environment for queer people to come together and like the athletic and play sports and have fun.”

The organization Outloud Sports has created safe spaces for LGBTQ+ athletes across the country to find joy in sports and to elevate each other's individuality that they bring to the game.

“I always try to create a safe space wherever I am,” participant Ishmael Applewhite said. “That's why I am as energetic as I am. So when that is already established in a place, it just allows me to be more free. You don't get to always do that work. You don't get to do that when you're walking down the street all the time. And that’s all we want, we want to be free, we want to be happy.”

Between plays and silly comments between teammates, this space is celebrated for all players coming from different walks of life.

“We don't have to change any mannerisms or try to push anything up so I can be out there dancing and seeing, you know, Camp Rock or whatever,” Applewhite said. “It's just a safe space which we always strive to try to have within our spaces anyway, and that continues out onto the field.”

And even if they don't reach home base on the field, they still have a home off the field with new friends and teammates.

“It is one of the simplest joys and wants and needs of a person to want to feel safe and to be happy and to be able to connect with people,” Applewhite said. “You're on a team and when you're on a team, you know. It just makes a small family. And it’s like that for a lot of sports.”