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Show Your Pride (Night)

Nine White Sox fans address what Pride Night means to them

It has been a tumultuous 2023 for the LGBTQ+ community.

Drag bans, gender-affirming care bans for trans people, bathroom bills and waves of violence against queer people, among many other terrible things we were already dealing with, have made this year’s Pride Month celebrations complicated, to say the least.

The fiasco with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the Los Angeles Dodgers sparked a lot of controversy in the baseball community and elsewhere about Pride Nights, leading to many teams caving in to pressure and hate speech, and taking down Pride logos that in other years had been mainstays for the month of June. The terrors the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis are inescapable to talk about in an article about a night at a ballpark celebrating the community.

This story is not about that, however, but about a community coming together to celebrate their identity through the White Sox and baseball. It’s about how in the face of great adversity and struggle that we are empowered to unabashedly be who we are.

I should know, I am one of them.

Before we get into the other stories told here, I should share mine. I’m Jordan (she/her), I am a transgender woman, lesbian, and White Sox fan since birth. I’ve been out publicly for more than a year now, but have been transitioning longer than that. I have a deep connection of my queerness and the team, as I’ve been a member of White Sox Twitter since before I was out in 2020.

Through the community I had cultivated on the internet I had made so many friends (some of whose stories I am gong to tell) who were unabashedly either allies or queer themselves that when I came out, there was nothing but love and support for me. Even now, though the team is so awful, there’s a part of me that’s intertwined with the White Sox because of the support of my fellow fans and friends, and I can’t give them up.

Pride Night is near and dear to me. It shows that despite everything awful going on in the world, and as much as people want to and do hate my community, there is space for us in baseball and in the world.

For Janice Scuiro (she/her or they/them), who is bisexual, her Sox fandom came when she was seven years old: “I started watching games on my own. It was probably in 1993. Just turned the TV on and liked watching the game; it was so interesting trying to figure it out.”

Janice sees a gap in their White Sox and baseball fandom and queerness that Pride Night helps bridge. “I don’t think we really talk about how these identities really intersect enough — like being a queer athlete is probably more discussed in the forefront than being a queer sports fan,” she says. “As a queer cis woman, there’s plenty of ‘othering’ that goes on in Sox fandom generally, but finding a community of other queer Sox fans (and allies) has been really fantastic.”

Pride Night for Janice, like for me and many others, is a complicated affair that at times it feels like a cash grab. But she sees it as a way to implement positive change for the LGBTQ+ community: “What makes it meaningful is doing more than slapping rainbows on Sox merchandise. Recognizing that queer and trans folks have been significantly overlooked and marginalized by society — and letting fans know that they are welcomed and appreciated, and that intolerance won’t be tolerated. Donating money (and giving a platform) to community centers like Brave Space Alliance and the Center on Halsted is a great place to start.

“I don’t remember much about the Pride Nights I’ve been to — Shea Coulee threw out the first pitch at one, and that was cool. Liam Hendriks raising the Pride flag — hearing the story behind that was really cool. Drag queens and one ally pitcher are nice, but I’d like to see more, y’know?”

Continuing with that sentiment, Janice wants the team to be a better ally year-round: “Inviting community resource orgs to be present, and also offering visibility to fans like us is great for Pride — and for the rest of the year, providing a safe space where folks can just exist without having to worry about harassment or people being jerks is a great place to start.”

Janice has underlying words of praise for Hendriks and other ally players, specific to Pride — but also, more broadly.

“I’m really thankful for players like Hendriks stepping up to be the “face” of Pride,” she says. “I remember the [James] Fegan article where he talked about how he’d sign with a team that had a Pride Night, and it’s cool how he’s made that his thing. Someone on Twitter made an All-Ally team, and it was enough guys to fill a whole roster. But I’d like to see more players outspoken in their support of the community. I’m also really proud of [ACL White Sox pitcher] Anderson Comás, and I really hope the White Sox realize how important it is to have an out player. And I also hope they are doing everything in their power to protect him.”

Celeste (she/her) and her family admittedly “practice White Sox as a religion: My grandpa was a die-hard White Sox fan, and the rest of the family just followed suit. But I would imagine that even if I wasn’t born into it, I would choose the White Sox over the Cubs, anyway.”

As a lesbian, Celeste is grateful that no one on the team is outwardly bigoted. “There are many players on the White Sox and other teams I like that don’t share the same morals or ideology as me, or are just generally awful people (e.g., Mike Clevinger),” she says. “As far as being queer goes, I would have a hard time rooting for a team that is owned by outwardly bigoted people (e.g., the Ricketts). That’s not to say the White Sox don’t have any bigoted folks on the team or in the front office, but I can at least appreciate people shutting up when they know they should.

“For example, I would be upset if I was a Dodgers fan with the way the team handled the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I don’t expect my baseball team to be activists or anything like that. As long as they aren’t affirmatively speaking out against the Queer community, that’s fine with me.”

Celeste’s thoughts on Pride Night are fairly straightforward, but also appreciative that the team has done nights for specific heritages as well.

“[Pride Nights] are good to have. Obviously I’m going to say that because it is representative of myself, but all kinds of ‘pride nights’ should be celebrated. For example, it was awesome that the Sox did an AAPI night.”

Like Janice, Celeste wishes the White Sox would do more in supporting the community: “There's certainly always room to put your money where your mouth is, and donate to or sponsor LGBTQ+ organizations.”

But mostly, she is comfortable knowing that the White Sox community is a place to be who you are without judgment.

“I feel really comfortable among our fan base, and am so grateful for the community I have made through Sox fandom,” Celeste says. “I’ve never felt uncomfortable among our fans, and I know y’all have my back.”

Vino Mazzei (he/him) Is a gay man who works at Guaranteed Rate Field, and has grown to love the Sox and baseball working for the team. “I grew up going to St Louis Cardinals games, but hadn’t really developed a fandom for any teams in Chicago since moving here in 2008,” he says. “I had an opportunity to work at Guaranteed Rate starting at the beginning of the 2022 season doing hospitality, especially with some of our catering operations. I manage a suite behind home plate and the fan deck in the outfield, as well as the Leinenkugel’s Craft Lodge and the adjoining Miller Lite Landing.

“I started to follow the players last season, and am much more familiar with the team and its history this season. I got cozy with the 108 crew toward the end of last season, and am more active on WST this season. I’ve grown to love the team and the fans, and even follow how they’re doing on away games.”

Vino finds the vibes and traditions of baseball, as well as the good looks of the players, to be an attractive part of the game for him. “Well, let’s just say most of the players are very easy on the eyes, and I’ve always enjoyed the fit of a baseball uniform,” he smiles. “I’ve known many gay sports fans, but I’m not sure I’ve known any whose whole day is ruined, like me, if their team loses. I mostly feel sad that all these awesome people feel hurt when their team lets them down.

“I’d say I’m a little more in love with the whole guest experience around the game, and all of the old rituals. I am just starting to scratch the surface with stats, as it’s an extremely stats-oriented sport. But mostly I think of the joy of buying Cracker Jack from a seat vendor as a kid. I want the whole experience to lean a little more toward a music festival vibe.”

Mazzei joins the chorus in wishing the team would support the LGBTQ+ community financially as well as in-game, but offers that not all of the community support has to be a line item: “I kinda wanna host drag shows in the [Leinenkugel] Lodge at some point.”

He echoes the sentiment of feeling welcomed in White Sox fandom, while also touching on how he personally has connected with the Queer community through working with the team. “Every week or so, I see openly gay couples showing affection, and it doesn’t seem uncomfortable,” he says. “I’ve been very welcomed at the park and on WST, so I can speak from my experience that this is a good group. I love the team and want them to keep their momentum going. There are a lot of good people with good energy who love this team, and I want to enhance the happiness and fun they expect to have at a ballgame.

“I’m honored to help people feel special and taken care of. I also love meeting other queer fans. We hosted a really sweet lesbian engagement party in the suite last season, and the chef and I presented them with a Sox Pride flag.”

Darrin (he/him) found himself and his sexuality through the White Sox fandom he inherited from his dad. “My coming-out process was a rough, long journey,” he says. “It was tough growing up in rural Illinois and being 14 going right into high school when I first started having questions about my sexuality that I thought I would always just keep to myself. I was a sophomore in college when I knew I was bi, and when I first wanted to start coming out I had a lot of individual conversations with my friends on Sox Twitter. That kickstarted a process of talking to my IRL friends about it, and eventually being fully out as of Valentine’s Day this year. I couldn’t have had the confidence to be where I am today if I hadn’t met and interacted with other Sox fans.”

Darrin finds that the LGBTQ+ community is part of what makes the White Sox fandom so diverse: “[Being a queer fan] represents what I like about being a White Sox fan, where there’s a whole bunch of different types of people but we all share a common team. It’s what I like about the city of Chicago. We’re all different, but we all just try to do our thing.”

He also has taken notice of how Pride Night has resonated with at least one White Sox player.

“They provide a cool opportunity for people in the community to come together for athletics and just meet together in general,” Darrin says. “It helps when players are openly supportive, having someone like Liam Hendriks, who makes it a point to be vocally supportive and going beyond wearing a rainbow patch.”

Chrystal O’Keefe (she/they) found her team in the Sox, no longer able to stomach Cubs ownership: “I actually left the team on the North Side after disagreeing heavily with their political stance. I shopped teams, but ultimately had the most fun at Sox games.”

Chrystal, who is bisexual/pansexual, finds that being a queer fan isn’t always easy: “It’s a different experience, as someone that is not only a woman, but also queer. Cis women aren’t typically welcomed, because of the idea that baseball and sports in general are for men. I feel safer at Sox Park and in that community, especially knowing how vocal players on the team are. But I don’t always feel welcomed or safe going to other ballparks. I try to just be straight-passing if I feel uncomfortable.”

Speaking on why they feel safer at Sox games, Chrystal says, “It definitely helps that I have a lot of friends at the games, and they all accept me for who I am. Pride Night also makes me feel welcome, because I feel like everyone there supports it. Especially after so many players [on other clubs] have been sharing why they don’t support it/won’t participate.”

On the nature of Pride Night, Chrystal wants to believe everyone has the best intentions when hosting one. “I’ve always enjoyed White Sox Pride Night, and still proudly display my South Side Society pride flag at my desk,” she says. “I really thought the Dodgers were going to have a great time this year, but was disappointed when they uninvited a well-loved group due to flack from a priest. I’ll be in Pittsburgh for Pride at PNC, and I’m extremely excited to see what that’s going to be like.”

She wishes the White Sox had more Pride merch, as well as some more in-game support for LGBTQ+ people (and maybe some deals for the community as well): “Discounts for the gays! Kidding. I really think they do a great job with diversity. Inviting drag queens is a blast, as well. I suppose the only thing that would make it better was more Pride merchandise. It’s usually pretty limited, and seems to be able to fit on [one] table in the gift shop. Also, it would be cool to see non-straight couples on this kiss cam every once in a while, if they still have it.”

Like many others, Chrystal appreciates the very outward support Liam Hendriks has given us. “Honestly, I’m just thankful for Liam Hendriks,” she says. “He’s the true definition of an ally, and I wish there were more players like him.”

Julia Hanson (she/her) has an identity that she would describe as queer. “I had been identifying as bi,” she says, “but queer feels a little more right to me lately.” Her Sox fandom came through going to games with her now-husband Thomas.

She feels that her queerness gives her a different perspective as a fan. “The way I experience the team feels different,” she says. “I’m more aware of not only how the organization chooses to represent their support during months like June, but also in all the ‘He Gets Us’ ads up all year. But also with the players themselves, too. I’ll be a lifelong Liam Hendriks fan because I’m proud to be a fan of him. I can’t say I’m excited to watch other players of a much lesser caliber of humanity, regardless of how well they play for the team I root for.”

While Julia likes Pride Night, she feels as though it doesn’t come off as well as other special games do. “It’s nice, and supremely underwhelming, as it is in most sports,” she says. “You’d never question which game was Mother’s Day, but if you have the game muted on Pride Night, you probably wouldn’t be aware. I know you could nitpick MLB[-wide] promotions vs. organization level, but the point still stands. If they’re going to make money off of the limited rainbow-branded Sox merch, at least represent it.”

Julia also thinks the organization could be doing more in terms of community outreach and accessibility: “I would like to see more support from the organization as a whole. From partnerships and [avoiding] players who are actively against who I am as a person, to representation at the stadium and in their media presence. Also, outreach to the community by creating an in-game experience that feels safe and accessible.”

Ryiin (they/them) is a nonbinary fan, whose upbringing caused an interest in sports and the White Sox at a young age. “My family moved to Iowa when I was 10,” they recall. “My parents were super-religious and were really restrictive of what outside influences they allowed, but sports on TV were totally fine. I probably stumbled upon a White Sox game on TV around that time, in the early ’90s. I was kind of enamored with Chicago, and the Sox were good and the Cubs weren’t.”

Did their queerness had any impact on their love of the White Sox? “I was definitely a Sox fan before I identified as queer,” they say. “It may have informed how I saw myself when I was younger, but it’s hard to say there is any direct connection. I wouldn’t say my fandom is much different now than when before I knew my truth. How I related to other fans feels different, but that probably has more to do with how I related to cis[gender] people in everyday life.”

Elaborating on that relationship with cis fans, Ryiin says “it influences with whom I would want to watch baseball, if that makes sense. I’m more guarded, and try to avoid more heavily masculine vibes within the fandom. As a queer fan, I definitely gravitate towards similar vibes/energies. I am more aware of my need to seek kindred spirits/spaces that are safe to be me.”

Echoing many other fan experiences, Ryiin did in fact find a safe space in with Sox fans on Twitter. “My little corner of Sox Twitter is wonderful,” they say. “I was leery of trying to make connections with other fans for the longest time, but then I met good people on Twitter a few years ago, and now I feel like I totally have a safe space within the fandom to be authentic and be myself, without needing to hide behind the guise of my masculine exterior.”

Despite being queer, they feel like they don’t necessarily have a footing in the community yet to comment on Pride Night. “Pride Month and Pride Nights aren’t something that I’ve felt a strong connection to in the past,” Ryiin says. “I 100% support Pride Nights, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to speak towards what should be done better or differently. That might have to do with me not really having Queer community than anything. Representation matters, but I don’t know if a corporate entity doing a Pride Night really speaks to my experience. I really haven’t looked into what the Sox are doing specifically, so it’s hard to say what they should do differently.”

However, they do have some suggestions on the Sox could be doing better: “Off the top of my head, the Sox do a number of good charitable things in the community at large. I don’t know that they are actively involved with any LGBTQIA+ causes. It would be nice to know that they are an ally in real life, beyond the bare-minimum, required PR for Pride Month/Night. I don’t have high expectations of the wealthy, white, good ole boys club of baseball owners, though.”

Alexis (she/her), a trans woman and lesbian, found the White Sox at several points in her life but became a fan during the pandemic. “Coming home from elementary school, I’d do my homework and watch cartoons, but around 2011 when I finally got cable is when I started paying attention to sports more,” she says. “WGN existed, too, a local Chicago channel that the White Sox would play on a lot. I’d turn to WGN for the news, and around 6-7 p.m. on certain days they’d play Sox games. I remember hearing Hawk Harrelson multiple times, so the connection has been there for a long time.”

Still not an everyday fan, a decade later she decided to intensify her fandom. “I started watching Cubs Spring Training first, I guess just to see where my head was at. But after a few days I realized I couldn’t bring myself to get invested or care, because that’s not the team I grew up with,” she says. “I turned to Sox Spring Training the next day and was very confused hearing [at the time] random people doing commentary, because I didn’t know Hawk retired.”

She finds that Sox fans were a lot more open to her and her identity, although she thought Cubs fans would be as well. “It’s complicated,” she says. “I was definitely scared when my fandom first started, because I don’t try and hide my identity from anyone — never have and never will. I was afraid of the reaction I’d get, though. To see so many Sox fans who are queer was really great to see, no offense to Cubs fans.”

Alexis has yet to go to a Pride Night, “but Pride Nights have and always will be incredibly important. It shows we are accepted, loved, and appreciated. I know people say it’s just a publicity stunt or whatever, but I don’t even care, I’d rather have it than not.

“As far as our specific Pride Night, I’d like to see more than a shirt. I would love something done pregame and even something like special Pride practice jerseys, similar to what the NHL does. I don’t see that happening, though. But also, aside from merchandise and saying they support us, I want donations to LGBTQ+ businesses, or bring Southpaw to Pride Parade if there isn’t a game that day.”

As supportive as Alexis is for the Pride effort on the South Side, she feels more must be done.

“I love Pride Nights, but that shouldn’t be all that teams do to support us, especially with the way things are now,” she says. “We need the support more than ever, in more ways and on much more than just one night. Being a queer Sox fan is pleasantly nice. It’s nicer here than within the other Chicago sports I follow. Why? I’m not really sure. It might be because we are the second baseball team, or that a smaller fan base means fans are naturally more relaxed and cool, but I’ve definitely felt welcome here. Not just as a Sox fan, but a queer baseball fan in general.”

These stories are not representative of every LGTBQ+ fan. They never will be. Our community is so diverse in terms of sexualities, genders, and races that one person could never do them all justice. But in a way, that diversity is representative of being a White Sox fan on the whole.

Everyone is different in their own unique identity. Everyone has different experiences with baseball, and Pride Night is here to celebrate that. Pride is at its core a celebration of those who are different from the norm both in sexuality and gender — and a protest against those who oppose us, who in recent years have gotten more vocal.

It’s challenging to be cognizant of the daily struggle of queer people, while also not giving up hope that one day we will no longer be treated as terribly as we are. Sure, Pride Night is corporate, and more can always be done in support of the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s also a place and a time for LGBTQ+ people to feel safe, to feel welcome, to have a home that accepts them and helps them connect with others in their community because of what they do have in common — not what makes them different.

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