Lesbian Identity in Sports and Athletics

Smith College Project

Map of U.S. Softball Teams

As professional athletes faced erasure and discrimination in their sports and teams due to cultural stereotypes, many lesbians and queer women embraced the masculinity associated with athletics and created their own sports team where they could express themselves freely in physical ways. Lesbian leagues for sports like softball, basketball, bowling, and rugby began emerging across the country and quickly became an established pillar of lesbian subculture and community.  Softball in particular became a popular way for lesbians to connect with one another, celebrate their strength, and raise their consciousness together. The map below demonstrates the prevalence of softball teams across the countries from the 1970s into the early 2000s, as well as the way softball teams allowed women to bond over multiple identities, such as the deaf lesbian softball team from St. Louis, Missouri or the third world women’s lesbian softball team in Northern California.


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