From calendars to river clean-ups, the DC Strokes Rowing Club has consistently made waves as part of the area’s GLBT community. Last weekend, at the USRowing Masters National Championships in Camden, N.J., the club made history.
Winning a gold and two bronze medals at the competition makes the DC Strokes the first openly GLBT team to medal at this regatta, in a sport with a history of some animosity toward gay athletes. Strokes president Jason Beagle remembers an event in Boston about a year ago when an announcer deleted the “gay and lesbian” descriptor in announcing the DC Strokes. Camden felt quite a bit different.
“There certainly was acknowledgement that felt like acceptance,” he says. “We have a growing reputation as competitors in the mid-Atlantic region.”
Brian Todd, executive director of the international Gay + Lesbian Rowing Federation, traveled from Los Angeles to watch the Aug. 13 to 16 competition, which included many of the federation’s members rowing as part of mainstream teams. Still, he says, the D.C. crews’ wins were something special.
“The DC Strokes’ win is helpful because the Strokes are visible as a gay and lesbian rowing club,” he says, acknowledging the measure of homophobia in rowing. “There are comments — not many — like, ‘Oh, you got beat by the fags.’ If you keep getting beat by the ‘fags,’ those comments go away.”