Breaking Barriers, LGBTQ+ History Month

Meet Gee Grandison, a pioneering member of the rounders community, who’s making waves during LGBT+ History Month. From their inspiring journey as a non-binary player, to founding an inclusive rounders group in Leeds, Gee’s story illuminates resilience and empowerment in sports, shaping a more inclusive future for all.

How did you discover and get involved in the sport of rounders? What aspects of the game do you find particularly enjoyable?

I always enjoyed playing sport at school and played netball, hockey, and football for my school. I stopped playing sport when I got ill at 18 years old. One day at work I was playing cricket with some guys and a memory of rounders came to me, I googled if rounders was still played and found that there was a Women’s League in West Yorkshire. I contacted a few teams and one of my school friends suggested I speak to Jenny (the Captain of Great Preston Gladiators) and the rest is history! I’ve been playing almost 5 years. I enjoy trying out new positions but think I like fielding the most. I love the social aspect of the team and playing with a fantastic group of people.

Can you share some highlights or significant moments from your personal LGBTQ+ journey during LGBTQ+ history month?

I grew up not really aware of the term ‘gay’ or knew anyone gay (knowingly). I never had any gay role models, and it was never discussed. I was always a “tomboy”. I came out as gay at 19 to my twin sister who didn’t believe me at first and thought I was joking and laughed – I cried. My family eventually all found out and I was so worried about my Grandma and Grandad knowing, as we’d grown up in a Catholic family. But they were accepting along with the rest of my family. Since then, I have come out as queer and learned that sexuality is fluid and on a spectrum.
Around 2016 I started hearing the term “non-binary”. For as long as I remember I never felt like a girl, but I never wanted to be a boy. I secretly identified as non-binary from then on, and in 2021 I came out to my close family and friends, then later to other people and at work. I go by the name Gee, which was a nickname from when I was young, and my pronouns are they/them. I have lost some family members now because they don’t believe in trans or non-binary people. I was also worried because I played for a ‘women’s’ rounders team, and a women’s cricket team. After lots of tears and long conversations with my captains, and carefully reading policies, I am now comfortable playing for the teams and my teammates are all very accepting. However, in the league I play for trans women and AMAB (assigned male at birth) non-binary people aren’t allowed to play. I have a real passion for rounders and wanted rounders to be an all-inclusive sport regardless of how people identified, so decided last year to set up a Trans and non-binary group for people in Leeds.

Why did you feel the need to set up a group outside of the West Yorkshire Rounders League, specifically for trans and non-binary individuals in Leeds?

I have a passion for rounders and believe that everyone should have the opportunity to play regardless of their gender. In the league I play for, trans women and AMAB (assigned male at birth) non-binary people aren’t allowed to play. Whilst researching and speaking with TransLeeds, I found out that many trans and non-binary people quit playing sport once they leave school. This is due to several factors including, the complicated policies in place, discrimination, the lack of opportunities, and them not feeling safe. There are other sports groups (football, badminton, cricket, climbing) in Leeds that cater for the trans and non-binary community but not rounders. Rounders is a fun, social game and should be inclusive. Galop, an LGBT+ anti-abuse charity reported that 4 out of 5 trans people experience hate crimes, therefore I need to ensure my group is safe. I don’t share the location publicly so those attending need to contact me. We do a quick introduction at the beginning of the session and state our pronouns. Misgendering is a huge issue faced by the community and constant misgendering attributes to poor mental health. I haven’t declared the group an LGBTQ+ sports group as unfortunately there are still transphobic people in this community. However, I have recently opened the group up to allies, meaning that the trans and non-binary people that attend can bring their friends.

How has the response been to the group you’ve established for trans and non-binary individuals in Leeds? Have you noticed positive changes or impacts on the participant’s lives?

I have been really surprised with the response by the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. I posted in the West Yorkshire Rounders League Facebook group and got lots of messages of support from players and teams. I started the group at the end of summer last year (not the greatest time!) and hosted a few sessions before the weather got bad, as we play on grass. My first session of 2024 is in a couple of weeks. I’ve had people messaging me asking when it’s starting. The feedback has been wonderful – one person that attended the first session wrote

“…had the most wholesome time. 10-year-old me would be so happy to see me living my best life”.

They’ve attended every session since.

In what ways do you ensure that the group remains accessible to all individuals, regardless of their background or experience in rounders?

Currently the sessions are free as I hold them in a public space but am looking for a venue that is relatively cheap (so I can offer pay what you can sessions), suitable for all weather, and has gender-neutral toilets. I will be applying for funding for equipment and help with costs of the venue later this year. For now, my captain at Great Preston Gladiators has very kindly allowed me to use their equipment.
For those with little to no experience of rounders, the sessions are structured so we go through basic skills, then develop into a game play. I have had somebody join from Japan and another from the US with no knowledge of rounders!

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of the group and its impact on the LGBTQ+ community in the context of rounders in Leeds?

My hope is that we get enough players to create teams, and eventually a league. The group appears in the monthly online Queer Leeds Calendar, and I have connections at other LGBTQ+ organisations and sports associations that share my social media posts. I hope that if a trans or non-binary person expresses interest in playing rounders or wants to play a fun sport with other people they know there is a group for them – mine.

Anyone interested in joining these rounders sessions can find out more or contact Gee via the Instagram account.

Article by Julia Rice: