Tonight, the Giants spotlight the LGBT+ community with their 16th annual LGBT Night. Sixteen years doesn’t seem like it has been that long, but when you think back to what things were like back then and how much has changed since, especially for those in the LGBT+ community for worse and for better, it really has been.
It’s somewhat surprising that baseball was out in front on creating these events, as conservative as the sport and its athletes tend to be. I don’t mean that in the political sense of the word, but in the actual definition. The players are conservative in what they are willing to share about themselves, how they try to police their emotions and those of others, as well as the sport’s overall aversion to change.
There has still not been an openly gay active player in Major League Baseball, and those who have played while not disclosing their sexuality have often retired due to the commonplace nature of hostile homophobic rhetoric that can happen in some baseball clubhouses.
But in this, at least, creating the first LGBT-centric events for sports fans, baseball was ahead of the curve, even if that was primarily because of fan-driven efforts. And the Giants were one of the earliest teams to go all in on hosting LGBT-specific game nights.
That’s not particularly surprising for a city like San Francisco, which has historically been perceived as a symbol of tolerance, a beacon for those who might feel like they aren’t accepted elsewhere. A city that boasts the country’s largest gathering of LGBT+ people and supporters with its annual Pride festivities.
Many assume, then, that these ballpark events are just another social gathering during the San Francisco Pride Week, or a way for the team to try to tap into the LGBT+ demographic as a customer base in the Bay Area. And in some ways, that’s probably accurate.
However, I think we often forget that the Giants have fans outside of the Bay Area. I don’t just mean fans from around the country, but from other parts of the state. Parts of the state that aren’t as tolerant or open-minded as the Bay Area, for the most part, is or tries to be.
I think I, myself, forgot that until I moved away. Now I think it would be nice to attend this special event game, though I never felt the need to do so when I lived in the area. Most people never think about this because we’re all Giants fans and we all have at least that in common. But I think it would be nice to enjoy an activity that you love around people who are like you, without having to feel afraid or like you have to keep your guard up. It’s like taking a deep breath when you hadn’t realized you couldn’t before. Like filling your proverbial cup.
I don’t really have many spaces around here to do that.
You don’t see too many openly same-sex couples walking around the farther away you get from the Bay Area and into the smaller towns of the northern part of the state. There’s a certain level of personal fear and uncertainty, as well as external hostility that I encountered when I moved away from the Bay, despite the fact that California, as a whole, is a fairly tolerant state.
I realized that I took that openness in the Bay Area for granted. That I took that relative sense of security for granted. And I think, ultimately, that is what these events were originally designed for. To give the community a way to enjoy a game together, be themselves, and be at peace.
I’ve never been to Pride. As a claustrophobic introvert, very large and boisterous crowds are not exactly my favorite thing. But I have been on BART heading to a Giants game during Pride weekend. That was the greatest train ride I’ll probably ever take in my life. Everyone was happy, decked out in their Pride finery or Giants gear, having a good time and excited about the events ahead of them.
That’s a point in time I’d like to get back to. It’s my personal cross-section of humanity, I suppose. I imagine that’s what it will be like tonight at the yard.