Pictured: Lesbian Alice Gleason can be the picture of calm or can certainly stir things up as a member of the roller-derby league Windy City Rollers, which will hold its championship June 20 at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine.
Alice Gleason was at an art show in 2005 when she picked up a flyer for the Windy City Rollers, a new local roller-derby group.
She went to her first bout that October and was immediately hooked. She went again in November after buying 20 tickets online for her friends to join her.
"My jaw basically hit the ground when I saw these women skating around, being physical and working together. I immediately wanted to be a part of it," said Gleason, a former three-time All-State soccer player from the Chicago area who then played four years of Division I soccer. "I wanted to be a part of the league the second I walked in the door," that October evening.
Gleason joined the league in 2006, morphing into her alter ego, Malice With Chains, to help fill the void in her life for a physical sport. Plus, she had just moved back to Chicago at the time, "so it seemed like a great way to immerse myself into a new community, a sub-culture."
The Windy City Rollers are the brainchild of Elizabeth "Juanna Rumbel" Gomez and Kelly "Sister Sledgehammer" Simmons. In September 2004, the two formed Chicago's premier all-female flat track derby league, the Windy City Rollers.
Their rookie season was held at the historic Congress Theater, and then moved to The Stadium in Cicero for its second season.
The Windy City Rollers now skate at the University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion and are members of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association ( WFTDA ) .
"I kind of got burned out on soccer and was just looking for something new," said Gleason, who graduated from Maine South High School in 1998 and works locally in customer service for a steel service center. "I'm more of a team-sport player; I don't get as much enjoyment out of running by myself or swimming.
"The league is loaded with women who you wouldn't consider or call a stereotypical athlete. There are tall, short, fat, skinny—a little of everything … and there's something for everyone to do out there. The biggest thing about roller derby is: it's not what you are, but how you use it.
"In many other sports, if you're too short or you carry a few extra pounds, you're value is limited. But in roller derby, there's something for everyone to do, and you can use your body to your advantage. It's the kind of [ sport ] that you get out of it what you put into it, and I knew I'd go at it 100 percent. Physically, I guess it's what I expected because it's allowed me to push myself as hard as I wanted to or could."
Gleason was a soccer goalie who has developed into an All-Star on the track.
WCR features four teams: the Double Crossers, Hell's Belles, Manic Attackers and The Fury. Each has about 20 players, with such traditional derby names as Georgia On Yer Behind, Norma Lee Wright, Athena DeCrime, Ivanna Riot and Red Zeppelin. Gleason's alter ego is the captain of the Manic Attackers, the squad that features Celia Coffin, Ruth Enasia and Blazing Inferno.
The WCR All-Stars, which Malice With Chains is one of two captains, include Hoosier Mama and Yvette YourMaker.
"Derby is … very physical, very fast, very strategic, and a lot of fun to watch," Gleason said.
And dangerous, too. Broken bones and bruises are commonplace on the track.
When asked which is more difficult—college soccer or roller derby—Gleason said roller derby "because it is a sport that we're still defining every day whereas soccer has been around for hundreds of years."
Gleason is one of several lesbians in the league. She is currently dating Brittany Brumbaugh, who does not skate, and Gleason's former partner is a current teammate on the WCR All-Stars.
"Being a lesbian [ in the WCR ] is not an issue, not at all," Gleason said. "We're very well accepted within our own teams, within the whole league. There's someone on the team who's a Republican. She gets more [ grief ] for that than I do for being a lesbian, [ even though that joking ] is all done in good fun."
Gleason speculated that 10-20 percent of the WCR competitors are lesbian. She regularly posts flyers and posters about the league in Lakeview and Andersonville.
"The Chicago Force [ football team ] markets itself much better than we do in the LGBT community. I definitely think we can increase our efforts on that front," Gleason said.
So what about your ex who is also is a teammate?
"We were together before either started skating," Gleason said. "We knew that, when we joined, we were part of something bigger than us and we were able to keep derby and our personal lives separate for the two and a half years that we skated and dated. Since we broke up, we've remained good friends."
The WCR's 2009 Ivy King Cup Championship will be decided Saturday, June 20, at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine. Action starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20-$40; visit www.windycityrollers.com, Ticketmaster or the UIC box office.