The softball season culminates annually with the prestigious Gay Softball World Series, under the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance ( NAGAAA ) banner, a non-profit organization founded in 1977.
Players brag about Series they've played in, titles won, and lifelong friends built on and off the fields of play during the multi-day tournament.
"Over the last several years, we have had people ask us about the possibility of organizing something outside of the Gay Softball World Series ( GSWS ) where NAGAAA members could get together," said James Williamson, a NAGAAA assistant commissioner and the GSWS athletic director. "What we [at NAGAAA] are really about is supporting the LBGT athletic community and helping it thrive any way possible."
To that, NAGAAA is launching the inaugural LGBT Athletes At Sea: the 2014 Halloween Party & Cruise from Oct. 26-Nov. 2, a Caribbean adventure aboard the Navigator of the Seas from Royal Caribbean International.
"Putting on the Athletes At Sea cruise is giving me an opportunity to give back to our community in a more social way, yet still honoring the experiences of LGBT athletes," said Williamson, 43, who lives in Cathedral City, California, and, for the past 14 years, has been a practice leader consultant at Kaiser Permanente.
Williamson, who is openly gay, has attended 18 World Series, competed in 17, finished second in two ( 2008 and 2008 in the B-Division ), and won one ( 2012, B-Division ).
Williamson predicted the softball group on the cruise will be anywhere from 30 to 45 cabins, and noted that there is another LGBT group on the same ship, too. Combined, there likely will be more than 200 LGBT onboard, "which will make for some pretty festive events," he said.
"For those who attend, my goal is that they walk away with some awesome memories, new friends and a deeper understanding of the special bond we all share as LGBT athletes," Williamson said. "For those who don't attend, but hear about the cruise either before or after, my hope is that just hearing about it causes them to give some thought to what the LGBT athletic community is and how it fits into the larger community. For those who have never heard of NAGAAA, my goal is to use this to let them know that we exist and that we are out there continuing our mission to provide opportunities for the LGBT community to participate in sports in a safe and fair environment."
The cruise features two noteworthy celebrity attendees: rugby star Colby Jansen, who is married to transgender porn star Gia Darling.
"Colby has played rugby at the top level of U.S. competition and has been successful internationally. He is one of the very few people out there who have come out as an LGBT athlete and continued to play at that highly competitive level in the 'straight sports world,'" Williamson said. "He can give attendees a unique glimpse into that world, validate some of the fears we had while playing as closeted athletes, but also shatter some of those same fears. He has a wonderful story of support, acceptance and respect that reaffirms just how far we have come as a society. What I hope people get from his story is that your ability on the field is all that matters to the outcome of the game, and who you are as a person is all that matters to the strength of the teamyour sexuality doesn't make you stronger or weaker as an athlete.
"Through her relationship and marriage to Colby, [Darling] can offer insight into the impact being an LGBT athlete in a 'straight world' can have on a relationship; she can relate what she has seen and experienced by Colby's side. She also can offer a perspective on how the LGBT athletic community is a part of the transgender culture.
"As a very successful businesswoman and motivational speaker, my hope is that Gia will impart to all of us, both leaders and players, a better understanding of how athletics is perceived in the transgender communitythe positives, the negatives, the barriers, etc. While she is only one voice for that community, I am personally very excited to open my eyes and learn how we can become more inclusive of everyone that would be a part of our LGBT athletic community."
For more information about the cruise, or to register, contact Williamson by email at email@example.com or by phone at 503-449-9096.