Photo Courtesy of ASANA

This scene, captured from the 2021 ASANA World Series shows the intensity these players bring to the game.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 2022 ASANA Softball World Series will bring together nearly 70 of the most competitive adult softball teams in the country to Washington, D.C. August 16 – 20. The tournament, which welcomes LGBTQ cisgender women, transgender men, transgender women, and non-binary people and their allies, will bring together top teams from nearly 30 cities across the country. The event is being welcomed to the D.C. area by the Chesapeake & Potomac Softball League (CAPS), the DC area’s LGBTQ softball league, members of which are serving as the hosting committee for the tournament.

“We are very excited to be heading to the D.C. area this year for the 2022 ASANA Softball World Series,” said ASANA Commissioner Angela Smith. “The Host Committee has been fantastic to work with to make sure this event is one of our best ever. I know all of our teams are looking forward to experiencing all there is to do and see in the area and playing some incredible softball along the way.”

“Having the bid to host the ASANA World Series before the pandemic, the DC community was eagerly anticipating the event,” said Tony Mace, Co-Chair of the DC Host Committee. “Little did we know that the world would shut down for over a year, but our Host City committee never stopped working to bring the best player experience for ASANA athletes and families. After three years in the making, the Host City committee and I are looking forward to welcoming the first players who arrive.”

For the fourth consecutive year, a selection of the tournament games, including all championship games, will be live-streamed in partnership with the Cloud Sports Network (CSN) through the ASANA Facebook page and YouTube channel. But, for the first time ever, those games will also be available to stream for free on OutVoices.us through an exclusive partnership agreement.

“Typically the ASANA Softball World Series will get anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 unique viewers each year just from the ASANA social media channels,” said Roman Jimenez. “That’s an already large and highly targeted audience who want to watch LGBTQ cis women, trans men, trans women, and non-binary softball players compete at the highest level. To be able to increase that audience by a factor of 3 or 4 as a result of our partnership with OutVoices.us is an incredible opportunity for a much larger portion of our community to be exposed to competitive sports by and for our community and our allies.”

For those who haven’t seen their coverage before, Jimenez cautions against having low expectations. “We’re not just a lone cell camera jury-rigged to a backstop,” he said. “We have multiple cameras, on-field microphones, on-screen graphics, instant replay, and professional broadcasters describing the action as it’s unfolding. We are as close to the Queer version of ESPN as you can get.”

The Cloud Sports broadcast team includes as its analyst ASANA Hall of Famer Rosalyn Bugg, who in addition to having competed as both a coach and player at the ASANA Softball World Series, is also the Commissioner of the Women’s + division of the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA) and runs that division’s tournament at the Sin City Classic, the largest annual LGBTQ sporting event in the world. In 2022, Bugg was also inducted into the GLASA Hall of Fame. Describing the action play-by-play will be Jimenez, a veteran broadcaster and softball player, and coach who has helmed various championship teams for over 25 years. In 2019 Jimenez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his hometown LGBTQ softball league in San Diego, America’s Finest City Softball League (AFCSL). In addition, both Bugg and Jimenez are championship-certified USA Softball umpires.

“Both Roman and I know the game,” said Bugg, “and we work great together as a team.”

As part of the 2021 ASANA Softball World Series broadcast, Bugg introduced player shout-outs to family members and friends who were watching the broadcast. This created an incredibly engaging atmosphere on the ASANA social platforms.

“I love highlighting not only the action on the field but also the players responsible for it,” Bugg said. “This tournament is all about the players and telling their stories is a privilege we take very seriously.”

The ASANA Softball World Series will consist of four divisions. The B Division is the highest level of skill and often includes players with a history of playing the fast-pitch version of the sport in high school or college level. The C Division includes players who, while highly skilled, aren’t quite at the same level as the B Division-caliber of players, or whose skills may have slowed with age. The D and E Divisions are for both newer players and for those who may have aged out of the higher divisions. Since many players have been playing in ASANA-affiliated associations for 20+ years, many will have experienced every division of play before settling into where their skills are currently best suited.

In total, nearly 3,000 athletes will be headed to D.C. for this year’s event and as you might guess, in addition to hundreds of volunteers, it takes a lot of money to make an event like the 2022 ASANA Softball World Series even possible. For that, both ASANA and the CAPS Host Committee have been engaging with sponsors to help offset costs.

“We want to thank our sponsors on both the national and local levels. Without them we couldn’t provide the experience we do for our players, their families, and for our fans,” said Smith. “We look forward to being able to share these experiences with them and with our live-streaming audience on our social channels and right here on OutVoices.us.”

Coverage begins Thursday, August 25th with early tournament play, continuing during “Elimination Friday” on August 26th all the way through to “Championship Saturday” on August 27th, when all four divisional championships will be broadcast. Stay tuned to this page for updates on game time and team announcements and to watch the games live.

ASANA — Amateur Sports Alliance of North America — was created in 2007 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of amateur athletics for all persons regardless of gender, age, race, creed, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation with a special emphasis on the participation of women, trans men, trans women, non-binary and agendered people.

The organization currently has 25 member cities across the United States and hosts the annual ASANA Softball World Series which brings together over 70 teams for a 4-day championship tournament. The World Series has four divisions to provide varying competitive levels of play, with "B" being the most skilled and the "E" supporting the most recreational.

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Mjolnir

Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.


Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.