Photo courtesy of Zack Armantrading Photography

Intense Quadball action at the 2022 Sin City Classic


Quidditch is A Real Sport

If you mixed hockey and soccer played on a pitch shaped like a large oval, put a dozen or so witches and wizards on flying broomsticks trying to smack quaffles into one of a trio of goals the size of Hula Hoops placed at each end of that pitch, sprinkle in a ton of chaos and a little harmless violence, you’d essentially have Quidditch, the sport described by J.K. Rowling in her beloved Harry Potter franchise.

The game was first moved off the pages of Rowling’s books and somehow onto terrestrial earth officially in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont by Alex Benepe and Xander Manshel, who we suspect are muggles.

“Harry Potter” Author’s Anti-Trans Rhetoric Too Much For Players

Magical or not, since then the game has spread to at least 40 countries and nearly 600 teams and even has a few international competitive associations dedicated to fostering its growth and development.

Recent developments have caused several of those organizations to begin seriously discussing dropping the beloved "Quidditch" moniker from its name. For starters, Warner Brothers, the production company for the Harry Potter movie franchise, still owns the trademark rights to the name. However, the primary motivation has been Rowling herself, who has made a series of tweets and follow-up comments that have been vehemently anti-Trans.

This became official yesterday in a bold and unequivocal statement as several organizations across the world announced they were formally moving away from the Quidditch name and into a new era.

Among those organizations were two in the United States, U.S. Quadball (USQ) and Major League Quadball (MLQ). The two organizations have lead this discussion internationally and even issued a joint statement condemning Rowling’s comments last year. “Our sport has developed a reputation as one of the most progressive sports in the world on gender equality and inclusivity, in part thanks to its gender maximum rule, which stipulates that a team may not have more than four players of the same gender on the field at a time.”

U.S. Quidditch Is Now "U.S. Quadball: Major League Quidditch Becomes "Major League Quadball" In August

In their joint statement yesterday announcing the name changes, USQ and MLQ said, “Both organizations feel it is imperative to live up to this reputation in all aspects of their operations and believe this move is a step in that direction.”

While USQ has already officially adopted the new name, MLQ has said it will officially adopt it with its MLQ Championships in Maryland next month.

Among the many places Quadball is played at is The Sin City Classic, the largest annual LGBTQ sporting event in the world, which takes place in Las Vegas. The next event will be from January 12 – 15, 2023. This tournament is sanctioned by U.S. Quadball.

Since its earthy, non-fictional inception, the sport has evolved to resemble dodgeball, lacrosse, and rugby more closely.

Quadball is played with a volleyball as the quaffle, dodgeballs as the bludgers, and a neutral player running around with a yellow velcro tail attached to the back of their waist as the golden snitch. Of course, all the players are jockeying for position and trying to score while straddling a broomstick. As mentioned earlier, each match is played with a “four maximum” rule, meaning no more than four persons of any one gender are allowed to compete at any one time. However, when the “Seekers” take the pitch, that number can increase to five.

While the organization is keeping alive much of the tradition of the sport as described in Rowling’s text — the snitch, the seekers, the bludgers, etc. — it’s unclear if it will still enjoy the same draw without an instantly recognizable link to the Potter franchise.

That doesn’t seem to concern organizers, who now see a different opportunity the name change presents.

“In less than 20 years, our sport has grown from a few dozen college students in rural Vermont to a global phenomenon with thousands of players, semi-pro leagues, and international championships,” said USQ Executive Director Mary Kimball. “Our organizations are committed to continuing to push Quadball forward.”

Echoing Kimball, MLQ Co-Commissioner Amanda Dallas pointed where that direction might be. “Bringing full creative control of the name of our sport to the vibrant community of players and fans that has grown and sustained it will allow our organizations to take the next step,” she said. “We are now able to pursue the kinds of opportunities that our community has dreamed about for years.”

​It is worth noting that several stars from the Harry Potter franchise have made public statements disagreeing with Rowling’s comments. However, some have gone further. The franchise’s biggest stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, who played Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, respectively, have strongly condemned Rowling’s comments.

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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.