Founded in 2007 as an alternative to the bar and nightlife scene by creating out-of-the-box games and activities for the queer community, Varsity Gay League (VGL) was inspired by the growth experiences of CEO and founder Will Hackner.
“Although recreational sports have long existed in the ‘straight’ world, queer opportunities were limited to soccer, softball, soccer and basketball – great sports, but built with a hyper-masculine perspective,” Hackner said. “For those people, like me, who didn’t grow up in organized games and spent most of my childhood being bullied for not being athletic and small, I wanted to create a space where they could play and remove as much judgment as possible. “
That identity first manifested itself in a flag catching game and now schedules 40 activities a week for more than 7,000 queer adults across America, with activities ranging from kickball to beach volleyball, basketball to soccer.
Recently, VGL celebrated its 15th anniversary and even shot a commercial with McDonald’s as the fast food chain’s first gay partner. That commercial was shot with Hackner, his friends and teammates, as well as players from their community.
“The hope, of course, is to bring more representation to the sport through a different goal,” said Hackner. “It’s also really exciting to say you’ve been to a McDonald’s commercial.”
Community is what motivates VGL. Hacker said that the connection of sports allows him to be a perfect platform to build trust and friendship, and also “to this day, to exercise, to network – it is a social sphere where the burden of impressing is built on. be a team player, and not be an icon “.
To this end, VGL has worked with more than 40,000 people, including 13,000 in Los Angeles alone.
“All of their stories, moments and emotions have resonated deeply within me for years,” said Hackner. “Their stories have become my story, because I’ve seen them live it. It’s a real blessing to have empathy and kindness around you, and that starts with a positive supportive community.”
Hackner said he is proud not only of the growth of the organization, but also of the inspiration it has provided to many other groups across the country.
“Ultimately, my goal is to create a queer sports space in every metropolitan city in the United States, regardless of state coloration,” said Hackner. “We want to continue to make sports more accessible to beginners and, above all, to have fun well beyond our prime.”
When it comes to being better allies for the LGBTQ + community, Hackner has indicated that he is a voice of support.
“Allies is such an outdated term, from my point of view,” Hackner said. “I think queer community acceptance has evolved, forced or not. Certainly not everywhere, and certainly not with those toxic male people who think a trans athlete is cheating on the system, or that gays try it in the locker room. This is it. it clearly exists and everyone should find it revolting, but the vast majority of people now know a queer person and, whether they accept it or not, are forced to engage with it, which is the very starting point of education and growth.
“In those moments, I think, that’s when ‘allies’ can shine. Supporting a friend, standing by their side, talking in a room full of negatives, jotting down a post on social media, essentially doing what you would do to a friend. best friend – one ally can reinforce the truth about all people: we all have blood, we all cry, we all laugh, we all die, we all want love, we all want to be understood Differences between people should be celebrated, not demonized – and allies they can help be that voice. “
According to Hackner, there are many ways people can celebrate pride.
“Pride is about responding to that little voice that screams in your head when a Kelly Clarkson hit comes, or your favorite movie icon returns, or the perfect beer goes with the beer sunset: it’s expressing unrestricted joy.” Hackner said. “Pride should be to celebrate in the best possible way. It doesn’t require rainbows – the Lord knows they’ve gotten over the top. It just requires you to answer the call in your body and celebrate. Pride is a firework with a pillar. really great sound. Pride is fantastic ice cream, on a hot day, which never drips. Pride is dancing in line for 10 hours and getting to know all the choreography. While many use the month of pride as a time to reflect on how far we have come on the backs of generations who have fought for so many others, for me, I want to see that Pride Month is that special time when we can celebrate the United States. “