Does Joining Roller Derby Make You Gay?

Of course not. But for two married women, being a derby girl opened up some serious emotions, which led to their first same-sex experience -- and lots of heartbreaking drama.


Formerly a Garden State Rollergirl, Predator-in-Chief now skates for the NJ Hellrazors. Photo by David Galajda.

Ilana Rapp: Why did you join roller derby?

Predator-in-Chief: I've played competitive team sports my entire life. Beyond college, there aren't many opportunities to compete, especially for female athletes who are also trying to hold down a job. Co-ed work softball was just not cutting it. I needed a challenge.

Rapp: How old were you when you married a man? Why did you get married?

Predator-in-Chief: I was 31 when I got married. (I'm now 34.) I married Mike because I loved him -- I still love him. He is the greatest man I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and to this day my very best friend. Despite having a good relationship, there was always something missing, something I couldn't quite put into words, and for a long time I thought there was just something "broken" with me. I didn't want whatever it was that was broken to stop me from getting married and living the life I was raised to think would make me happy. I married him thinking that it would ultimately "fix" me and I'd find the happiness that everyone around me seemed to have.

Rapp: Did you have gay tendencies while you were married? Did you ever share your feelings with your husband?

Predator-in-Chief: Denial is an understatement when it comes to me. I spent my 20s surrounded by softball-playing lesbians and having crushes on girls that I didn't even realize were crushes. I thought I just wanted to be around certain girls cause they were "cool" and I envied them. Even after I first kissed a girl (which happened before I got married), I still didn't believe I was gay. Looking back, it seems utterly ridiculous that I couldn't piece all of this together, but some things are just so ingrained in your upbringing that you tend to miss the obvious.


Derby ladies form a sisterhood that may not exist in any other sport. Photo by Luna Obscura

Rapp: Share the story about your first sexual and/or mental relationship with a woman.

Predator-in-Chief: I joined derby at age 29. I was dating the man who would eventually become my husband. My first girl kiss was a teammate. Per usual, I thought we were just best friends. She was witty and fun and good at derby, and I just liked being around her. Then she kissed me, and I realized I didn't hate it. But the river of denial runs very deep. I thought to myself, "Maybe I'm just bi." I never told my boyfriend. A few months later he proposed, and I said yes.

Rapp: Why did you divorce your husband?

Predator-in-Chief: Three months before I got married, I met a woman with whom I instantly connected. She was more beautiful (on all levels) than I ever could have imagined a person could be. I knew I was in trouble. We danced around our feelings and tried avoiding them for a long time (during this time I got married), but ultimately I knew I was madly in love with her. I had to come clean to my husband, not only because it was the right thing to do but because the thought of living my life without this woman was too agonizing to contemplate. After a lifetime of thinking I was "broken," I finally realized that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. I was just gay.

Rapp: What was the response when you came out to your derby sisters?

Predator-in-Chief: Coming out to your derby sisters is not like coming out to your family or co-workers. Derby girls accept you exactly as your are. Being gay/straight/bi/trans is simply no big deal, as long as you can skate. A girl can show up and tell her teammates she's in love with a watermelon, and people would probably tease her a little, but ultimately they would say, "This is So-and-so, and she's madly in love with a watermelon," plain and simple. It is what it is. Derby is the Ellis Island of sports: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of watermelon lovers." The greatest part about the sisterhood of derby is that you are never alone. No matter how crazy your story, there is someone else who can tell the same tale.


Predator-in-Chief shares a victory with her teammates! Photo by Marco Catini.

Rapp: Did being in derby help you realize you are gay?

Predator-in-Chief: Yes and no. It expedited the process, but ultimately I think I would have figured it out. My mother says that roller derby ruined my life. She claims it glorifies reckless, irresponsible things such as tattoos and being gay. I can see how an outsider might think that, but anyone who truly understands derby knows that in many ways, roller derby will set you free. You will sweat and bleed and cry until there is nothing left but the raw, unaltered version of you. And people will not only get to know and accept that version, but they will also love it. And you will too.

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Please join me next time for part 2 of "Does Joining Roller Derby Make You Gay?" where we hear from derby skater Deliah Lincoln. Deliah discusses uncomfortable feelings and how her husband reacted when she told him she fell in love with a female teammate.