On the afternoon of March 28, Kyle Gadke was busy with a private cheerleading lesson. When his student took a water break, the 26-year-old, Illinois-based coach looked at his phone and saw an email from the U.S. All Star Federation. The message was about a series of changes to the rules of competitive cheerleading that would take effect next season. Gadke scanned the note quickly, then kept working until late in the evening. By the time he got home, he’d received a torrent of voicemails, texts, and Facebook messages. The new USASF rules included an “image etiquette” guideline that Gadke, who is gay, hadn’t noticed on his first read-through. Under the header “minimize the negative,” the document said, “Males—minimize exaggerated or theatrical movements.”
This weekend, as teams from around the world convene at Orlando’s Walt Disney World for the world championships of competitive cheerleading, controversy will compete with choreography for the cheer world’s attention. Reaction to nearly every aspect of the March rule changes has been negative. Some think that restrictions on acrobatics—“Consecutive bounding, twisting skills are not allowed”—will limit competition. Others feel that restrictions on hair-bow size—“Bows should not be excessive in size (acceptable bows are generally no more than 3” in width) and shouldn’t be a distraction to the performance. Bows should be worn in a manner to minimize risk for the participants”—are needlessly draconian. A change.org petition has been circulating that asks for the rules to be revoked. It has close to 7,000 signatures. [Sign the petition HERE.]
That petition may not be necessary. On April 5, many of the rules were revised—standing double fulls are still banned in tumbling passes, but standing fulls are OK—and the original documents from March were removed from the USASF site. In addition to rewriting some of its guidelines, the USASF rules committee also issued a letter explaining that the image policy had been meant to address “the unflattering media stories that have focused on how our sport is presenting its athletes, particularly those in the younger age groups.” Still, there was no direct explanation for the guideline about male theatricality.
A bunch of cheerleaders who are upset about an image policy—a document devoted to such topics as skirt length and appropriate makeup usage—aren’t likely to be taken seriously outside the sport’s community. But one upset cheerleader is trying to change that. Kyle Gadke has taken the matter to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
At first, Gadke didn’t know how widespread the outrage was. “I thought it was discriminatory, but I thought maybe it was one of those things where I was just too close to the issue,” he says. On March 29 he went on Fierce Board, an online cheer forum where participants “shimmy” instead of liking a post. “I feel like this is a sugar-coated way to say ‘We don’t want the guys to look gay!’ ” Gadke wrote. “Am I being defensive and reading too much into this?”
The response on Fierce Board was pretty much unanimous: No, he wasn’t reading too much into it. One young, gay poster, who reminded readers of recent cases of young cheerleaders committing suicide, explained that the cheerleading mat was the only place he could be his real self. “No societal images to uphold, no fear of embarrassment because you shimmied really damn hard after landing your pass for the first time in competition, nothing, and yet the USASF dares to try and take that away?” he wrote.
It’s a sentiment Gadke can understand. The cheerleading coach grew up in a rural Iowa town where he didn’t feel comfortable coming out of the closet. “During the day, there’d be name-calling, the typical high-school drama that goes along with picking on a male cheerleader,” he says. “But there was a safe haven in all-star cheer. Cheer provides that environment where it’s OK to have different types of personalities.” Gadke knows coaches who’ve housed teenagers whose parents would not accept them, and teenagers who are out at their gyms but not to their families. For many young men who’ve found comfort in competitive cheer, the admonition that they “minimize exaggerated or theatrical movements” felt like an unprovoked attack from a world where they’d always found support.
Keep reading HERE.
|7-9 September 2012|
Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.
Learn more HERE.
|26-28 October 2012|
The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.
Learn more HERE.
|17-20 January 2013|
Sin City Shootout
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.
Learn more HERE.
|13-16 June 2013|
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.
Learn more HERE.