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'We can be unapologetically ourselves': Kansas City Roller Warriors welcomes LGBTQ+ youth

Roller derby team invites athletes of all backgrounds, identities into sport
roller derby screenshot.png
Posted at 3:11 PM, Mar 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-31 17:40:12-04

MERRIAM, Kan. — Roller derby is a "hard-hitting" sport, literally.

"Some people prefer a more footworky game, but I'm a whole bunch of brute force," said youth skater River.

River, whose roller derby nickname is Dragula, has been playing with the Kansas City Roller Warriors since 2019 — he was 11 years old when he started.

The team's head coach says offering an outlet of acceptance for LGBTQ+ youth means the world.

"I was not able to have the language or the access or the understanding of myself that they have when I was that age," Coach Bi said. "So just to see them and to be able to create a space with them and for them in a time when we are being so actively attacked from every corner, it's amazing to have that space twice a week."

Through the Kansas City Roller Warriors' junior league, River says he's found a safe space and sense of belonging.

"As a trans man, it's so hard to find a place and a sport, in specific, that is so inclusive," River said.

Kansas senators have passed a bill that would ban transgender women and girls from playing on women's and girl's teams (K-12 and collegiate.)

Schools that violate the rule would lose all state funding.

Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins has defended the legislation, saying in a statement earlier this month the "bill ensures we're not moving backwards on 50 years of advances for female athletes."

Hawkins and other Kansas Republicans argue banning transgender athletes will preserve fair competition and opportunities for women and girls. However, Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly recently vetoed the bill for a third consecutive year.

Coach Bi says even if state lawmakers override the governor's veto, the Roller Warriors operate outside of the school system and will stay open to all athletes.

"They will always be able to strap on a pair of skates," Coach Bi said. "We can give them loaner gear if needed, and they would be able to skate here."

Skater Echo, whose roller derby nickname is Socajawwea, says she is glad anyone and everyone can play her sport.

"Roller derby isn't just about women and girls anymore," Echo said. "I think it's just about everyone and it's just an open community where everyone can come and just have fun and get a lot of energy out and anger."

Such inclusivity leaves a lasting impression.

"A lot of times we are ostracized from so many different places, and being able to have a place where we can be unapologetically ourselves and still be able to play a sport is so incredible," River said.

The junior league of the Kansas City Roller Warriors accepts skaters ages 6-17. Eighteen-year-olds are accepted if they are finishing their senior year of high school.

KC Roller Warriors offers full and half scholarships, in addition to loaner gear, to include skaters of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

The adult league is also accepting of all athletes, no matter their background or personal identity.