British Columbia

Vancouver's first gay and inclusive rugby team is back

The Vancouver Rogues, first active in 2002 to 2008, is back with the hope of creating a safe environment for people of different sexual orientations and gender identities to enjoy the contact sport.

The Vancouver Rogues is recruiting players for a tournament next summer

The Vancouver Rogues gay and inclusive rugby union club, first founded in 2001, was revived early this year. (Ty Martin)

Brennan Bastyovanszky, 42, has played rugby since childhood and loves the sport — except for what he describes as the prevalence of homophobic language within mainstream clubs. 

So early this year, he helped revive the Vancouver Rogues, a rugby club inclusive to players of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

The club secretary says he has heard a lot of homophobic language from teammates during his 25 years as a rugby player in B.C., Ontario and Sydney, Australia.

"Most people at rugby clubs don't like hearing that kind of language. It's really a small portion of the people that will still make insensitive and inappropriate comments," he told host Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition.

"But the thing is that a lot of people just go along with it," he continued. "The reason why it persists is no one in the club has actually been told that they're responsible for setting the culture."

Brennan Bastyovanszky, left, with Vancouver Rogues teammates on the rugby field. One of the reasons he helped revive the team, he says, was so B.C. and the queer community would have representation in the Bingham Cup, the world championships of gay and inclusive rugby, which will take place in Ottawa next year. (Brennan Bastyovanszky)

Bastyovanszky says many LGBTQ and even straight players leave rugby clubs as a result of the toxic behaviour.

"There were even occasions when I was confronted, physically threatened by people on my own team," said Bastyovanszky, who later joined the Sydney Convicts, which describes itself as the first gay and inclusive rugby union club in Australia.

"It's always been ... difficult at times. But ever since I came out and found that gay rugby has a huge following ... I feel safe and comfortable being myself in rugby now." 

The Vancouver Rogues had been active from 2002 to 2008.  Bastyovanszky revived the team after returning to Vancouver earlier this year.

He realized that the Bingham Cup, the biennial world championships of gay and inclusive rugby, was being held in Ottawa next August — and there wasn't a team representing the province.

"B.C. is a cultural heart of rugby in Canada, and also there's a huge queer community here, so it would be a shame if we didn't have representation [in the tournament]," he said. 

Michael Blais, pictured standing at the centre, says he appreciates the accepting culture of the Vancouver Rogues. (Shannon Mori)

Michael Blais, 45, joined the Vancouver Rogues this summer and has practised with the team once or twice every week since. He says as a straight man in a polyamorous relationship, he appreciates the club's accepting culture.

"We all get to be ourselves a little bit more without having to be guarded," Blais said. "We all know everybody's gay, everybody knows that I'm polyamorous … there's no hiding."

"It's amazing seeing smiles on their faces … it's an amazing thing to watch from the inside."

LISTENBrennan Bastyovanszky on why he revived the Vancouver Rogues rugby club:

With files from The Early Edition