One enduring stereotype about gay men is that they aren’t interested in sports (notwithstanding well-worn jokes about ice dancing).
At West Hollywood’s Barney’s Beanery, one of the Southland’s biggest sports bars, an overwhelmingly straight crowd might support that misconception. A lack of out professional athletes also adds to the stereotype that gay men just aren’t into the sports scene.
But local gay bar Gym, and the thriving WeHo sports community that is its lifeblood, belies that stereotype.
“Gym bar is our ‘Cheers,’ ” said WeHo Dodgeball founder Jake Mason, whose league is primarily made up of gay and lesbian players.
Mason said Gym’s support was a huge help in getting his now-popular league started.
“They helped get the word out and, most importantly, they helped create the social environment that is so important to the success of the league. Everyone from the league stops in now when they walk by. Or they have their birthday parties there. Any social outings by a dodgeballer typically starts or ends at Gym.”
Sports groups like WeHo Dodgeball provide a safe place for people to come out, Mason said.
“People have told me they saw that you can be athletic and sporty and gay. It breaks a lot of gay stereotypes that people have,” Mason said.
LGBT athletes also can compete in a number of sports offered by Varsity Gay League (VGL), which includes leagues for kickball, tennis and bowling.
“Gym bar creates a home for players of any sport (gay or straight) to chat about games, intermingle different leagues, watch sports and basically feel [like] a part of a large community,” said VGL founder Will Hackner.
“In many ways, Gym bar offers something unlike any other gay bar in the Los Angeles area – it’s a community of people who hang together, play together, drink together, watch sports together and know that any evening there will be at least one person there who you may know. It’s home.”
Gay sports fans have made Gym home not only because it’s a gay bar but also because Gym has become a sponsor and supporter of many area LGBT sports leagues.
And that support has paid off. Gym manager and co-owner Hunter Haliniak said that the support of local sports groups, especially WeHo Dodgeball, was a “godsend” for the business, which floundered after opening four years ago. It was the exposure Gym gained from the leagues, Haliniak said, that first helped the business grow.
From Varsity Gay League sports to flag football, dodgeball, basketball and softball, the local sports community can be found congregating in WeHo several nights a week, Hackner said. Several businesses offer discounts to V.G.L. or dodgeball members, he said, but Gym is really where the action is.
“Rounds Burgers is popular, or Fresh Corn Grill and Tender Greens and occasionally Body Factory,” he said, “but all of these venues are within a stone’s throw of Gym bar, which truly serves as the hub of the community.”