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Rough and tumble roller derby gears up for finale

Roller derby may be best known for tough women and rough and tumble action, but for those in the know, it’s just as valued for being a welcoming, safe space for all.

In Victoria, the Eves of Destruction roller derby league functions not only as a thrilling competitive sport for players and spectators alike, but also as a community where people who may feel a little lost in ordinary social circles can find a place to fit in. This can be especially true for people who belong to the LGBTQ community.

“It’s kind of like a not spoken about but known thing that there are a lot of queer people who play roller derby,” said Lisa Warnock, aka Shove Bug. “I’ve made some really solid friendships in the community, solely through roller derby.”

Warnock found roller derby while living in Whistler, around the same time she was coming out as queer. She saw roller derby as an avenue to get involved in a team sport as an adult, after a childhood of playing soccer, as well as a way to meet a group of people she knew would be accepting of her and similar to her.

The league works hard to be welcoming and inclusive and has a gender policy to reinforce these values. Its junior program is gender inclusive, meaning anyone can play, no matter how they identify themselves. When new people join the squad, the players take part in a pronoun circle, where everyone introduces themselves and states their preferred pronouns, such as he/him, she/her, them/they.

“For roller derby it’s really important to be an inclusive space and it’s really grounded in feminist and justice principals,” said league board president Quinn MacDonald, aka The Wife of Wrath. “That’s just a core part of the sport, and always has been. … We just want to make space where everyone can be themselves, do a sport and have fun.”

Jake Duncan, aka Slam Duncan, is a junior player who has been playing for about a year. He got involved after a friend who is on the team took him to see a match and Duncan thought it looked like fun.

“I’ve never been one for team sports, but this one, I don’t know, it’s just different, there’s a different energy,” said Duncan. “It’s just very open and welcoming, so I’ve made a lot more friends through it and it’s just really cool.”

The adult league accepts anyone who identifies as someone who should be playing for a women’s league, meaning cis women, trans women, and anyone else who leans towards the feminine end of the gender spectrum. There is no hormone testing or any other vetting, which some other sports require. If you feel like you belong on a women’s roller derby team, you do.

For those wanting to see the sport in action, the next public bout comes on August 12 featuring exhibition games versus teams from Nanaimo and Everett, Washington. Then, on Saturday, September 16 the league hosts its season finale, which will see the Rotten Apples junior squad take on a team from Nanaimo, followed by the home teams Belles of the Brawl and Margarita Villains duking it out for the league title and trophy.

All home matches are held at Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt.

For those interested in trying the sport and maybe finding a community, the adult teams do a semi-annual intake, and the junior program, which features players 10 to 18 years old, takes new players at any time. Gear is also available so youth can try the sport out before investing in equipment.

For more information on matches and joining the league, visit evesofdestructionrollerderby.com.

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