Slowly, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is Becoming More Welcoming (Story)
I love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Everything about it intrigues me. Using leverage and technique to overcome bigger, stronger opponents on the ground not only improves your self-defense skills, but sharpens your mind so that you start thinking in 3D chess. It takes well over a decade to earn your black belt, and there are endless techniques and game strategies to keep your mind engaged for a lifetime.
There is also a subtle beauty about the mats that is rarely touted, but palpable: diversity. Everyone: young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, black, white, you name it, is on the mats. Despite the diversity, it won’t come as a surprise to the Prideletics community that there are many LGBTQ persons who remain in the closet on the mat or are careful about sharing details of their personal life.
I have been out of the closet since I was 14-years-old, and while my gaydar might not be perfect, my suspicion is that there are many more LGBTQ persons on the mat than what I know. At a minimum, I can think of a handful of lesbian athletes, but after more than a decade of training, I cannot think of one gay male BJJ student or competitor that is out.
In America, there is a subtle homophobia that still exists on the mat. Beyond the fact that there is considerable close contact on the ground with your opponent, just as there is in wrestling, many Brazilians still dominate the tournament and school circuit and come from a culture where our community is feared and misunderstood. In Brazil, the death toll of LGBTQ individuals has risen 30 percent.
The good news is that the American competition and corporate culture is changing attitudes in the BJJ community in a very real way. Jiu Jitsu Times recently featured an article about two lesbian black belts who married during the 2018 IBJJF World Masters tournament in Las Vegas. There are more out lesbian MMA fighters than years ago, and they are dominating the UFC. My hope is that this trend will continue, and I commend the organizations and schools who provide us with a home on the mats that is welcoming.
Suzanne Beall is a Bronze Medalist in the 2018 World Masters International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championship. She was recently featured in Women's Health "8 Kickass Women Share The Morning Routines That Make Them Successful".