Earlier this month, there was some considerable excitement in the Scottish roller derby community as a crowd-funder launched to support a new Junior Roller Derby club in Glasgow: Resistance Roller Derby.
This excitement wasn’t simply because Junior derby itself is relatively rare in Scotland still; Resistance Roller Derby aims to be something more than that, with commitments to be a specifically inclusive LGBTI space built into its founding principles.
To find out more, we talked to founders Feminist Killjoy and Fever.
So, you guys sort of burst into visibility from almost invisibility… How long have you been planning Resistance Roller Derby?
Killjoy: Erm…. [since] May?
Fever: Yeah, several months.
Killjoy: The idea of … I have been, internally, thinking about how to make Juniors happen in Glasgow, since UKROC 2014. Which was, I guess, November that year.
Fever: I’d been thinking about the need for a specifically… we’d both independently been thinking about this thing…
Killjoy:…making some kind of space of this nature, with an LGBTI focus of roller derby, Queer-focussed roller derby. Inclusive Roller Derby. Junior Roller Derby.
But definitely, that was I went to a workshop in UKROC2014, got excited by it, but then thought “no, if someone wants to do this, they really have to do that thing”. And didn’t really think about it again for a long time.
And then we [looks at Fever] were discussing earlier this year…
Fever: I think we were discussing. Yeah, because I was looking at, I was more thinking about Inclusive spaces in Roller Derby, and the fact that there really isn’t something there, at least not what I wanted, and we thought “what if we made this thing”.
Killjoy: Yeah, I think there was a desire on behalf of both of us to tap back into some of the ways that Roller Derby actually could be genuinely revolutionary; as opposed to something which started in a revolutionary way, and is maybe …
Fever: …drifting sideways…
Killjoy: … in the wrong direction…
Fever: …becoming more like every other sport.[laughs]
Killjoy: And so we thought that maybe embedding more of the anarchist principles of.. [for example] being financially inclusive, in that that’s an issue with roller derby, of the costs. The idea is to be inclusive, and oppose all axes of oppression, as much as it possible can be.
And I think also being explicitly, and radically, Queer, is something that [is important]. Of course, Roller Derby is miles ahead of so many other sports already in that kind of inclusion, but the need for spaces which say, right up, this for you, this is what we’re here for…
Fever: [This space] is for you, rather than … you’re not a side-, an after-, thought that we’re happy to take along, it is for you.
Killjoy: “We’re not against homophobia, against transphobia, we’re for people who are [LGBTQI]“.
— Because, as you’ve said, Roller Derby is pretty inclusive compared to most sports for LGBTI, and also other areas of discrimination, say mental health. We’ve had, for example, the engagement of Auld Reekie Roller Girls (and other leagues) with the Rainbow Laces campaign, the existence of various exhibition teams (Vagine Regime, but also Crazy Legs, Metal Legs and so on)
Are you moving beyond merely being inclusive, to doing something specifically for those minorities?
Killjoy: Yeah, I think it’s about not just saying it’s inclusive, but practically embedding those values into the structure, the culture itself. So, [laughs] in terms of policies, the [roller derby] clubs which already exist have been built on a kind of sports-club model, that include things like attendance polices, which are particularly limiting for people who struggle with mental health issues, or various disabilities…
Fever: ..or just financially can’t get to practice that week, or having disruption due to home or just can’t maintain a regular attendance..
Killjoy: so lots of these things that are, and even in league leadership positions that are, when you see how they’re like “Club Presidents” and the ways that decision making happens, even though it is democratic, it is not always collectivist. And so I think it’s about radical inclusivity as opposed to just being a safe space, or being an inclusive space..
Fever: And there’s also the fact that, as an adult, you can kind of seek out these kind of spaces. But specifically in Glasgow, for young people, there are very very few places where it is safe to be Queer and Trans, and particularly spaces that aren’t sexualised or alcohol-based.
This is a provision which doesn’t exist very much, especially in a sports kind of venue, where you have the opportunity for like, body-positivityandconfidence-buildingandskillsandcreating a community that just, so I think it’s just, the age group is really important, because it’s a group which really doesn’t have that view of the world and doesn’t really have access to the adult roller derby leagues in the way that people over 18 do.
Killjoy: Yeah, and also in terms of collectivism in an intergenerational sense as well, (I say “intergenerational”, but I’m only 23!) , it’s just a spectrum of age, so in terms of decision making, in terms of the voice of a 12-year old who’s just joined the club being as important to the decision making as us two.
All of those things help to build a culture, but also to sustain these attitudes of collectivism. The thing we’ve been saying is that “we elevate each other”, and the idea is that if we can help to kickstart a culture, that hopefully will sustain itself, then that’s really supportive.
Fever: Yeah, maybe some young person will understand that they’re valued, their opinion matters, they have a direct say in this thing that they feel really important, and that’s maybe an attitude that , with that support, they can carry on in advocating for themselves, in other areas of their life. In their school, or in other places where they’re not treated to maybe entirely fairly, and it gives them that backup and that support system and that awareness that they are entitled to equal treatment, they are entitled to a voice.
So, it’s equally not just a Queer-inclusive space, but also a directly Collectivist one, what the Scottish Green Party call “radical democracy“.
Killjoy: Yeah, it’s not a process, it’s consultation; it’s about let’s see what you want. When the community exists, it’ll be about people making decisions for themselves.
So, obviously, it’s the two of us just now who have been planning this, but the reason it’s been in our heads and not in the world for most of the time it’s existed as a concept is because we were really trying to take the time to make sure that our governing document, our policies, and the kind of things that are the bones of the community and the thing itself, exist as something external from us, external from the club when it does exist, whoever is a part of it, and that hopefully that is something that can be in collective ownership, rather than…
Fever: It is intended to be self-sustaining, so we took a long time to work on everything, to make sure that when it came into the world it was something that existed in its own right, and we do need funding to start it, but it already has a form that is external to us.