In athletic shorts and T-shirts reading “Clit Bait” and “Scissor Me Timbers,” members of San Francisco’s queer She/They Dodgeball League descend every Monday on the Mission Recreation Center to prepare for the first game of the night.
There, one can find some of the most explicitly named sports teams ever to grace a gymnasium floor playing in a three-season-old Mission District league that has quickly grown in popularity.
What started out as an offshoot of the city’s co-ed league has evolved into its own event, said Ashley Nicole Dixon, a manager of the league, and co-captain of the long-playing team First Place Sit on My Face.
“We started with eight teams, now there’s 12,” she said, wiping her brow after a rousing game. “We started last spring, so this is our third season.”
Angie Tsai, who has played on the Dodge Daddies team since the league’s inception in April 2023, said she appreciates having a space specifically for queer women and nonbinary people.
“For me, co-ed dodgeball is, in some ways, unfair and unequal, because dudes are just relentless, and they throw the ball really hard,” she said. “Having it she/they, I feel, evens the playing field, and it’s more inviting and fun.”
On a recent Monday, the upstairs basketball court at the Mission Rec Center quickly became crowded, as games, two on either side of the court, began. Each Monday is divided into three hour-long shifts; each hour, two games are played concurrently. “The league’s about 264 people right now. So each hour’s gonna have a minimum of 80 dykes in this room,” said Dixon.
The league, put together by OutLoud sports, a group that organizes queer sporting events around the country, plays by classic schoolyard rules: If a ball hits a player, they’re out and must leave the court. If one of their teammates catches a ball, then an “out” player can re-enter from the sidelines. The game ends when all the members of one team have been relegated to the edges of the court.
Dodgeball is nostalgic for some participants, said Elisabeth Crosby, who just started her first season in the league.
“It ignited my inner child. I hadn’t played since junior high,” she said, “and I’m 37 now. It’s a really fun community.”
Kayla, a new member of the Sapphic Slammers, agreed. “It’s the fun of team sports, without the parts I didn’t like — like a male coach yelling at me.”
Techno and dance music blared from a speaker, but the songs were barely discernible above the squeaking sneakers, cheers, trash talk, and the smack of a ball bouncing off a player’s body. The second round of games had begun: The Mama’s Bois vs. Slaybia, and First Place Sit on My Face vs. U-Hurlers.
In the stands, Chelsea, a frequent spectator, held a sign reading “I’D CROSS THE BRIDGE FOR U-HURLERS.” Smiling, she explained that she traveled from the East Bay to support friends on the team — and to check out the other players.
“This is kind of window-shopping for the sapphic community,” she said, deftly batting away a stray ball that had made its way perilously close to the bleachers.
The game shifts are divided by skill and experience: The B league, which plays at 7 p.m., includes mostly first-timers and players who appreciate the fun of the game, if not the competition. The A league, which is slightly more competitive, plays at 9 p.m., and the A and B leagues share the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. slot.
Fiona, who plays on the B-league’s U-Hurlers, said her team is motivated by this playful spirit. “We have a reputation as a team with feel-good vibes. We rarely win, but we’re a fun team to play.”
“It’s become kind of infamous, a fixture of lesbian community in SF, ” said Megan Frogley, who plays for the Vendettas, a newly formed team. “It’s a great way to find community and new friends.”
Still, the thrill of competition keeps many coming back.
Around 8 p.m., the more competitive and experienced A teams filter in with the swagger of varsity athletes striding into the locker room. They begin readying themselves for the game: Stretching, strapping on knee pads, and practicing their pitches.
When the games begin, the players lock in with steely reserve. They have developed strategies that make traditional dodgeball seem like child’s play. Tsai explains that she “counters” the ball, paying attention to whether an opponent is right- or left-handed, and standing on whichever side will leave their back exposed when they throw, ready to strike. Dixon, co-captain of First Place Sit On My Face, said she focuses on one thing: Catching.
“A lot of people think you have to be super agile, or have a killer arm, to be good at dodgeball. But really, the deadliest thing you can do is to be an insane catcher.”
In the end, the players form lines and high-five as they walk past each other. The Vendettas have tied with the Dodge Daddies, and all head to Mother, the lesbian bar on 16th Street that sponsors the event, for drinks.
Any competition or animosity is abandoned at the bar — by decree. Sophie Doucet, who plays for the U-Hurlers, offers a last piece of advice for any player, new or seasoned: “This is a children’s game! Not being a good sport is not sexy.”