I joined London Raiders about a decade ago.
A lot has changed since then, both in sports and in civil rights.
Back in 2004 my then flatmate and I were looking for something fun to do after work that was sporty (but not too sporty), social and gay friendly.
This was ten years ago, remember. In 2004 we had just buried the hateful Section 28, we have since seen the introduction of civil partnerships and marriage for same sex couples. Acceptance levels are probably higher than they have ever been in the UK. Gay characters on TV used to be full of drama and issues, now we're happily just incidental people in adverts for banks.
I discovered the London Raiders through a friend. They were described to me as a "drinking club with a softball problem". Very quickly the London Raiders became an extended family.
Softball is an American sport and therefore has a billion rules, lots of breaks and some impenetrable jargon for the first time player. It's not too hard to learn to play the game; batting just involves keeping an eye on the ball and counting "one-two-hit" in your head; catching just involves making sure the (very hard) ball doesn't hit you anywhere too sensitive and fielding simply involves you being able to understand who is shouting at you loudest and waving their hands the highest.
Back in '04 the club was small, just about enough players for three teams. These days we are a behemoth. We have over 90 active members this year (down a bit from last year - people keep having babies!). We have six teams and a development squad for new players. It's still a big family atmosphere. My boyfriend is a Raider, my flatmates are both Raiders, I'm wearing my Raiders team jersey while I write this.
My company MC/MC Creative got the gig working with Enigma to create the advertising campaign for Pride in London this year so we wanted to keep the momentum of 'normalised' LGBT+ people going by creating a spread of ads showing people doing what they love and having the freedom to do it.
As part of our pitch we created an ad for the London Raiders with the tag line "#FreedomTo bat for my team" which the directors of Pride in London loved so much they asked us to put it on a bus.
It was a very proud moment for us. We have always been a sports club that plays in regular leagues, we have straight players in our club and we are all about equality in sport. Our ad proudly tells London that we are free to play a sport to the best of our abilities and we are happy to do so with everyone else. That's what Pride in London means to me: a celebration of inclusion with an awareness that things still aren't equal for all. It's also a huge testament to the Greater London Mixed Softball League and the London Advertising Softball League that we are so welcomed.
We asked Jolene to be our model for the ad (she plays on Raiders Gold with her husband Ben) and she rose to the occasion. The reaction we have had from the public has been phenomenal. Everyone has been very positive and we hope we have attracted a few more people to the sport.
It's been an honour to be able to show everyone that we are free to be ourselves playing the sport that we love, and it's a joy to have to affirmation of the public.
Thanks to everyone involved and have a happy Pride.
For more information on the London Raiders, including how to join, visit their website - londonraiders.co.uk