International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics has a new president and a new vision for the future
I first met David Hermann in Reykjavik – it was the welcome drinks for IGLA 2012 (the annual championships of the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics association). It was an informal reception in Reykjavik’s Marina Hotel but Hermann’s warm and engaging personality somehow seemed to fill the room.
It seems a natural fit that he is a one-man marketing machine for California’s growing Groundwork Coffee Company. He readily admits that this has turned him into something of a coffee-snob, however it’s clear that IGLA stands to benefit from Hermann’s marketing nous and creative flair.
I quizzed him about his plans for the year ahead.
Why does IGLA exist?
The purpose of our organization is to create a venue for gay, lesbian and transgender athletes to compete in swimming, diving, water polo and synchro. We compete using the rules and standard established by the international maters swimming organization FINA [Fédération Internationale de Natation]. This means that all of the results of our meets, and the records that are set, are recognized internationally.
Why is it necessary to have dedicated sporting events for gay and lesbian sportspeople?
IGLA remains relevant in the 21st century, as do other gay and lesbian sports organizations because the purpose of our organizations goes beyond executing highly competitive masters sporting events.
Unlike United States Masters, British Swimming or even FINA itself, IGLA provides gay and lesbian athletes with the opportunity to socialize and interact with each other in an environment that turns our minority into the majority. This is a powerful experience for many gay athletes, especially swimmers, who feel pressure to keep their sexuality under wraps at traditional masters swim meets.
To me, IGLA is a beacon, a social outreach phenomenon that brings LGBT athletes together from around the world.
What does IGLA mean to you?
Today I swim in West Hollywood California, a jewel of gay communities, with rainbow flags flying next to the American Flag along Santa Monica Boulevard. However I spent my teens and young adult years in Kansas. In 2000, under the emotional pressure of coming to terms with my sexuality, with my fear and loathing, I considered suicide. I wake up every morning thankful that in that dark place I chose to persevere.
When I first heard of this thing called a ‘gay swim team’ I didn’t believe it was true. I remember my first practice in Kansas City with The Wave. It was like joining a family around the dinner table, a family I never knew I had. It has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life, and I wish I had known in 2000 that it would be this wonderful.
It is easy in West Hollywood, New York, London or Paris to forget that there are so many in our community that don’t dare to dream that there could be something amazing like a gay swim team. IGLA has the voice to reach out to those gay, lesbian and transgender men and women. To let them know that not only are they not alone, but that we’re all over the world!
What are some of the challenges that face organizations such as IGLA?
We face the same organizational challenges as many masters sports associations. What is unique to us is that, as an LGBT organization, our core membership comes from larger metropolitan areas. We have to work hard to remind that base membership that the social outreach mission of IGLA remains vital to our greater community.
IGLA 2013 will be in Seattle – what are your expectations for this event?
Seattle will be a fantastic swim meet. I have had the opportunity to swim in their pool, and it is gorgeous. I’m expecting to meet some new swimmers, and to hear what I’ve heard at every IGLA since I joined in 2005, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this exists!’
The Seattle event clashes with the OutGames in Antwerp – will that cause any problems?
We are excited for LGBT athletes to be able to compete where ever they are able. The scheduling conflict with OutGames, while unfortunate, will mean that in 2013 more gay, lesbian and transgender athletes will compete in aquatics events around the world than ever before. That is a victory for our entire community.