Meet the Berlin Bruisers. A far from ordinary rugby team rooted in the LGBT+ community. Their fight against prejudices and stereotypes means more
than any victory on the field.
INCLUDED AND RESPECTED
As Raghu stands up to his full height, he looks nothing like the stereotypical rugby player. There’s a calm, friendly demeanour about him, and he has a relatively skinny frame. The only thing that reveals he is indeed a passionate rugby player is the mud he casually wipes off his chin after having taken a dive in the grass.
In fact, there’s far more than meets the eye to everyone on Raghu’s rugby team, known as the Berlin Bruisers. Because behind the front row - and beyond a cursory first glance - of the broad-shouldered men who many would assume as being stereotypical rugby players lies a team with roots in the German capital’s LGBT+ community; a team built around the principles of inclusion and mutual respect.
It’s fair to say that the Berlin Bruisers don’t have a whole lot of sporting achievements to boast about. In fact, they’ve ended up in bottom place in their league three seasons in a row. But this is about something bigger than league rankings. It’s about creating a place that accepts everyone and where you can meet players from nearly every part of the world and with every sexual identity, such as Raghu, who moved from India to Berlin in 2013 with his boyfriend.
“In spite of the hostility I myself have encountered, I must admit that I, too, had negative feelings towards those who are different from me. Before I became part of this team, I had many prejudices about drags and transsexuals. My team mates have helped open my eyes to those who are different and things I don’t understand. And that’s what sport is capable of; sport allows us to meet other people across the boundaries of age, gender, religion, sexuality and all the other things we let ourselves believe should put us on opposing sides”, explained Raghu.
BE AND LOVE YOURSELF
For Raghu, getting involved with the Berlin Bruisers was everything he needed as a newcomer to Berlin; a place characterised by its sense of solidarity and team spirit and where being yourself is the only right way to be, regardless of who you are and who you love.
“In India, homosexuality is an extremely taboo subject, and homosexuals have no rights. The vast majority of those who try to come out experience backlash from both their friends and family. Often, you will instead be pressured into a traditional marriage, or be subjected to religious ceremonies meant to banish the evil spirits inside you. That is, unless you’re sent to a psychiatrist in an attempt to help you out of what many will claim is a phase,” Raghu explained.
It was only after a year in the company of his colourful team mates in the Berlin Bruisers that Raghu found himself to be so at ease with himself that he felt comfortable meeting new people without trying to hide who he was or his sexuality. After all, it can be difficult to be true to oneself when living in a society that makes you believe your sexuality makes you inferior by definition.
This is not only the case in India, but also many other countries. In fact, it was only on 1 October 2017 that Germany passed a law allowing same-sex couples to get married. Until then, same-sex couples only had the option to enter into a civil partnership, which lacked many of the legal rights afforded to married couples.
Being married is not only a matter of how you can legally refer to the love of your life. For Raghu and Thorsten, the specific difference is that they now have the possibility to go through with their dream of adopting a child and starting a family. That’s why they are currently planning a wedding, as well as a big celebration in India.
We give to those who make a difference
At hummel, we believe in those who believe in others. That’s why we donate 1% of the proceeds from sales from our webshop to initiatives that help break down barriers and foster equality.
In 2018, we support Berlin Bruisers, so that the colourful rugby players can continue holding workshops and presentations in their active efforts to eliminate homophobia in sport as well as break down prejudices and stereotypes everywhere in society.
MEETING THROUGH SPORT
Berlin Bruisers have become Raghu’s extended family. It is they who took him in and made him feel welcome in his new hometown; who gave him the strength to stay true to himself; who broke down the prejudices he himself discovered he harboured.
“In spite of the hostility I myself have encountered, I must admit that I, too, had negative feelings towards those who are different from me. Before I became part of this team, I had many prejudices about men who wear drag and transsexuals. My team mates have helped open my eyes to those who are different and things I don’t understand,” explained Raghu. “And that’s what sport is capable of; sport allows us to meet other people across the boundaries of age, gender, religion, sexuality and all the other things we let ourselves believe should put us on opposing sides”.