Pride Month originated with the “Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade,” first held 50 years ago this weekend. The march marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Uprising, sparked by an early morning police raid on June 28, 1969. That 6 day protest against harassment and police brutality has since bloomed into a month long global celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning identities.
The Village Lions started just a few blocks from Stonewall. From the beginning we have been an Open Club. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, we’re all rugby players. For many years, we have marched as a club in the Pride Parade. Though we can not march in 2020, we still celebrate. Today we celebrate by giving Katie Tuscano the spotlight.
Pride to me means just that. Pride in who I am. Not having to be ashamed. I grew up feeling abnormal and alone. Pride is about calling out to the world, and especially others like you, that you are here and you are proud to be seen.Katie Tuscano
Older Lions will remember her as Katie Pisano, one of 5 players out of Vassar College that were founding members of the Village Lions’ Women’s program in 2000; the others being Jess Houser, Katie Teitgen, Ingrid Kupka, and Renee Antazana. Katie took Women’s Player of the Year honors that first year and was scrumhalf for the Village Lions’ 2002 National D2 Championship side.
Older Lions will also remember Katie’s long time partner, Darcy Tuscano. Katie and Darcy are now married, and live in Andalucia, Spain with their twin 10 year old boys Max and Sebastian.
Rico Garcia caught up with Katie to discuss the rugby experience through the LGBTQ+ lens:
Name: Katie Pisano (now Tuscano)
Main Position: Scrumhalf and only scrumhalf
Years with the Lions: 3 (2000-2003)
Years playing rugby: 5
Alma Mater: Vassar College
Honors: I was MVP of the inaugural Women’s team
Rico Garcia: How do you think being a LGBTQ+ person has shaped your experience as a rugby player? Have your experiences been positive or negative?
Katie Tuscano: For women especially, LGBTQ+ visibility and participation is very high in rugby. For me, that made rugby a place where I felt super comfortable being myself, even when I couldn’t always be so in the wider world.
I remember an experience in the late 90s when my college team was on tour in the UK when me and another girl on the team was confronted at a bar by a bunch of really homophobic drunk Brits. The whole team including our coach stood up for us and made sure we weren’t harmed and I felt really protected and cared for in a way that I´m not sure happens in other womens sports, and certainly not beyond the sports world.
RG: Do you believe that rugby is becoming more or less diverse? What are some positive outcomes you can think of by making rugby more diverse and inclusive?
KT: I think historically, for women at least, rugby was viewed as a very lesbian sport. But now I think it’s more diverse and welcoming of all sexualities. It´s a bit ironic I guess as this is probably one of the few areas where diversity means more heterosexuality!
RG: The Village Lions prides itself on being a diverse and inclusive club. Has this always been your experience with rugby? If not, how have things changed over the years?
KT: I think the Lions are a more diverse club than most, partly driven by being based in NYC. I think the Lions have always welcomed anyone and everyone just as they are. But when I think about the broader rugby world, especially in the US, I think it’s still a very white sport and I wish rugby would gain more traction with people of color. I do think some progress is being made though.
RG: As one of the founding members of the Village Lions Women’s Team how do you feel about the growth of the team and the legacy you’ve left behind?
KT: I think the growth of the Lions is fantastic and I feel really proud to have been there at the start. I moved to Europe several years ago so I am not as close to the club as I´d like to be but some of my best memories of NYC are those few years after college playing for the Lions. What an amazing group of people!
RG: What does Pride mean to you?
KT: Pride to me means just that. Pride in who I am. Not having to be ashamed. I grew up feeling abnormal and alone. Pride is about calling out to the world, and especially others like you, that you are here and you are proud to be seen.