Backpacking across Europe, I heard whispers about butt sex on dance floors and stories about British, Australian, and Scottish gays migrating to the city for a variety of reasons that were always gay and never economic. (The pound rapes the euro.) I visited Berlin and discovered the stories were true: abandoned warehouses converted into four-story nightclubs, like the Berghain, which hosts gay sex parties in its basement, and homoerotic graffiti covered the Berlin Wall’s remains. Literally, anything goes in Berlin, including gay couples wearing ruby bodysuits in public without receiving stares from anybody except prude American tourists like myself. Yet, in the midst of the liberal hedonism I heard a story from a fag hag about two Berliners that felt so alienated from Berlin’s athletic culture that they posted a Facebook status asking if anyone would like to create a gay rugby team. Within a month they found thirty teammates and had founded the Berlin Bruisers, Berlin’s first gay rugby team. (Well, mostly gay. They describe themselves as “straight friendly,” and two straight men have joined the team.)
Our mutual fag hag invited me to watch them practice, but I got lost on the U-Bahn and arrived in the park too late to watch practice. Luckily, I wasn’t too late to watch them change out of their tighty-whities in the park and discuss boners, rugby balls, and Christmas calendars with two players—Colin Comfort, a hairy, buff Scottish twenty-something who moved to Germany three years ago, and Erik Kenny, a balding middle aged German who could gain a few pounds—over a cup of Glühwein at a Christmas themed bar across the street.
What did you think when you first heard about the Berlin Bruisers?
Erik Kenny: When I heard about the group I thought, ‘Yeah. There’s finally a group.’ There’s a big Australian, English, Scottish, Irish English speaking gay community in Berlin, and there was a demand for it.
Colin Comfort: The first I heard about it was on the Facebook group that said there were these two guys that asked, ‘Would anybody be interested? We’re going to have a meeting.’ Then 500 people clicked ‘like’ or whatever.
Colin: 250 at least. Whatever. That’s like 500 on Facebook.
Did more Germans respond than ex-patriates?
Erik: It’s a mix.
Colin: About 30% German and seventy percent ex-patriates.
Did you experience homophobia when you played on straight teams?
Colin: No…but I wasn’t out. That was the reason I stopped playing rugby.
Did you have crushes on your teammates?
Erik: At that age none of the boys know if they’re gay or straight!
Colin: Those were the guys I was scared to tell. When I told them, they were cool about it. I felt like such a dick. I totally pre-judged those guys.
Then why did Berlin need a gay sports team?
Erik: When you go to a straight club, it’s competition driven. Many times, in sports, boys start playing when they’re young, and when you’re older, and you say, “I want to try this,” they’re going to look funny at you. You could probably join a sports team, and they would be friendly, but it’s much more comfortable to be in a gay group and throw your gay things at each other.
Gay things? That sounds dirty.
There’s a special kind of gay humor, like when our coach says, “Let’s go girls.”
What are the difference between gay sports and other gay activities, like gay clubbing?
Erik: On a sports team, there’s communication. It’s very easy going. When you’re in a club, nobody knows each other. There’s some clubs where people don’t speak. There’s other clubs where people communicate and have a lot of fun.
Does the team socialize at gay clubs after practice?
Colin: Sometimes we go to drinks. We always go to this karaoke that one of our friends runs. You go sing on stage with backup dancers. Once we get drunk we push the backing dancers off the stage and dance on our own.
Will you attend the gay rugby tournament in Bristol in May between the different gay European teams?
Colin: We’d like to send a team. It’s going to be hard. At least some of us will go.
You recently shot a Christmas calendar. Who decided to take a break from the game, strip down, and shoot sexy photos to sell as calendars on the internet?
Erik: There are a few people on the team who are marketers.
Of course there’s marketers. It’s a gay sports team.
Erik: I’m more into the sports! Some people want other things.
Colin: We wanted to raise money. Hopefully we break even. We’re also raising money for the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation. He’s a famous English rugby player who is open about gay rights and fighting homophobia. The organization is broadly against bullying, with a focus on homophobia in kids’ rugby.
Erik: Some teams have done calendars, but I find our calendar special, because the English speaking gay community is well connected. There were professional photographers who said, “This is fun. We’re going to do it.” There was a concept and people who could do the graphics. It was surprisingly high quality. I’m surprised about the quality and reaction. It’s become a fantastic product.
Ever get a boner while tackling a hot guy at practice?
Colin: There was excitement at first. It was like dogs running around and humping each other. After two months it’s calmed down. But like we said earlier, sex is about the nightclub. This is about rugby.
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images via Berlin Bruisers