Moustachioed man sits in a barbershop in Vancouver
Mo Bro Gord MafatowImage by: James Baker
Moustachioed man sits in a barbershop in Vancouver
22 June 2022

Gord’s Story: A Game That’s for Everyone

Gord Mafatow
4 minutes read time

My very first Movember was about 8 years ago, when my teammates on the newly formed Flatliners Paramedic Rugby team wanted to show solidarity with one of our teammates who had recently recovered from testicular cancer. Over the years our team and funds raised grew larger (as did our moustaches). The Flatliners (a summer social team) was my first introduction to rugby, and Movember was the first time in my life I was motivated to grow a stache. Being a rugby team based in a healthcare profession, it was easy for us to promote men’s health.

During the regular rugby season, many of us played for one or two other local teams, but the Flatliners always came back together when Movember season came around. A couple of years playing into the Richmond Rugby club (who’ve been generous hosts of the Flatliners Social Team) I came out as a gay man. It was pretty anti-climatic, to be honest. I had nothing but love and support from all 3 men’s division teams that belonged to the club at the time. Rugby truly is one of the most diverse and inclusive sports around.

" I was home, I was never a great player, but I was accepted and felt like I belonged. "

Fast forward to around 2019, my involvement with rugby became more sporadic, and then COVID hit and rugby, along with almost everything else, was shut down for the better part of a year. A good friend of mine who also played on the Flatliners and his husband were in my bubble, and we often hung out through the restrictions and said how amazing it would be to come out of COVID with an LGBTQ+ rugby team in Vancouver again.

Vancouver used to have one called The Rogues who were originally active from 2001-2009. They had literally “gone Rogue” to make Canada’s first gay and inclusive rugby team. We had a rough plan, then eventually met some other people, who were either gay players from the area, or gay players who had recently arrived from other areas who already had a gay/inclusive team, who were keen to start a gay, inclusive rugby club here. With the blessing of the former President of the Rogues from 2009, we formed a board and decided to pick up the torch where the former Rouges left off. We endeavored to create an actively inclusive space for Queer individuals and allies and to actively recruit from underrepresented demographics. When one of the oldest rugby clubs in Canada, Meraloma Club, heard about what we were doing, they were eager to help support us and the team we were building, and now the Rogues are a proud part of the Meraloma family.

(Re)starting the Vancouver Rogues has been a dream come true, providing a safe space for Queer people in a sport regarded as one of the most physically intense and sometimes toxic environments. I’ve sometimes had comments from former teammates or friends from the rugby community saying, “Rugby is already inclusive, why can't you join an already established team?” They aren't wrong, but they fail to realize the difference between passive and active inclusivity. The Rogues actively recruit in Queer spaces and try and recruit many to rugby who would have not joined if it we didn’t reach out to them there, instead of just welcoming and including those that already show up.

Using Movember as a launch point to talk about both men's mental health and physical health is very important to me, because I am a member of two demographics that are at significantly higher rates of mental health injuries, including death by suicide. A big part of these frank conversations is about my own mental health journey and occupationally acquired mental health injury and PTSD. Talking with my friends and teammates about how it’s ok to not be ok, and how reaching out for help to friends and professionals needs to be normalized, and breaking down that stigma on men and mental health. I am immensely proud of the community we have created, and many of our players have thanked us for creating such a positive, supportive, welcoming space that they never saw themselves being a part of until they found us, or we found them. Talking about mental health with my friends and their partners might help someone down the road, and that’s why I proudly grow a Mo from scratch every Movember.

Follow Gord on Instagram and support his efforts to raise funds and awareness for men’s health.

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