Love, Death and Volleyball: The Four-Decade Run of a Trailblazing Gay Sports League
How a dirt-court meetup in Central Park grew to become a vital lifeline during the AIDS crisis and a surrogate family for LGBTQ people to this day.
Images courtesy Gotham Volleyball
On a November Sunday at the hangover hour of 9:30 a.m., about 50 adults, mostly men in their 20s and 30s, assemble inside a high school gym on one of Manhattan’s rare quiet residential streets. A volleyball net bisects the room, and in one corner there’s a photo booth where a drag queen is sporting black lace, a tiara of sculpted snakes, and body paint that’s almost the same shade as the glittering gold backdrop. She strikes several poses before taking the microphone.
“Welcome to the Gotham Volleyball Drag Tournament 2018!”
Tournament players are decked out in wigs, heels, gowns, tutus, copious eye shadow, hand fans, butterfly wings and body-hugging foliage. They strut down a strip of rug duct-taped to the gym floor for the red-carpet show. Each team has its own name and theme. The Mariahs, wearing signature Mariah Carey looks — from a Santa minidress to a poufy floor-length gown — sashay to the breathy strains of “Hero.” The cheerleaders of team Slay It…