The Goal-Seeker: Kimberly Hadley

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Kimberly HadleyKimberly Hadley Co-president and Referee Director, International Gay & Lesbian Football Association Conceived in 1992 as a group that “provides a safe space” for its members to play organized soccer free of stereotypes and bigotry, the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association was in danger of its events becoming stagnant. Fittingly, it took a former professional referee to raise a yellow card as a warning. Kimberly Hadley didn’t stop at reinvigorating matches, though. As the association’s co-president, she has developed a model for expansion moving forward in a changing world. Caught a bit in the old way of holding events, IGLFA relied on its member clubs to host its tournaments (world championships and continental championships rotated even- and odd-numbered years). Securing venues and building local buzz became such a burden that finding volunteers became difficult. Hadley’s idea: Reach out to CVBs and local governments, many of which have a built-in budget to assist LGBT groups looking to host events, including building websites and procuring fields for no charge. The model opens up the tournaments to destinations not known for LGBT support where the group can make a lasting impact. Hadley’s ultimate goal is growth. Most notably, she’s in the process of starting a women’s task force to examine why IGLFA primarily attracts men’s teams. As the only female on the association’s board, she is reaching out to all female leagues—regardless of whether they are exclusively for homosexual athletes—across North America for the 2016 IGLFA World Championship XXII, over the objection of some of her peers. “It’s a no-brainer” to include teams regardless of sexual orientation, she says. And for those IGLFA members skeptical of being more inclusive, Hadley says: “You of all people should know what it’s like to be prejudged and [unable to] participate.” Tolerance vs. acceptance: “There is a lot of tolerance for the LGBT community because of the human rights aspect. But ‘tolerance’ is not a word I like to use. I don’t want to be tolerated. I want to be accepted for who I am. I think it’s a stepping-stone, sadly.” Numbers game: Hadley doesn’t measure success by the number of participating teams. "There's much more impact and exposure for an event of 30 teams in a city not as well publicly known for its LGBTQ community support than 50 or more teams in a city that already has an overwhelmingly supportive LGBTQ community.  We also continue to support events in our larger member club cities as they are still a vital part of our history and continue to support others in the process with their knowledge and experience.”