Swisha basketball club for BIPOC queer and trans casual playerscame into being because Jamiece Adams wanted a less competitive, more supportive space to play a sport she picked up in high school.
She also wanted a place where BIPOC queer people could "feel good in their bodies and play with people who they feel connected to."
When Adams realized this space didn't exist, she created it with lots of help from her wife and friends, who she said are "integral" to the group's success.
"There is a natural innate community that happens when you do a sport and when you do something that requires teamwork," Adams said. "When it's BIPOC, trans and queer folks coming together with these identities, it's like, 'I love these people because I am these people' and you see yourself reflected. It's important to see that reflection and to know you're not alone."
Around 30 or 40 people attend a typical meet-up and the group has about 15 regulars who attend most events. Swish doesn't require any commitment and event information is posted on its Instagram account, which has more than a thousand followers.
In 2022, Swish is planning a one-year anniversary dinner and a fundraiser that will allow the group to host a tournament and community retreat.
Having a designated space for people with similar identities to play a sport together means "there's a lot of work you don't have to do," Adams said.
"When you come up on a court and there's a lot of cis men, you can definitely play and hold your own," she explained. "But there's a lot of work that you're doing, whether it's conscious or subconscious. To be thinking, 'Am I being looked at?' 'Are they going to misgender me?' 'Are they going to test me out by overplaying or underplaying?' Or even just 'Will they pass me the ball?'
Swish basketball events take place indoors a few times a month in a location the Chicago Bulls helped to secure so that attendees don't have to pay for anything. Meet-ups start with free shooting and casual conversation; then the group convenes after about an hour to "talk about how we want to honor the space and each other," Adams said.
"It's not to say that every space curated for an identity is safe. There are nuances," she added. "We call it a brave space, where we can mess up and hold each other accountable and move forward in finding ways to make this world better and build it in a better way."
Centering "intentionality" in the group dynamic helps people to feel seen and cared for, which builds a stronger community. During the circle, attendees introduce themselves to each other and share resources they have that others might need. Everyone wears masks and there's hand sanitizer provided to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since they play indoors.
After introductions, co-founder and fitness professional T Banks leads the group in dynamic warm-ups and larger group games, like knockout or free-throw competitions.
Then everyone counts off into teams of three to play a few small games against each other. Adams explained games with smaller teams are more accessible for beginners than larger games and less taxing on the body. Breaks are heavily encouraged and built into the schedule.
After the event ends, people generally linger and sometimes get lunch together or otherwise hang out.
"My favorite part of Swish is the connections and friendships we've created," Adams said. "It's stuff like inviting people from meetups to my wife's birthday party. Or you know, going to people's engagement parties. My favorite part is seeing that this goes beyond the court."
To learn more about Swish, see www.instagram.com/queerbasketballclub/ .