A Lanarkshire rugby player is to co-host a variety stage performance that will see his burly teammates swapping their boots for high heels and their head guards for wigs.
It will be a fixture like no other for Ross Lockerbie, chairperson of Glasgow’s LGBTQ+ inclusive rugby team, Glasgow Raptors RFC, when he takes centre stage with drag royalty to host fundraising event, Rugby Meets Drag.
Eight players from the team will undergo a drag transformation and perform in a competitive variety show in the rugby club’s first major fundraiser since Covid restrictions were lifted.
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More than 300 spectators are set to attend the event at Glasgow’s Audio nightclub on Friday, July 15, which will feature performances from renowned Glasgow drag acts, including Ann Phetamine, and music from singer-songwriter Ziggi Battles.
Glasgow Raptors hope to raise thousands of pounds through ticket sales, raffles and a silent auction, with a fifth of the profits to be donated to their chosen charity partner, LGBT Youth Scotland.
Another portion of the funds raised will help to finance the team’s trip to Ottawa to compete in the biggest tournament in International Gay Rugby, the Bingham Cup.
For 33-year-old Ross, his introduction to the sport was one of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic.
“Covid played a horrible game with us all,” said Ross, a business development manager in the cyber security industry.
“During lockdown, I had been sitting in the house for so long, looking at the same four walls, and putting on a lot of weight. I wanted something that would get me fit, help me meet new people and try something a bit different. I had never played rugby before, and had never touched a rugby ball.
“Glasgow Raptors have such a good name within the LGBTQ+ community, which is why I chose it. The first time I went along, I was extremely nervous. I had never competed in any team sports at all. I was always more academic than sports and fitness-minded. After the first 15 or 20 minutes, I realised I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was in the same boat. The way they welcomed me into the team was a really big thing for me.”
Being of average height and stocky build, Ross says rugby allowed him to use his size to his advantage, and he took to the sport like a duck to water.
And the Raptors’ commitment to embracing the wider LGBTQ+ community, breaking down barriers that stand in the way of trying something new and promoting inclusion in sport, greatly impressed him.
“Whether you are gay or straight, black or white, heavy or skinny, it has something to offer everyone,” said Ross, who became one of Glasgow Raptors’ 65 members two years ago.
Describing the sport as “a thugs’ game played by gentlemen,” Ross added: “Now, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play rugby. I can’t picture my life without rugby in it.”
As the club’s chairperson, his aim is to ensure that rugby, and the Glasgow Raptors, are as inclusive as they can be in the city and its environs.
“We want to do as much as we possibly can to break the stigma of gay, lesbian, bi and trans people playing sport, and we want to be the first team people within the LGBTQ+ community think of if they are considering joining an inclusive sports team,” continued Ross, who lives in Motherwell with partner, Chris Tyrrell, whose family’s home furnishings business, Tyrrell’s of Burnbank, sponsors the Glasgow Raptors.
“Fundraising events like Rugby Meets Drag have helped the Raptors to continue through pandemic restrictions which took us off the pitch for 18 months. Despite these challenges, we’ve seen significant improvements in both numbers and performance over the last year. The team played and won more matches this season than we have any other and have demonstrated our ability to put very strong opposition under a lot of pressure.”
The Raptors proved their mettle in March when they claimed second place at the Antinous Plate tournament in Newcastle against a pool of other LGBTQ+ teams from across the UK.
Glasgow Raptors are also working with Aberdeen Taexali RFC to field the largest ever Scotland team, the Scottish Warriors, for this year’s tournament.
Ross added: “I am excited to see our side join forces with our friends from Aberdeen. Not only is this a historic milestone for inclusive sport in Scotland, but it is a monumental step for us as we continue to make a name for ourselves as one of the most rapidly developing clubs both in Glasgow and in International Gay Rugby.
“We’re confident that the Scottish contingent will make good use of all the experience gained this season and deliver an impressive performance in Canada this August.”
Connor McKnight, lead organiser and club social secretary believes the Rugby Meets Drag event will help to further establish the club’s connection with the wider community.
He said: “Originally, we planned the event two years ago, but the pandemic forced us to postpone it indefinitely. It’s amazing that we finally have the opportunity to do an event of this scale.
“This will be the biggest fundraiser event the club has ever done, so it’s definitely ambitious. Now that it’s finally going ahead, we see it as an important opportunity for Glasgow’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community to come together and celebrate during the city’s pride weekend celebrations.”
As well as Connor’s role in organising the event, he will be one of the eight rugby players performing on the night when he will make his drag debut.
He continued: “Glasgow’s drag scene has been on the rise for years and we’re incredibly grateful to have the support of local talent helping us out on the night. Their help will be indispensable in making the event a success.”
Tickets for Rugby Meets Drag are on sale for £12.50 and can be purchased via Ticket Source. Spaces are limited and early booking is encouraged. Ticket holders will also receive discounted entry to Polo Lounge nightclub for the Rugby Meets Drag official after-party.
Learn more about Glasgow Raptors RFC on its social media channels.
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