The LEXUS International Gay Polo Tournament in Palm Beach, Florida, is more than just a sporting event.
It’s an inclusive and diverse celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, and a showcase of talented gay athletes from all over the world. From the moment we heard about the Gay Polo Tournament, my partner Teraj and I knew we had to experience it for ourselves because we knew it would be a great opportunity to see our community come together and to meet like-minded individuals. I personally had no idea what to expect as a first-time gay polo attendee, so I prepped by scouring Google and looking up pictures from last year’s event for outfit inspiration (because we all know good outfits are key at a gay event). My worries melted away as soon as we arrived at the National Polo Center in Wellington, Florida, as we were greeted right away with warmth and acceptance. It was amazing to see how the center was transformed into a vibrant celebration of gay sport, culture, and community.
The Gay Polo League (GPL), founded by Chip McKenney, is a non-profit organization that promotes inclusivity and diversity within the sport of polo. It was inspiring to see this community come together to celebrate their passion for the sport while creating a safe space for all individuals. For our first night, we were lucky enough to attend the VIP Sponsor party, where we were introduced to all of the sponsors and teams. The teams were presented with a gift bag full of goodies, and they had a cute photoshoot with their new jerseys. This is also where we first learned about the onePULSE Foundation and everything they are working on for the LGBTQ+ community. It was casual and fun, the perfect introduction to the gay polo family.
The following evening, we had the pleasure of attending Wigstock, an event benefiting the OnePULSE Foundation. Founded by Barbara Poma, the owner of One Pulse Nightclub, the foundation aims to create a lifelong historical legacy to ensure that we never forget about the horrible attack that occurred on June 12, 2016 at Pulse nightclub. JP Davis, a representative for onePULSE Foundation, put it best when he said, “When people ask me why I care about Pulse, it’s because people will forget. History has shown us that. Just a reminder that you are helping create a lifelong historical legacy to make sure that generations forever never forget about what happened that night, the lives that were lost that should not have been lost, and the thousands of lives impacted, including mine.”
Initially, Teraj and I were hesitant about donning wigs, but we decided to take a day trip to Party City to find the perfect rainbow wigs for the occasion. Although we weren’t the most attractive individuals in the room, we had an unexpectedly enjoyable time preparing our wigs and outfits. We laughed hysterically in our hotel room while combing the knots out of our rainbow wigs. We were unsure what the other guests would think of us walking out of the hotel in colorful wigs and glitter, but we felt like celebrities. People praised us and inquired about the event as we made our way into the Uber.
The night itself was a blast, as we witnessed everyone, including the players, unwind before the game the next day. The band was fantastic, and Roxxxy Andrews (a two-time contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race) made the evening even more memorable with high-energy performances and touching tales of her personal experiences at One Pulse. She shared how Pulse nightclub “was not just a job or a place to hang out, but also a sanctuary and a home.” She also spoke about the recent attacks on the trans and drag community, reminding us that they are simply living their dreams by dressing up and entertaining, and that they should be celebrated, not attacked. Looking back on the evening, we really felt like the event was the perfect blend of heartfelt messages, inspiration, and lively entertainment.
On the day of the tournament, we did not know what to expect, but we arrived to find a colossal polo field with decked out colorful tailgate tents on both sides. We made our way into the VIP tent for some lunch, and later for cocktails during the event. The LEXUS tailgate provided much needed water misting for the fans, popcorn, and Jell-O shots. They also had their LEXUS RX and LEXUS IS models on the field so we were able to hop in to check them out. Teraj immediately made himself at home in the car and automatically started adjusting the seat for his longer legs. Between the two games (Founders Cup Match and Senators Cup Match), they allowed everyone to go onto the field for the traditional “divot stomp,” where attendees are encouraged to go out and help them fill in the divots in the grass from the polo match.
This was an unexpectedly fun way to get involved. Before the next game, they paraded the pride flag along with flags from all the participating countries to loud cheers from the audience. The festive atmosphere was infectious, and it was heartening to see the LGBTQ+ community and its allies celebrate and support gay athletes. Teraj commented on how friendly and open everyone was, making it a fantastic space to connect with people and form new friendships. He was particularly excited to meet and chat with the players and learn about their stories and experiences in the world of polo. The players came from all over the globe to participate and provided visibility that LGBTQ+ athletes exist and can excel in all types of sports.
The tournament ended with an awards ceremony, including the presentation of the Founders Cup, Senators Cup, best tailgate awards, and the Most Valuable Player award—a bedazzled mallet won by Joaquin de la Piedra. Joaquin was on the Wood Reserve Team, winning the Founders Cup 10-3. We were lucky enough to meet Joaquin and have a few laughs with him as he joked about needing to warm up before the game, but was feeling lazy. Clearly it wasn’t needed as he was brilliant on the field! All in all, it was the perfect way to cap off an exciting weekend of polo, community, and inclusivity.
Attending the Gay Polo Tournament in Palm Beach was an experience that we will always cherish. From the exciting events to the welcoming community, every aspect of the weekend was a testament to the power of inclusivity and diversity. The best part was that the weekend raised over $72,000 for the OnePULSE Foundation.
The Gay Polo League hosts tournaments annually in West Palm Beach, but they also host tournaments around the world. The next tournament will be held in September 2023 in Windsor, England. We are grateful to have been a part of this year’s events and look forward to attending again in the future.