From his background in communications and working as a public servant with the U.S. government to his involvement in kickball leagues around town, Jesse Garcia uses his skills to connect with others and foster safe spaces for those in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. As Garcia celebrates his participation in 50 DC Fray leagues, we caught up with him to get to know him better through in-depth looks at his experiences and some rapid-fire questions on a variety of topics — from his dream kickball teammate to what he’s listening to these days.
District Fray: You reached a huge milestone in 2021 of playing in 50 Fray leagues. Tell us more about that journey.
Jesse Garcia: When I moved from Dallas to D.C. in the summer of 2011, I wanted to try something different. So, I turned to team sports. Back in Texas, I was a political organizer for more than a decade. When I was not working 9 to 5, I spent evenings and weekends working on progressive campaigns, registering voters and volunteering with elections. I missed out in joining gay leagues like volleyball and softball. I felt that was a luxury and that the cause needed me more. When I got politically appointed to the Obama administration and came to D.C., I decided what little downtime I had was going to be spent meeting good people and having a great time. So naturally, I turned to gay kickball. I also joined DC Fray softball teams with my office, dart leagues and non-LGBTQ+ kickball leagues to pass the time during the summer and winter.
How would you describe your role in social sports? Why are they important to you?
My kickball career peaked many seasons ago, so now I’m affectionately called Team Mom. I make sure schedules are up on our apps, rosters are ready on game day and I even keep stats to spur competition among teammates. It’s all because we love kickball, and we invest so much time helping each other get better as players. Personally, these players are like the children I never got to have. I’m so happy this new generation of LGBTQ+ folks will have the opportunity to have marriages and raise children, something I wish I had available to me when I was their age. When the pandemic hit and we needed human interaction, DC Fray provided a safe space for us to meet each Sunday and play again on the National Mall. That boosted our morale and mental health after days of lockdown. Thank you, DC Fray.
And how has your professional journey progressed over the years?
This year I hit a milestone. In May, I celebrate 25 years working as a public servant in the federal government. I started my career at San Antonio’s Kelly Air Force Base, fresh out of graduate school. I have worked in seven different agencies throughout my career. I proudly work for the USDA in consumer education, and my office is located right near the National Mall.
What role do social sports play for the LGBTQ+ community in D.C.?
Kickball for the LGBTQ+ family is so much more than just a social sport. It is like an actual family. Some in the community are estranged from their families because they chose to come out and have had to move to a big city to live out their truth. They create chosen families. These teams represent years of friendship: people who will be there after the game ends and happy hours finish. The reason that LGBTQ+ leagues keep getting bigger and bigger each season is because so many of us want to belong and have that support system. Plus, kickball provides many in the community a great way to meet folks outside the bar scene and social media apps. Everyone wins.
How else are you involved in the local LGBTQ+ community and beyond?
After my Obama appointment, I decided to stay in D.C. to continue my adventure. I became involved once again with the oldest and largest Latinx civil rights organization, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Back in Dallas, I helped lead a LULAC district in North Texas. Here in D.C., I cofounded a local chapter of this nationwide organization that was made up of LGBTQ+ Latinx folks, www.lulaclambda.org. We raise money and award scholarships to LGBTQ+ Latinx students, coordinate HIV testing days in the Latinx community, register voters, clean up the Potomac River and Rock Creek Park, and donate to local food pantries. I also have a podcast that focuses on leaders in the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities. We talk about politics, culture and art. I self-fund www.jessegarciashow.com, available on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. My only sponsor is the First Amendment.
Favorite kickball memory? I got to assemble a good team of folks and we brought over some straight players from DC Fray to Stonewall [Sports] kickball, and we took down the undefeated champs on the very first game of the brand-new season. They weren’t expecting us to be good, but because we were signing up for DC Fray, playing summer leagues and getting better, we could get to these more competitive Stonewall leagues. We brought over some amazing straight players who enjoy playing with gay folks, and we united and took down the undefeated team — and they were cheering for us. Dream kickball teammate? [Secretary of Transportation] Pete Buttigeig. He looks like he is a positive person, and that he’d be a great shortstop. I know you’re a dedicated kickball player, but what’s your favorite sport to watch? I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan. I’ve always been since I grew up in Texas. Most D.C. people are like, “Okay, we’re gonna give you that.” I love the Washington Nationals. I was never into baseball, but when I came here [and when they won the championship], I celebrated the team and went to see them in the parade. If you had to pick a sport to play other than kickball, what would it be? Probably softball. I did softball with my agency, and it has the same roles and the same setup almost. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s a lot of legwork though, and a lot of running after that small ball. Best place to grab a drink after work? Uproar Lounge & Restaurant on Florida Avenue. They have a beautiful patio and the staff is so nice. Favorite D.C. area restaurant? El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria on 11th Street. It’s got good Mexican food and stayed open throughout the whole pandemic. I appreciate the immigrant workers there that kept it open. They still showed up to work every day during the pandemic. They were the only people I would see during the pandemic, so their faces will always be ingrained in my mind while we were all shut down at the very beginning and very scared. What’s your usual order there? Mole rojo. That’s their dish of chicken with some chocolate sauce that doesn’t taste like chocolate, but it’s from the cocoa plant and is indigenous to Mexico. It’s just delicious and spicy. There’s different types of mole and their dish there is the best. Favorite song at the moment? I’ve been listening to Dua Lipa. Her album came out last year, but I’m still hung up on other remixes. I’m particularly fond of “Levitating (feat. Madonna and Missy Elliott) [The Blessed Madonna Remix].” I was so happy when she won at the Grammys.
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