By David Dodge
Robbie Rodriguez, a member of CrossFit Soul Miami and the competitive Florida Grid League, is one of the few out gay men competing at higher levels of the sport today. We caught up with the 28-year-old to talk about his upbringing, experiences as an out gay athlete, and recent qualification as an individual athlete in the upcoming Wodapalooza contest in Miami this coming January.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing. Where did you grow up? When and how did you come out?
I’m from Tucson, Arizona. But my family and I moved to Rio Rancho, New Mexico when I was in the 7th grade. In high school, my mother and stepfather divorced, and my mom, younger brother and I then moved in with my mom’s coworker, a fellow nurse. After my junior year of high school, my mom and her “roommate” packed us all up and moved us back to Arizona, where I finished out my senior year. Even though she’d been living with this woman for a while, and had even moved states with her, we had never spoken about their relationship.
Still, I decided to come out the following summer to my mom. I told her one night after I got off work. She was watching T.V. when I told her. I was so nervous, but so ready. At first, I told her I thought I might be bisexual. She turned off the T.V., got out of her chair and said, “I love you no matter what, just turn the light off when you go to bed.”
I have been out since that summer in 2008, a whole magical 10 years ago! It was an important moment for me personally, because it’s allowed me to be 100% true to myself since.
When did you first start CrossFit? What’s your training like as a competitive GRID athlete?
I first learned about a style of CrossFit, called GRID, while studying at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. I was fortunate to bear witness to the first combine GRID had. I couldn’t gauge how good these athletes were at the time. But I was still able to appreciate their raw power and level of fitness—the speed, agility and skills required. These powerhouses blew me away with their ability to move such insane amounts of weights with such ease. I though to myself: I want to do that! I need to do that!
Training as a competitive GRID and CrossFit athlete is extremely difficult, both physically and mentally. I train an average of four hours, five days a week, give or take. But it’s so very much worth it in the end. I’m in love with the constant journey of competing, not only against others at competitions, but also with myself—I’m always striving to be better than I was yesterday
Do you feel you’re treated differently as an out gay CrossFit/GRID athlete?
My experience as a gay man in sports has always been a little hit or miss, ever since I was in middle school. I always played sports growing up, mainly soccer. And I’ve always felt on the outside. I’m sure I can chalk part of that up to youth—fighting my inner demons while coming of age, coming out, general teen angst, and so on. But part of me still holds on to those experiences, almost like a security blanket. I am always questioning other people’s actions—why someone said something a certain way to me, or why a fellow athlete didn’t say ‘hi’ to me. But I try to look past all of that and just be the best version of myself I can be.
As for the Fort Lauderdale Lions GRID League team I belong to, though, I feel absolutely accepted, 100%. Anyway you split it up, I feel at home with this team. I’ve entered everything I do as a competitive athlete as an out and proud gay man. Have I told everyone I’ve ever met? No. But enough purses have fallen out of my mouth that it’s definitely not a secret.
Do you wish there were more out gay male CrossFit athletes? Ever get lonely being one of the only higher profile out gay competitors?
I do wish more CrossFit athletes felt comfortable enough with their sexuality to be open and out. But I don't feel lonely. I have a strong family and great support system. Being a competitor in CrossFit is no different, the sport has been very welcoming to me. It shouldn't matter who you are. We all have different ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and political views, but none of that matters when you're on the competition floor doing your thing!
Congrats on qualifying for Wodapalooza! Tell us a bit about the competition for those who don't know. Are you the only LGBTQ athlete to qualify?
Wodapalooza is a local competition in Miami for those in the South Florida area, but people see it as a level close to "regionals," just under the Crossfit Games. If we compared this sport to football, I see Wodapalooza as similar to the Rose Bowl and the Crossfit Games as the Super Bowl. Either way, this competition is one of my favorites and I am very excited to have qualified. It's a 3-day event by the ocean. Yes, swim WODs included! Super stoked to wear my speedo!
We are looking for more athletes to profile. If you are an out and proud athlete with an interesting story we would love to hear it! Email us at Hello@out-fit.org.