For Cornelius resident Denise Bauer, the sport of dragon boating is about more than just competing as a team. Its a chance to break down barriers of discrimination.
Bauer has founded the first LGBT dragon boat team in Lake Norman, and possibly the state, an action prompted by the passage of Amendment One.
As a gay woman, Bauer, 52, said shes never struggled with her sexuality but was very disheartened by Amendment One, which was an amendment to the state constitution that makes marriage between a man and a woman the only legal union recognized by the state.
We humans are all equal, Bauer said. However, we live in a society governed by laws, and as such, laws exist that deny certain citizens that equality. Life is tough enough without discrimination and bigotry.
Bauer picked up a dragon-boat paddle for the first time when she moved with her job to Cornelius from New Jersey four years ago. She was looking for a way to get on the lake and get active, and a friend was a member of the Circle Up dragon boat team. Bauer was able to connect with the team coach, Randy Crow, and join the competitive team Organized Chaos. Since then, shes also coached the team the past two years.
Bauer said dragon boating, which is based on 2,000 years of Chinese tradition, takes 22 people on a team 20 paddlers, one drummer and one steerer in a narrow canoe-like boat, usually about 40 feet long, paddling in unison and racing other teams over a variety of distances. Its super-exciting. I have been hooked since I stepped in the boat.
Now, Bauer is the head coach and founder of One World Dragon Boat, an incorporated nonprofit with the state thats in the process of getting its nonprofit status and growing its membership. Bauer said she actively started promoting the idea in August, which was three-quarters of the way through the dragon boat season that runs March through early November.
Its about creating opportunities for people, Bauer said, noting shes traveled across the country with the sport during the relatively short time shes been involved. She also traveled to Milan last September with other members of Organized Chaos, as part of the 78 paddlers that comprised the U.S. National Team for the International Canoe and Kayak Federation dragon boat competition. She brought home one silver and two bronze medals; this summer, Bauer will attend another international competition in Kiev.
I have a big passion for the sport and a passion for people. The saddest thing is to never ever see whats available, she said. This sport builds bridges and bonds, its so much bigger than dragon boats.
Its not just about a team, but breaking down the boundaries of bigotry and discrimination, she said. Its hard to hate people when you know who they are.
Bauer said she hopes the team can provide a healthy, athletic and supportive outlet for members of the LGBT community, their friends and families, and also raise positive awareness by working with the larger community. Whether theyre holding a dragon boat clinic or, with hope, local dragon boat festivals, Bauer said, she hopes One World can create opportunities for people to interact with one another.
Bauer said its a personal goal to have One World ready to race in time for the annual Charlotte Asian Festival in May, which currently hosts one of the largest dragon boat races in the state. It is held at Ramsey Creek Park in Cornelius.
I believe hearts and minds can be changed one person at a time, she said, noting she strongly believes in a quote by Margret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, its the only thing that ever has.
While eventually Bauer would like the team to have enough members to race competitively, right now she just wants the team to be able to get on the water.
It takes 20 people to paddle the boat so we need twice that many on the roster, she said, noting there are currently about six members signed up. Im not going to turn away straight allies. Were all people; its one world.
All interested participants need is a sense of adventure and enthusiasm, Bauer said.
The only thing we dont tolerate is closed minds and hatred.
Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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