Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Ryan Storr, Lecturer in Sport Development, Western Sydney University

The largest international LGBT+ sporting event, the Gay Games, is taking place in Paris this week, with over 10,000 athletes from 91 countries competing in 32 sports.

The Games have grown in size and stature since their inception in San Francisco in 1982, developing in parallel with a vibrant gay sports movement around the world. With homophobia still rife in mainstream sports and so few “out” gay athletes in men’s professional sports leagues, the Gay Games provide a venue where LGBT+ athletes can compete in a safe, supportive and queer-affirming environment.

History of the Gay Games

Tom Waddell, a gay decathlete who competed at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics, was the visionary for the Gay Games in the early 1980s, based on the ideals of the Olympics.

Although inspired by the modern Olympics, Waddell was also disillusioned by the mega-sporting event due to the more negative aspects he believed had become a part of it, namely racism, sexism, nationalism, homophobia and elitism. He set out to launch a “people’s games” that fostered inclusion of people from all backgrounds, participation for personal achievement and friendship.

Read more: Do openly gay public figures like Ian Thorpe matter? They sure do

Since their founding, the Gay Games have been held in predominantly cosmopolitan, Western, gay-friendly cities, like New York City (1994), Amsterdam (1998), Sydney (2002), Cologne (2010) and now Paris (2018). They have grown tenfold in terms of participation and evolved into a multi-million-dollar LGBT+ confab of sports, culture, human rights and entertainment.

The Gay Games are still relevant. Here's why The opening ceremonies of the Gay Games in Paris last week. Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

More than just sport

From the outset, one of the aims of the Gay Games was to combat homophobia in sports. This is still a pervasive problem. In a recent global study on the issue, an alarming 82% of LGB participants said they had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport.

The Gay Games have very inclusive policies and practices that provide a progressive model for mainstream sport to emulate.

Read more: Homosexuality and the Olympic movement: towards better Games

This inclusiveness can be seen in a variety of ways. First, one doesn’t need to identify as LGBT+ to participate – the sporting events, ceremonies and cultural events are open to people of every sexual orientation and gender identity. Heterosexual people are encouraged to participate, as well.

Transgender athletes have been a part of the Games since 1994. And by the Sydney Games in 2002, gender was defined socially – as the gender you live. The Games also pioneered same-sex competitions like ballroom dancing and figure skating, in addition to hosting the first international women’s wresting competition in 1994. There are also separate senior categories for a number of sporting events.

One of the highlights of the Games is The Pink Flamingo, a playful team competition involving aquatics and theatre. (The only rules: No glitter, feathers or others items that can dirty the pool. And nudity is forbidden.)

The Gay Games are still relevant. Here's why The ‘Subversive Sirens’ synchronized swim team from the US, which is committed to black liberation, equity in swimming and aquatic arts, body positivity in athleticism and queer visibility. Caroline Blumberg/EPA

Secondly, the Games serve as an outreach tool to engage with various communities in the host country. Many volunteers, officials and support staff who work at the Games are not LGBT+ themselves, so the event provides an opportunity to educate and enlighten them about LGBT+ culture and identities.

Finally, inclusiveness has also been manifest in the policies and promotional and outreach efforts directed towards people on the margins of the broader LGBT+ community – minorities, people with disabilities and those living with HIV and AIDS. For example, scholarships are provided to people from a wide range of backgrounds who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to afford to attend.

And acknowledging gender inequality in sports, the Gay Games have made efforts to promote the participation of female athletes and equality in leadership roles within the organisation. While lesbian athletes are certainly more visible these days, the reality is that gay women still face the double burden of both homophobia and sexism in sports.

Continued relevance

Despite these benefits, there is still some discussion within the gay community over the event’s continued relevance as gay rights have become more accepted in society.

Events like this provide an opportunity to bring positive social change to countries with less-than-progressive LGBT+ records. Hong Kong has been selected to host the next Gay Games in 2022, marking the first time the event will be hosted in Asia and in a country where gay rights are still in their infancy.

Read more: Why sport hasn't made much progress on LGBTI+ rights since the Sochi Olympics

Change is happening, though. A recent poll found that LGBT+ rights are gaining in momentum in Hong Kong, with increased support for marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws for LGBT+ people.

Another promising sign: China made its debut this week at the Gay Games in Paris, although reportedly without “official recognition from the Chinese government”.

The Gay Games are still relevant. Here's why China makes its debut at the Gay Games. Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

And other frontiers remain: Africa and the Middle East are still vastly under-represented at the Gay Games, though there are small numbers of athletes competing in Paris for countries like Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria and Angola.

The Gay Games are still very much needed to combat discrimination and homophobia, which hasn’t gone away even with marriage equality and other markers of progress. Because of this, as well as the uplifting spirit of the event, we anticipate the Games remaining an important fixture in the LGBT+ sporting calendar for years to come.

Authors: Ryan Storr, Lecturer in Sport Development, Western Sydney University

Read more http://theconversation.com/the-gay-games-are-still-relevant-heres-why-101104

Why the Black Lives Matter protests must continue: an urgent appeal by Marcia Langton


Sweden eschewed lockdowns. It's too early to be certain it was wrong


‘The Epilogue’ to Traidmarc’s incredible story of conviction


The Conversation


Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Reinventing The Outside Of Your Office

Efficient work is a priority in most offices. You need a comfortable interior that is functional too. The exterior also affects morale. Big companies have an amazing exterior like university ca...

News Company - avatar News Company

Kaspersky and Ferrari partnership: tailoring cybersecurity for an iconic brand

Kaspersky is commemorating the 10 year anniversary of its strategic partnership with iconic, global brand - Ferrari. The cybersecurity company is a sponsor of the brand’s Formula One racing team...

News Company - avatar News Company

Instant Steel Solutions Review

Are you keen on having the right guidance, knowledge and information about the right kind of steel purchases for your industries? If yes, then you are in the right place. There is no doubt that ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion