It’s always fun to begin a new year – there’s excitement for the new and unexpected, for fun things, new friends and ideas, even hope that things that haven’t gone so well in the past will be improved or simply discarded. But it’s good to celebrate a new year with some perspective. Things don’t always happen in my desired timeframe or yours. Sometimes they develop slowly and in ways we don’t always hear about or know the connections being made so we may miss the good “stuff” going on.
As we begin 2017, today’s sports scene reflects the important and tireless efforts of the untold numbers of people and organizations who have been actively involved in the sports diversity movement over the years. The general public is beginning to realize that gay people actually do play sports. And they don’t just “play,” they’re every bit as competitive as any straight athlete.
The big professional team sports in the U.S. are also making some real inroads by acknowledging their LGBTQ fan base by holding Pride Nights. And Major League Baseball (MLB) has made particular strides in its internal culture since it created a position for retired out MLB player Billy Bean as its vice president of social responsibility and inclusion.
There were some important birthday celebrations in 2016 – NAGAAA’s Gay Softball World Series turned 40, IGBO’s annual bowling tournament hit 36 and IGRA’s World Gay Rodeo Finals® turned 30. These are just a few of the organizations that have been around for a long time that are still actively involved in gaining and maintaining members. They’ve paved the way for younger gay sports organizations to form around a particular sport, like the NGFFL’s Gay Bowl that turned a “Fierce” 16 last year (skip the sweet stuff!).And they all welcome ally athletes, showing that sports diversity really does work.
With the stigma around sexual orientation lessening in large parts of the world, many elite athletes from around the world, particularly Olympians have started to come out. And international tournaments like the Gay Games celebrating its tenth games next year and World OutGames celebrating its fourth world games this year, have opened the global door for LGBTQ athletes of all skill levels to participate.
Is it all perfect? No, not at all. Prejudice and ignorance still exist and probably always will. But is it improving? Is there hope for continued advancement of sports diversity in 2017, for more inclusion, equality, acceptance and even some understanding? The answer to this is certainly a yes – there’s a firm foundation already in place, just waiting to be built upon this year. As you read this first issue of 2017, enjoy the stories of committed athletes who are making it better already. And then join in – you can make a positive difference, too!
Connie Wardman, Editor-in-Chief
Photo courtesy of Matt Belair