While still quite a niche market, LGBTQ+ sports clubs, teams and organizations are stronger and growing faster than ever. In the United States, Europe and Australia, almost every major city has a club for almost any sport you can think of. With the most recent Gay Games in Paris hosting many different sports, there is no shortage of opportunities for athletes of all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, gender identities and ability levels to take part.
Having said that, the growth of the LGBTQ+ Sports Community isn’t limited to Europe, North America and Australia either. In the past 5 years, there are many LGBTQ+ oriented sports communities that are growing in places you might not expect. From Tel Aviv, Israel hosting the “Tel Aviv Games” and the South Africa hosting the “Afro Games” which are both LGBTQ+ Multi-Sport events that are held with the same spirit and mission of the Gay Games itself to bring education and awareness for LGBTQ+ causes through sports. The Uganda Kuchus is an LGBTQ+ Swim Team from Uganda that has taken part in IGLA since 2016. Uganda is one of the most dangerous countries for LGBTQ+ people to live. LGBTQ+ Sports is helping to unite and grow communities that need it most while offering an outlet for people living in oppression to break free and shine, even if it’s temporarily.
Even more so, the positive effects of this; just like the Tel Aviv Games and Afro-Games. Will be to increase visibility, education and awareness of LGBTQ+ causes through sports. In addition, this also opens the community’s closet door by creating outlets and activities for LGBTQ+ people to partake in that aren’t hidden away in bars and clubs.
With the 2022 Gay Games being hosted in Hong Kong, there is an even bigger challenge for the organizers in China. With the LGBTQ+ sporting community practically non-existent, it will take even more hard work and effort for the GGHK Host Committee to gather support from the locals and organizations in Hong Kong. China faces a lot of social, cultural and legal oppression of LGBTQ+ people that make it very difficult and scary for anyone who dares to live openly
So, while one might argue that we don’t need a “Gay Games” as we live in our bubbles enjoying a lot of new found freedoms for LGBTQ+ individuals as we’ve made progress the last several years. Not every community enjoys those same freedoms. For many communities, even holding a rainbow flag or going to a gay bar is enough to get you arrested, beaten or killed. For many people, living openly is a terrifying prospect. 30 years ago, the US, Europe and Australia were in the same position, and events like Gay Games, Gay Bowl, Bingham Cup, IGLA and others that had a part in history toward bringing the LGBTQ+ community to where we are today. It is up to us to ensure that we keep that legacy alive and ensure that those people who still live in oppression have opportunities and empowerment they need to bring positive change to their communities.
By Dirk Smith