By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
More and more people are getting vaccinated and while the Delta variant is coming along and causing trouble, a light appears at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic. The last year has disrupted the LGBTQIA+ sports community all over the world, with every major LGBTQIA sporting event having been cancelled, and not without drama. As fall approaches, it will be two years since we’ve last competed at events like Sin City Classic, Gay Bowl, Eurogames, International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships, and the Gay Softball World Series. We are all ready to get back into play, and perhaps burn off that quarantine 15 (or 50).
This pandemic has been challenging for us all, with our daily lives disrupted in all aspects. The LGBTQIA+ sports community represents an important cornerstone for so many people, as an outlet for physical, mental, and social health. With all the major sporting events this last year having been cancelled and the pandemic loosening its grip (we’re watching you, Delta Variant), the leagues and tournaments are starting to dip their toes back into the water to return to play. Now, when I say “dip their toes” there is still a lot of worry and hesitancy given the rise of the Delta variant among unvaccinated populations that may potentially delay this return to play. Another wave of cases may lead to more cancellations, which will cost organizers a lot of money but also create a lot of hassle for athletes and participants. Of course, ensuring that participants are either vaccinated or have a negative test result, plus basic hygiene practices such as masks, social distancing, cleaning surfaces, and such are all important things to ensure the events are held safely.
Events this fall that are proceeding as scheduled, most notably the 2021 Eurogames in Copenhagen, Gay Bowl XXI in Arizona and the 2021 Gay Softball World Series in Columbus, are setting the stage for returning to play coming out of this pandemic. As these events proceed, they will set the stage for the next year of sports leagues, teams, and tournaments making a grand return. The Eurogames is seeing a lower-than-expected turnout over hesitancy and worries of another wave putting a damper on the travel plans for the event. On the flip side, the Gay Softball World Series is reporting the largest team count in the history of the tournament at 235 teams. Showing that even now, more than ever, we still need our LGBTIA+ sports communities.
As we make our way out of this pandemic, the LGBTQIA+ sports tournaments, leagues, and teams will and are playing a vital for people navigating the post-pandemic world. 1.5 years of lockdown and quarantine has not been kind for our physical, mental, and social health, so it’s important to come back into training with this in mind. These events will serve to help heal us and move forward to find our rhythms again, but we must ease back into it to ensure we can keep going into the next year.