Gay Games Celebrates 30 Years of Sports and Equality
The Federation of Gay Games marked its 30th anniversary in West Hollywood with a weekend-long celebration that included sports exhibitions, a brunch and an awards ceremony honoring those who have helped LGBT athletes achieve equality. In addition to athletes, supporters and community members, the West Hollywood City Council was in attendance, with Mayor Jeffrey Prang presenting them with a commendation.
"There is no better place that combines professional, collegiate, scholastic and community sports in a way that they do," said Officer of Ceremonies Shamey Cramer, who organized the event and called it a resounding success. "Our mission is to use sports and culture to address the issues of homophobia all around the globe."
Every four years since 1982, the Gay Games has celebrated sports in the LGBT community, which is often neglected by professional and mainstream groups involved with physical competition. Recent successes include the Pride House during the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
"This past summer, we were part of a consortium of about seven groups that hosted Pride House, held during the second week of Olympics," Cramer explained.
While it was open, several closeted athletes proudly came out to the world press by visiting the location. Ji Wallace, a Gay Games ambassador, took the time to come out as HIV-positive.
"We couldn’t have a better ambassador, an international role model for the benefit of sports for those with compromised immune systems," said Cramer, who is also open about his HIV-positive status.
At the awards ceremony for the 30th anniversary, Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of OutSports.com, received the Legacy Award for Media. Cramer said that Zeigler was given the award for his barefaced approach to LGBT sports journalism. Around 2000, no reporters were talking about LGBT athletes, Zeigler explained, so he, along with Jim Buzinski, founded OutSports.com.
"It’s a pretty special event," Zeigler said of the Gay Games. "It has the most number of participants in any sporting event in the world. And to see all those LGBT athletes and straight allies; I think the reason it’s lasted is that it’s just so special."
Commenting on how journalists handle LGBT athletes and homophobia, Zeigler stressed, that he would like to see more reporters asking athletes how they feel about this issue.
There are a few reasons why they’re not doing it now, he explained. First, there’s a lack of desire to ask the hard questions. When athletes are confronted with personal or aggressive questions they tend to avoid direct responses. Second, many sports journalists believe that this issue isn’t related to sports.
"You better be ready to write about this issue," Zeigler advises sports journalists, noting that more and more athletes are coming out, and allies are voicing their concerns about teammates being attacked verbally. "Whether you like it or not, you need to write about these issues."