We often hear some misconceptions about the Gay Games and about LGBT sport in general. On this page you’ll find some answers to some questions we’re often asked.
The Maccabiah Games, intended for Jews around the world, have been held since 1932
The Pan Arab Games have been held since 1953
We are all familiar with sports events on geographical lines, and somehow take those arbitrary divisions as the norm. And while national teams seem natural, there are many other types of communities, with sports events that allow for them to meet and share common experiences.
- Political, like the Commonwealth Games or the Games of the Small States of Europe
- Ethnic and religious, like the Maccabiah, the Arab Games, Islamic Solidarity Games, the FISEC Catholic Youth Games, the Pan-Armenian Games, the World Croatian Games, the International Highland Games
- Linguistic, like the Francophone Games or the Lusophony Games
- Professional, like the World Police and Fire Games, the Military Games, the Corporate Games, or the World Medical and Health Games
- Age, like the World Masters Games, the Gymnasiade, or the International Children’s Games
- Disability status, like the Special Olympics, the World Transplant Games, the Deaflympics, the IWAS World Games, and of course the Paralympic Games
The Olympics don’t discriminate against homosexuals, so why don’t you compete there?
The best gay and lesbian athletes in the world already do compete in the Olympics (with a large majority of them in the closet). But the Olympics, and mainstream sport in general, remain a very difficult place for homosexual athletes to compete, and certainly to compete without hiding their sexual identity. There are countless potential champions who under-perform, or simply don’t participate, in mainstream sport because of homophobia.
Another misconception is that the goal of the Gay Games is to find the best gay and lesbian athletes in the world. As said above, those athletes are competing in elite mainstream sport. The Gay Games do not aim at identifying the best gay athletes, but simply at recognizing the best athletes of all sexual orientation who compete at the Gay Games, a sporting event open to all.
The Olympic Games concern only a tiny fraction of athletes in the world. The Gay Games are about allowing everyone, whatever their level, participate in a major international competition.
Sport has nothing to do with your sexual orientation, so why have Gay Games?
As stated in the Olympic Charter, The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
In locker rooms and playing fields everywhere in the world athletes talk about their private lives. They celebrate victories with those they love, they travel with their partners, they share their sporting life with their families, and they never imagine that they are supposed to somehow keep sports untainted by any contact with their personal life.
Sport is part of people’s identity and social life, not a job where we go for a certain number of hours each day. No one should have to hide important parts of their identity such as the person they love or the composition of their family just to practice sport.
There is nothing special about sport for gays and lesbians, so why single them out with a Gay Games?
What is most special about LGBT sport is that it offers a safe and welcoming environment for homosexuals to practice their sport. In any case, in every case we practice sports not just to compete, but to share an experience with a community.
In certain sports, there are events that, due largely to homophobia and prejudice about gender roles, are not found outside the LGBT sport. For example, men’s synchronized swimming has still to be accepted in many countries and at the international level. Same-sex pairs in bodybuilding, dance sport, and figure skating are found only at LGBT sports events.
In addition, the Gay Games’ founding principles of Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best creates a kind of sport that is welcoming and truly open to all, a way to practice sport in a competitive but supportive environment.
If you’re going to have Gay Games, why can’t there be “straight games”?
In practice, most sports events are already “straight games”, where the assumption is made that all participants are straight, and where homosexuals must hide their sexual identity.
But the Gay Games are themselves “straight games”. Everyone is welcome, whatever their sexual orientation. It is estimated that about 10% of participants in each edition of the Gay Games are straight, often friends and family members of LGBT participants who participate to show their support and solidarity.
The Gay Games were good to have back when they were founded in 1982, but are they still necessary today when homosexuals have complete equality?
The Gay Games are an international event, which welcome and encourage participation of athletes from countries where discrimination against homosexuals is part of the law, in some places even punishable by death.
But even in places where discrimination against homosexuals is outlawed, in daily life, and perhaps more so in sport, homophobia remains very present. Even in the most progressive countries, homophobia and even violence against gay men and lesbians remain a reality.
One of the missions of the Gay Games is to combat homophobia by providing visibility for the countless gay and lesbian athletes.
Aren’t the Gay Games just a sort of ghetto for gays and lesbians?
The Gay Games welcome athletes of all sexual orientation. And the people who participate in the Gay Games continue to compete in sport between each edition of the Gay Games. Some do so exclusively in LGBT sports organizations, but most compete in mainstream sport, both individual and team sport.
This is a question the Federation gets all the time. It is difficult for a straight athlete, whether male or female, to fully understand the atmosphere and pressure that a closeted gay or lesbian athlete feels when trying to compete or participate in a “straight competition.”
The pervasive discrimination and putdowns of gays and lesbians in the locker room and on the field of play, along with “faggot” jokes and “sissy boy” remarks, to say nothing of the discrimination in access to sports because of being openly gay or lesbian, has had a negative residual impact on countless men and women for decades.
So the Gay Games provide a venue where gay and lesbian athletes can gather and compete in an atmosphere which is free of this discrimination.
The Games are also about breaking down stereotypes and showing the world that gays and lesbians can compete on a level playing field with everyone else. We have had World Records broken at the Gay Games. But the Games also have a need to provide what our founder 1968 Olympic Decathlete Tom Waddell could not find in the Olympic Games, that is, a place where one could participate in a sport regardless of ability, feel welcomed and included and where the goal is simply to do one’s personal best.
It is a very empowering experience for a gay and lesbian athlete to come into a stadium with 10,000 others and say, “Wow! I really am not alone in the world.” The Games are truly at the forefront in the fight for gay and lesbian emancipation and integration.