“The Gay Games has always stood for equality”
Interviewed by Sylvain Landa and Kiera Wason-Milne
Since 1982, the Gay Games brings together people from all walks of life, without discrimination, around the values of diversity, respect, equality, solidarity and sharing. On the occasion of the Gay Games 10 organised in Paris from 4 to 12 August 2018, Sean Fitzgerald and Joanie Evans, the two co-presidents of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG), highlight the challenges of this historical edition.
Paris is hosting the 10th edition of the Gay Games. How would you assess the event’s evolution?
SF-JE: Actually, the Gay Games is now 36 years old and is the world’s largest sporting and cultural event open to all. The Gay Games has grown by welcoming all participants regardless of nationality, age, race, religion, and sexual or gender orientation. The motto “Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best” serve as our founding principles and reminds us to welcome people of all abilities and to celebrate them achieving their own personal best. By offering 36 sports and 14 cultural activities, the Gay Games has something for everyone. Paris 2018 Gay Games 10 will mark the fourth time that participation will reach 10,000, with more nationalities being represented than ever before. At the same time, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) works hard to keep the Gay Games relevant with all audiences, especially younger participants. New events are regularly being considered for inclusion. Another on-going goal is to achieve 50% participation at the Gay Games among women.
The Gay Games strive to be an event fostering inclusion and respect of diversity, yet they often remain perceived as dedicated to the LGBTIQ+ community. How do you perceive the event’s reach in public opinion?
SF-JE: Since 1982, the Gay Games has brought people together, from all different horizons and without any discrimination, around the shared values of diversity, respect, equality, solidarity, and sharing. Of course, the focus is the LGBTQ+ community. Paris 2018 Gay Games 10 will attract 10,000 participants from more than 80 countries. The FGG and Paris 2018 will welcome over 500 scholarship recipients. Many of these people come from locations where LGBTQ+ people cannot participate openly and where homophobia is a part of daily life.
« Access to sport is still a challenge for many people »
One of the main goals of your Federation is to offer a model from which traditional sport can be inspired for greater equality. In practice, how does this translate into sport competition rules? In what ways are the practical methods you propose different from traditional sport?
SF-JE: There are many instances in which the Gay Games has led the way in historical sport rules. The Gay Games has always stood for equality. In that regard, all genders have been able to compete equally. Women participated in wrestling at the Gay Games while other international bodies did not allow this. Men have been competing in synchronized swimming for over 30 years at the Gay Games and at the annual International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics championships, yet have only been allowed to compete in FINA Championships for the past couple years. The Gay Games still leads the sports community in the inclusion of trans and gender non-binary athletes. There should be no barriers for people wanting to participate, and the FGG has opened doors for many.
Numerous international texts guarantee the right to access sport and recreational activities. How do you assess the LGBTIQ+’s situation? Have you witnessed an improvement on their situation, or on the contrary degradation?
SF-JE: Access to sports and recreational facilities and activities is definitely determined by geographic location. LGBTQ+ athletes and artists in Europe and North America have access to some of the best facilities in the world. One trend we are seeing is that younger athletes are not joining LGBTQ+ clubs and teams, since they are being welcomed onto traditionally straight teams. However, access to facilities and activities is still a challenge for many people in Asia, South America, and Africa. Homophobic taunts and threats are still commonplace, both on and off the playing fields.
The Gay Games also possess a true political dimension. What message would you like this 10th edition to carry?
SF-JE: The theme of Paris 2018 Gay Games 10 is “All Equal”. The event also calls itself “A World Celebration Of Diversity”. We’d like to show that all people have the right to participate in sports and culture with equality and respect.