Roger Brigham, a gay journalist living in California, is active in multiple roles in the LGBT sports community: chair of the international Wrestlers WithOut Borders, an active member of the Gay & Lesbian Athletic Foundation advisory board, board member of Team San Francisco, a co-founder of Golden Gate Alliance Wrestling, intermittently a volunteer with the Federation of Gay Games, and a coach, competitor and treasurer with Golden Gate Wrestling Club.
One Quadrennial Event
by Roger Brigham
One Games. One global quadrennial LGBT multi-sports event. We had it once before. It’s not too much to dream of (and work toward) a single Games again.
So let’s talk about that.
There were many compelling aspects to the LGBT sports calendar pre-2006. Certainly the world has changed greatly over the past quarter-century plus, and the evolution of the Gay Sports Movement, coalescing around the Gay Games, has been a very positive factor in helping empower individuals and batter the walls of homophobia.
We must always remember that our sports do not happen in a vacuum, nor fool ourselves into thinking we should or can be all things to all people. The Gay Sports Movement is but one aspect of the advancement of our rights. I have remarked in previous years that LGBT people have traditionally been marginalized, and that within the LGBT community sports is marginalized. That is why the ‘critical mass’ issues others have raised is of importance for us to consider in any movement forward. The greatest thing we can do for LGBT athletes is to give them the means to connect athletically as themselves rather than as closeted shadows of themselves.
And for all of the progress we have made, there is so much more to be done in the world of sports. Hence, as we work through other aspects of our lives to advance human rights through other venues, and other venues working for advancement through their respective areas of specialization, it behooves us more than ever for us when we organize our athletic events to concentrate on maximizing sporting chances. Make it so that LGBT athletes can compete among themselves and with supportive, accepting mainstream fellow sports people, thereby destroying stereotypes, setting examples of achievement and acceptance, inspiring other individuals, and empowering themselves by setting and attaining athletic goals.
One of the more positive development in the most recent years for LGBT sports has been the promising growth of single sport championships. Several of the bigger sports, such as swimming and football, have had such championships for many years. More recently sports such as track & field and wrestling have initiated their own global championships in non-Gay Games years. The stability and survival of all single sport global championships, old and new, as well as the vitality of the organizations that organize them, are threatened by the existence duelling quadrennial events. The growth of such events, engendered by the birth of the Gay Games, is choked by a duplicative event.
Below is a grid I created for how I see an ideal future LGBT sports future. I think if we consider the richer context in which it occurs — the entire human rights movement with its demands on resources and its own created opportunities — this calendar is the one that makes the most sense. I think it is consistent with the position papers posted on this site.
|| multiple sports (primary)
(tertiary, outsourced or partnership)
|• global games unique able to provide sports challenges appropriate to diverse ages, ability levels, commitment level
• not having to subsidize non-sports events keeps costs down
• not having to organize non-sports events reduces strains on host, ensures better chance of successful sports
• global conferences already exist; avoids competing for their resources or duplicating their efforts
• best opportunity to unite global LGBT sports community
• cost of extra events excludes financially challenged potential participants, reduces chances of ‘critical mass’ in small sports
• sports empowerment in and of itself advances human rights for individuals, communities
• forces mainstream to deal with us as athletes
(e.g., Bingham Cup, IGLA Championship, Gay Softball World Series)
| annual, biannual or non-Gay Games years// regional, national
| single-sport championships;
parties as warranted
| • concentration of efforts reduces costs
• offers rare chance for true competition
• continuity between quadrennial events
• less drain on volunteer, financial resources than multi-sport events
|| non-Gay Games years//Europe-centric
|| sports; culture, conferences
| • continuity between quadrennial events
• localization reduces participant costs
| Continental Games
|| non-Gay Games years//Outside Western Europe,
| sports, culture, conferences
|| • localization reduces participant costs
• full slate enables ‘critical mass’ where LGBT sports alone might be unable
• grows LGBT sports
• raises awareness/visibility of issues in sometimes repressive areas
• serves areas that need it most
| Regional festivals
|| annual as desired//everywhere
|| sports; culture, conferences
| • localization reduces participant costs
• geographically limited sports shine
|| coordinated events//geographically sensitive
|| • healthier organizations
• peaceful, synergistic existence in sports and beyond