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As one of our reporters left Chicago after covering Gay Games VII, a woman sitting next to him on the train asked about his job as a writer. She wanted to know why the Gay Games existed. There are, after all, no Jewish Games. No Straight Games. No Black Games.
Our reporter thought about her comments as he drove away from the train station. Jewish, black and straight people have never been stereotyped as groups that don’t participate in sports.
LGBT people have.
But who says gay folks can’t dribble a ball or work a stick? A hockey stick, that is.
Through last week, an estimated 12,000 LGBT and allied athletes proved that dating the same sex doesn’t make one any less able to participate in ice hockey or power lifting – as Forrest, an athlete from Ferndale who nabbed two gold medals, and many other Michigan winners showed us.
One Chicago Tribune reader hit the nail on the head.
On the newspaper’s blog, a reader named Laura, who had a friend participating in the Gay Games, discussed her opinion. “It’s a chance for gays around the world to come together and connect on something other than sexuality and politics. Sports are a universal language like music. And you don’t have to be gay to participate either. It’s a chance to, as others said, show the world that they’re just like everyone else and that sexuality isn’t the only aspect of their identity.”
In its sixth run around the world (other locations included Sydney, Australia, and Amsterdam) the Gay Games allowed athletes to soak in Chicago’s gay-friendly aura and assemble sports fans from all over the globe, all while giving the city of Chicago an economic boost.
With the support of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, the Gay Games help erase the misconceived notion that gay men and women just aren’t cut out to play sports. To prove that a gay man can make a hoop as well as a straight man and a lesbian can make a touchdown just as well as a straight woman – or a straight man.
“Together, the previous six Gay Games have motivated millions worldwide with the mission of achieving one’s personal best, regardless of sexual orientation. Just as with the women’s sports movement, the Gay Games have helped tear down stereotypes,” tennis legend Billie Jean King said in a statement.
It’s a long-held myth that an athlete is required to fit a certain number of prerequisites: large build, deep voice, tall, macho, a belcher. The list goes on and on. Ironically, there were many ripped gay men and women, some tall, some short, some macho, some not, but all were there for one reason: to play sports.
It’s something that all of us – gay, straight, Jewish, black – deserve to pursue no matter what oppression we face.