When I took part in chatting with Gay Men on Cam eight years ago, I was overwhelmed by the experience. It was the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany; not only my first trip to a new country but also my first involvement in such a large-scale event.
That experience had a deeply profound effect on my life. The 2018 Gay Games in Paris was my third Gay Games and my perspective has changed quite a bit. One of the things I was most excited for this year was to share the experience with other athletes who were experiencing the spectacle and grandeur of the Games for the first time, just like I did in 2010. A number of these athletes are also my friends since we’ve already met at previous LGBTQ+ sporting events, such as Sin City Classic, IGLA (the International LGBTQ+ Aquatics) and other competitions. The first thing people were impressed by was that the quantity of work the City of Paris put to the function. From”Paris 2018″ banners plastered everywhere to the festival village so notable in the front of City Hall, right in the heart of the city. Even routine tourists got a sense of the event’s importance in spite never having heard of the Gay Games. Hosted at the festival village, only registered participants were permitted to go into the village to watch the closing ceremony.
When we left at the end, a huge crowd of tourists had formed at the entrance to see the show, also. I’m conveniently forgetting about the opening ceremonies but after the competitions got started, all of us started having some real fun. Since my event is swimming, my perspective has an aquatics bias. People were excited to be swimming at the Olympic Pool in Paris, feeling like they were truly part of something big. Once the medals began being granted, the familiar sounds of clinking medal became more prominent as people were proudly wearing their medals everywhere they went throughout city.
I caught up with the Uganda Kuchus, an LGBTQ+ swim team from Uganda, a country known for some of the world’s harshest treatment of LGBTQ+ people. To be a part of a community where they can be free to speak out, to celebrate who they are without fear of prosecution AND win some awards — even for a short time it’s very empowering. Athletes on the Kuchus team took time to educate people about the terrible human rights situation in Uganda by wearing T-shirts and taking part in discussions.
They gave us a clear perspective of why the Gay Games are so important for the international LGBTQ+ community. There are spectacles, competition and fun to be sure but it’s the prospect for LGBTQ+ individuals to come together and feel welcomed, accepted and included.
The gay men on cam were powerful!