Opinion: Building an Inclusive World Through Sports, Art, and Culture

Opinion: Building an Inclusive World Through Sports, Art, and Culture

By Andrew Hexter, Lisa Lam
Large group of people with LBGTQ+ Flag and Gay Games Flag
Opening ceremony of Gay Games Paris in 2017. Photo by: Gay Games Hong Kong

Opening ceremony of Gay Games Paris in 2017. Photo by: Gay Games Hong Kong

Thursday, March 10, 2022 - 10:30am

CAMPAIGN: Corporate Social Responsibility

CONTENT: Blog

How big could the impact of a simple sporting event be on the lives of thousands of LGBTQ individuals in Asia? We get this question frequently from those who are hearing about the Gay Games for the first time. The answer is simple: An impact that is subtle, meaningful, and long-lasting.

The unifying power of sports is universal to all humans. We love to cheer on our heroes and be inspired by their passion and achievements. The Gay Games Hong Kong is no exception to that and brings positive promotion of artists and athletes regardless of sexual orientation, age, gender identity, ethnicity, or ability. Events like these create a space where people from so many different walks of life can celebrate without barriers.

The Gay Games is a nine-day international diversity festival centered around sports, arts, and cultural events. Hosted every four years by a new city, Hong Kong was selected as the official host of the 2023 event after a competitive bid against 17 cities. This marks the first time the international event has come to Asia.

This is exciting for a few reasons. Firstly, the LGBTQ community in Asia Pacific as a whole — while vibrant and thriving — is still a way from enjoying the broad-based societal level of support and recognition seen in Western countries. Secondly, the outpouring of support from prominent organizations around the region, in the form of 120 letters, which helped make the Hong Kong bid successful is in itself a bold statement on the appetite for more platforms for inclusivity.

In fact, athletes from previous games have shared how much it means, for the first time in their lives, to not have to worry about gender — or wade through administrative red tape or body shame — to participate in a sport that they love. It is easy to overlook the struggles that people who do not fit into society’s norms face every day. In some cases, participation in even everyday activities like joining friends for dinner can require “coming out” all over again with anxieties about whether they will be accepted.

Changing the way we perceive inclusivity must begin somewhere but it need not be a daunting task. A longitudinal study conducted in the United States has shown that the mere act of passive reporting of the LGBTQ community has contributed to better public perception of the community and its issues. Asia Pacific is hungry for a forum that can affirm every person and demonstrate what true inclusivity looks like in action. The Gay Games can provide that.

The need for inclusive thinking now more than ever

The pandemic has created challenges for all communities around the world. In many cases, increased isolation and disruption of activities has stunted conversations and action around inclusivity. As we strive to build back a more resilient world, it is important that the voice that we have fought so hard to gain does not take a back seat.

One area that has always been of particular importance to the Gay Games is advocating for people living with HIV. Educating remains a core part of the games today as it was in 1982 when the event was begun by Dr. Tom Waddell, an Olympic decathlete.

Sadly, stigma and discrimination are still a reality for the estimated 5.8 million people living with HIV in Asia. This can lead to misinformation about the disease. Ongoing stigma around HIV presents very real challenges to prevention or treatment of people living with HIV and, in the long-term, leads to public health issues.

A better, healthier world begins with inclusivity. That means honesty and proactively addressing stigmas and working together to make sure that we accelerate action on the front lines.

Gilead Sciences joined Gay Games Hong Kong 2023 in a powerful, cross-industry group of men and women committed to building advocacy in the region. This meaningful event also won support from a number of prominent organizations from the Pride community.

There is still time for bold and like-minded organizations to join in building this milestone moment for the region. Gay Games Hong Kong, working alongside partners like Gilead, plans to hold several pre-event activities throughout the year to keep the excitement high and the community engaged. Beyond the games, community leaders will keep the spirit of inclusivity alive through capacity building efforts such as the bi-annual Gilead Asia Pacific Rainbow Grant, which has already funded over 100 projects across the region to reduce stigma and enhance education.

Join us in this historic and timely celebration dedicated to creating safe and inclusive spaces not just for athletes, but also artists and advocates.

Become a champion for Gay Games Hong Kong in your community. Show your support for Gay Games Hong Kong, and pre-register, volunteer, or consider donating.

Gay Games Hong Kong
The 2023 event is expected to draw up to 12,000 participants, 75,000 spectators, and 3,500 volunteers from 100+ countries around the world. Originally scheduled to take place in 2022, it has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled for 3-11 November 2023.

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