What sets apart international LGBT+ sporting events from other large LGBT+ activist conferences is simply the focus of the event. It is indeed possible for a sporting event to have a role in influencing LGBT+ equality. However the approach cannot and should not be the same as other LGBT+ movements within the community. Our community has always been about being different and letting our differences bring us together. The role of events like Gay Games is to bring together the community and offer an opportunity to openly participate in sport without fear of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Inviting athletes and people around the world to participate, volunteer or simply spectate and give people that “breath of fresh air” from a place that might not be so open.
In 1994 The Gay Games were held in New York City and the Olympic Games were due to be held in Atlanta in 1996. The United States government had imposed a ban on travelers who were HIV+ from entering the country. This created a difficult scenario for athletes who were HIV+ planning to participate in either event. Setting aside their differences, the Federation of the Gay Games and the International Olympic Committee worked together to have the ban temporarily lifted for both events to allow HIV+ individuals to participate. The key here was about participation and ensuring the athletes could take part. However this also helped break a lot of the stigma surrounding HIV+ individuals and helped shift awareness about the disease toward finding better treatments and eventually a cure. The federal ban was permanently lifted in 2008.
There is not one set way in which the LGBT+ community can achieve equality on a global scale. Each person, community and event has their own focus and goals in which they we’re built upon and continue to exist. This helps contribute to a global movement toward equality in their own unique way and without necessarily being political. International LGBT+ sporting events can create and leave people with a positive impression through sport; about the LGBT+ community in general. This can be achieved not only on an individual scale, but a community and national level as well.