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Postcard from Europe: Questioning the necessity of the Gay Games

The Gay Games are meant to give gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people a safe environment to participate in sports. But in this week's Postcard, Kyle James asks whether the event in a way segregates.

I didn't go, but it sounds like the Gay Games were a lot of fun. There was something for everyone, even art exhibitions, concerts and films for the non-sports fans. And then, yeah, who doesn't like watching top athletes do their stuff. But something in me winces a little when I hear about the Gay Games. I guess I wish they didn't exist - at least not in 2010.

OK, I'm already anticipating a deluge of hate mail accusing me of intolerance and bigotry. It's not the case. I'm not some straight man hiding his homophobia in this commentary. I'm a gay guy who grew up in Texas in the 1970s and 80s, so I know all about intolerance and bigotry - I was on the receiving end of it.

Kyle James asks whether we still need an event like this in 2010

Back in 1982, when the Gay Games were first held in San Francisco, being gay was pretty dangerous. AIDS was beginning its deadly rampage, and attitudes outside a few neighborhoods in a few big cities were decidedly homophobic, often violent.

Today, things have changed a lot. In many western European countries, gay marriage or a form of it is legal. Mexico City has it, as does Argentina. And even in the United States, with its strong streak of social conservatism, gay marriage is legal in a few states and will probably soon be legal in more.

I hope we're moving toward a time when being gay will be no different than having red hair or blue eyes - a part of who you are, but not who you are. These kinds of big, separate events for gay people signal to me a certain feeling of being apart, or being essentially different from straight people. Being American, such thinking makes me uncomfortable. It evokes thoughts of my country's ugly racial history, of its one-time separate-but-equal legal doctrine that kept blacks and whites apart and justified segregation.

I know the arguments for the event, especially those centering around athletes who live in places with strong homophobic attitudes. But I think overall, we do better mixing with the bigger world - competing with athletes of all stripes - than sealing ourselves off in a protective bubble. I know there's still a long way to go to reach our goal. But I think it's better if we go there with straight people, not on a separate bus.

Author: Kyle James
Editor: Sabina Casagrande

DW.DE