University of Toronto hosts workshop on Pride Houses

The University of Toronto will host tomorrow 23 November 2012 a workshop designed to forward the plans for a Pride House in Toronto during the time of the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games and examine the issues of Pride Houses in international sport generally. The ambition is to ensure that Toronto 2015 will be fully, visibly and celebratorily inclusive, and serve as a stimulus/beacon for equity issues generally. It is being jointly organized/sponsored by the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, the Department of Sexual Diversity Studies, the Office of Sexual and Gender Diversity, and Hart House at the University of Toronto.

Participating will be other partners in the 2015 Toronto Pride House, as well as those involved in Pride Houses past and future, including Dean Nelson from Vancouver Pride House and Lou Englefield (Pride Sports, EGLSF, FGG) from the 2012 Euro Pride House in Poland and the London Pride House.

We hope that this meeting will promote the goal of coordination and collaboration among Pride House projects set out during meetings at the London Pride House earlier this year, with a focus on the challenges of organizing a Pride House in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Other planned Pride Houses include Toronto, of course, and one for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and others in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

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Pride House exhibition encore at UK LGBT Health Summit

Thanks to Mark Delacour and the LGBT Consortium, a lead partner in Pride House 2012, the great EGLSF exhibition “Against the Rules” will be making a UK encore appearance at this week’s LGBT Health Summit in Canterbury.

During the summit information on the Federation of Gay Games Charter on HIV/AIDS and Sport will be available to participants.

The LGBT Health Summit was founded in 2006 to provide a safe, supportive and exciting space for individuals, organisations and activists to come together to discuss, debate and challenge thinking and practice on LGBT health issues in the UK.

The 2012 Summit will be held in Canterbury, Kent at the University of Kent on 13th & 14th September.

It is being hosted by the LGBT Health Summit 2012 Consortium, the successful bidding partnership headed up by Metro, Kent Community Health NHS Trust, Kent Transgender Forum and the Centre for Gender, Sexuality and Law, University of Kent. It represents a real partnership approach to ensuring that the Summit has both national and local significance, relevance and impact.

The Summit will address a number of key health themes, in particular the impact of isolation. LGBT people are often not well served by health and other services meaning their needs and experiences are not routinely monitored or addressed. Prejudice and discrimination that LGBT people encounter also has a detrimental effect on their mental, emotional and often physical health.

This year there is a focus on improving access and participation for older LGBT people, younger LGBT people and LGBT people affected by HIV as well as building capacity for transgender people.

The Summit is hosted by the LGBT Health Summit 2012 Consortium.

Info HERE.

Pride House a necessity for all Olympics, not just Sochi

From Bruce Arthur in the National Post:

LONDON — In 2010, the Vancouver Olympics featured the first Pride House, and a speed skater from New Zealand named Blake Skjellerup dropped by one day. When he publicly came out as a gay man later that year, he cited a couple things in his decision: Seeing how comfortable out Australian diver Matthew Mitcham was in 2008 in Beijing, and that small, welcoming space at the intersection of Davie and Bute.

The Pride House in London is a part-time affair, moving around and hosting various events, and occasionally renting two rooms in a little brick building next to a marina in East London. It is a minnow in the Olympic ocean, but an important one. And in 2014, it will not exist.

“It’s like a flag in the sand,” said Louise Englefield, who is running Pride House here, and who founded the equality-based group Pride Sports. “It’s a visible place that allows LGBT people to have a place in the Olympic movement, that we really have a place in the Games. And since there are only 23 out athletes at these Games …”

There will be no Pride House in 2014 in Sochi, due to a ruling from a Russian judge outlawing the promotion of homosexuality. Pride House here was given support, if not outright approval, by the London organizing committee; the International Olympic Committee, however, has refused to take a stance on the matter. It banned South Africa from the Games from 1964 to 1991 over apartheid, but it won’t weigh in on this.

“We aren’t responsible for the running of or setting up of Houses,” says IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “That is done by the [National Olympic Committees] or other relevant organizations. So in this case it isn’t a decision of either us, or the organizing committee in Sochi. From our side, the IOC is an open organization and athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the Games.”

“That’s a lie,” says ex-NBA player John Amaechi, who is doing commentary for the BBC here, and who is out. “They have no backbone. Look, [South Africa] was perhaps the only notable, noble thing that the IOC has ever done. It’s the only outspoken, outstanding, political move that made them, for just a brief moment, worth their existence. The idea that they have differentiated between race and other things is truly, truly worthy. Because what’s the explanation? Being racist is important. They’re explicitly saying that being racist is important, we won’t allow it, but being homophobic is okay.

“There’s already a lie. I would say implicit, but it’s not, it’s a very explicit lie within sports, and within the Olympics especially. Because most sports have rhetoric about fairness and equality and that type of stuff, but really only the Olympics … have at their core a set of five principles, one of which is that sports is a human right. Which means everybody, and it’s a very eloquent way of saying sports is for everybody.

“And so you’re in this situation — it’s not simply that the Pride House isn’t happening [in Sochi] because there’s no funding, or because there’s no interest. It’s explicitly not allowed. So by doing that you have already said sport is not for everybody. Explicitly, there are people who are not allowed to do sport, and if they are allowed to do sport, they must do it in a way that suits us.”

Outsports.com counts 23 openly gay and lesbian athletes at these Olympics, compared with 10 in Beijing and 11 in Athens, but just three men: two in dressage, including gold medallist Carl Hester, and Mitcham. Among the women, Megan Rapinoe won gold in women’s soccer after coming out just before the Games; German cyclist Judith Arndt won silver in the cycling road race.

But that is 23 publicly LGBT athletes out of nearly 11,000, one of whom, South African archer Karen Kultzer, came out to Outsports during the Games. “I am an archer, middle aged and a lesbian,” she said in a statement. “I am also cranky before my first cup of coffee. None of these aspects define who I am.”

Amaechi says there are seven out male athletes at the Games before being corrected; he demurs, wondering how many are publicly out. But he says, “Oh, there’s a lot more than that.”

“There are plenty of athletes [at basketball], a number of them on the women’s team, and a number on the men’s teams, who have had a word with me privately,” says Amaechi. “There’s not one of the men who would meet me in a public place. Because they know there’s a danger there for them when they come back. What if you play for the Utah Jazz, and have a set of owners who are absurd? What if you play for the Orlando Magic, whose owners donate to [the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage], an organization that shouldn’t exist? What if you play in Russia? What if you play in China? Things aren’t as easy as we think for all these people.

“In most locker rooms in the NBA right now there are guys who are out, who bring their quote-unquote manager to every game. Some of them even have somebody who is their partner and people know about it, and come to the Christmas party. And it’s within the locker-room, and there’s no issue. They don’t talk to the media about it, nobody does, but it’s known within the locker-room, and it’s no big deal. Most of the guys have the Charles Barkley [attitude], which is, can you play?”

But they are not comfortable enough to be themselves in the public sphere. Athletes who have come out have often said they performed better afterwards — Rapinoe told reporters before the gold-medal game, “I’ve been playing a lot better than I’ve ever played before,” and that coming out was “a weight off my shoulders.”

But it’s not just the more gay-friendly countries of the world who could, or would, host this travelling carnival. The IOC wasn’t too worried about human rights in China, either. Englefield says the plan is to ask every national house to stage a Pride House for a day in Sochi, since trying to establish an independent one would invite prosecution. It’s a laudable goal; as Canadian chef de mission Mark Tewksbury says, “the big challenge is Sochi. That’s where it’s really needed.”

“I think the most important thing,” says Englefield, “is what are the IOC going to do now?”

National Post

TIME on Olympic homophobia

A great article from TIME, with interviews with Blake Skjellerup, Karen Hultzer, and Pride House’s Lou Englefield

On Aug. 6, during the most dogged soccer match at the London Olympics, Megan Rapinoe blasted two shots past the Canadian goalie to help Team USA secure a spot in Thursday’s final. Even more impressive, however, may have been Rapinoe’s resolve when she came out as a lesbian just weeks before the Olympics. “I feel like sports in general are still homophobic,” she said in an interview with Out.com on July 5. “People want—they need—to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A.”

In the high-profile world of Olympic competition, Rapinoe is among a small, but growing number of gay athletes who have publicly acknowledged their sexual orientation. According to Outsports, a media watchdog and sports news site, of the 14,690 athletes participating in the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year, only 23 are openly gay. That’s around 0.16%. Even so, it’s a big improvement from the 2004 Games in Athens, which counted just 11 out athletes. In Beijing in 2008 there were only 10.

Their reasons for keeping a low profile vary, but closeted Olympians share one thing in common: they have trained their entire lives to represent their countries at the Games. Coming out, they fear, could cause sponsors to pull out of deals, and negative stereotypes may leave coaches and teammates questioning their abilities. “The most important thing to every athlete is their position and standing,” says Blake Skjellerup, a gay speed-skater who represented New Zealand at the 2010 Winter Olympics. “They wouldn’t want anything as trivial as their sexuality to jeopardize that.”

The organizers behind Pride House—”a welcoming space for all athletes, staff, spectators and friends”—hope to show that being gay and being competitive aren’t incompatible. To that end they’ve organized informal gatherings, like a recent 5K run, are staging an exhibition on gay athletes, and provide a space for athletes and non-athletes alike to watch the Olympics. “We’re putting a little flag in the sand and saying that within this environment, which isn’t inclusive and welcoming, we are an inclusive and welcoming space,” says Louise Englefield, the founding director of Pride Sports, an LGBT sports development and equality organization. “If that means that people realize there is an alternative then great.”

The inaugural Pride House at the Vancouver Games played a big role in Skjellerup coming out. Although he had told his family ahead of the Olympics, he had not contemplated coming out publicly. He sat at a Starbucks opposite the house before deciding to step inside. After strolling through a photo exhibition of gay athletes—think of Olympic gold medalists like Greg Louganis and Matt Mitcham—he soon found himself telling staff members his secret. “It was quite a big thing coming out to strangers,” he says. “I felt really good with myself after doing that.”

Coming out seems more daunting for male athletes. Of the 23 out Olympians this year, only four are men. “Constructions of masculinity within sport are incredibly rigid,” says Englefield, adding that the “macho environment” entrenches homophobia. It’s a different story for gay women. “Lesbians who maybe don’t conform to heterosexual stereotypes of femininity can just get on with it and be themselves.”

No gay athlete—closeted or not—wants to hear homophobic slurs bandied about in the locker room. And yet fighting against more than just your opponent may partly explain the success of openly gay sportsmen and women at the Olympics. “When you’re closeted, it’s quite hard on you mentally,” says Skjellerup. “But there is a lot of mental toughness that comes with being an athlete. For me homophobic comments actually spear me on and encourage me more.”

He may not be alone. Outsports has identified 104 out athletes who have participated in Summer Games. More than half of them have won Olympic medals. Gay men and lesbians seem poised for similar success in London. Equestrian Carl Hester became the first out athlete to win gold in this Olympics as part of British dressage team. Other notables include German Judith Arndt, who bagged a silver in cycling, and American Lisa Raymond, who walked off the tennis court with a bronze. Other likely medalists include Seimone Augustus, a star of the U.S. women’s basketball team, Rapinoe, of the U.S. soccer squad, and four members of Holland’s field hockey team.

Read more: HERE

Pride House belies the dearth of out athletes in London

From Jill Lawless, Associated Press:

LONDON – It has been a great games for gay Olympians — probably.

British equestrian Carl Hester won gold in team dressage in London. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe has scored three goals for the U.S. women’s soccer team and several other lesbian players are part of the Dutch field hockey team heading into Friday’s final.

But it’s likely there have been more triumphs by gay and lesbian competitors that the world doesn’t know about.

There are more than 10,000 athletes competing at the London games, but when the gay website OutSports.com set out to count how many were openly gay, it came up with 23.

“It’s an absurdly low number,” said site co-founder Jim Buzinski. He said that compared to the arts, politics or business worlds, “sports is still the final closet in society.”

Estimates of the percentage of gay people in any given population vary widely. In a 2010 survey by Britain’s Office for National Statistics, 1.5 per cent of respondents identified themselves as gay or bisexual, although many consider that an underestimate.

Only a handful of Olympic competitors have publicly identified themselves as gay, including Hester, Rapinoe, U.S. basketball player Seimone Augustus, Australian diver Matthew Mitcham and South African archer Karen Hultzer, who came out to the media during the games.

“I am an archer, middle-aged and a lesbian,” the 46-year-old athlete told OutSports — but said she looked forward to the day when her sexuality was not an issues. I am also cranky before my first cup of coffee,” she said. “None of these aspects define who I am, they are simply part of me.”

Gay sports groups say the London games organizers have been welcoming, including gay, lesbian and transgender volunteers among its staff and sanctioning an official games rainbow pin.

The London Pride House, a gay hospitality venue, had official approval from games organizers. London organizing chief executive Paul Deighton said the site helped show Britain as an inclusive place “which welcomes the world’s diverse communities and creates a safe sporting environment for LGBT athletes.”

But activists fear the next host city — Sochi in southern Russia — will be far less gay-friendly. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains strong. Protests by gay rights activists regularly end in mass arrests.

British rights activist Peter Tatchell and a handful of supporters rallied Thursday outside Russia’s Sochi Park pavilion in London to protest Russian authorities’ refusal to allow a pride house at the 2014 Winter Games — a decision that was backed up by a Russian court.

“Quite clearly, this ban is in violation of the Olympic charter, which prohibits discrimination and guarantees equality,” Tatchell said. He said the International Olympic Committee “doesn’t appear to want to engage with this issue.”

IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said the IOC would not comment “on private court cases,” but added that “the IOC is an open organization and athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the games.”

Marc Naimark of the Federation of Gay Games said the IOC should pressure countries to repeal anti-gay laws the way it once excluded South Africa for its racial apartheid policy and, more recently, succeeded in getting all competing nations to include female athletes on their teams in London.

“The lack of ‘out’ athletes in the Olympics is a symptom,” Naimark said. “It’s not the problem.”

There is a particular dearth of openly gay male Olympians — there are only three men on that London list of 23. The most high-profile is Mitcham, whose Twitter biography calls him “that gay, 2008-Olympic-gold-medal-winning diver dude.” He’ll be defending his 10-meter springboard title at the games this weekend.

Rapinoe, who came out earlier this year, said it was more difficult for male athletes than for women to be open about their sexuality.

“I think there’s a lot of gay women in sports, and it’s widely known in the team, they can live a pretty open lifestyle without being open in the media,” she said. “But I think for men unfortunately it’s not the same climate in the locker room.”

There’s also the fear of losing lucrative commercial endorsements. Sponsors would never admit that they would drop an athlete who came out as gay, but few competitors would want to risk it.

Much was made of the fact that former NBA player John Amaechi signed an endorsement deal with razor company HeadBlade after he came out in 2007. But HeadBlade is small potatoes compared to Adidas or other huge sports sponsors.

Times may be changing, however. Adidas spokeswoman Katja Schreiber said the company would stand by an athlete who chose to come out of the closet.

Buzinski thinks the environment for gay athletes is improving. He points to the growing number of athletes, gay and straight, who are prepared to speak out against homophobia.

Many athletes who come out say it has been a positive experience — and even performance-enhancing. Rapinoe scored two goals in the U.S. team’s semifinal win over Canada.

“I guess it seems like a weight off my shoulders,” she said on the eve of Thursday’s gold medal match against Japan. “I’ve been playing a lot better than I’ve ever played before. I think I’m just enjoying myself and I’m happy.”

___

Associated Press Writers Joseph White and Raissa Ioussouf contributed to this report. Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

Pride House at Sochi 2014 protest

Russia urged: Drop Winter Olympics gay ban
Protesters picket Sochi 2014 exhibition in London
LGBT Pride House banned at Sochi Winter Olympics 2014
London – 9 August 2012

“Russia must drop its ban on a LGBT Pride House at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The IOC should enforce the Olympic Charter and compel Russia to allow a Pride House for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes.”

This appeal comes from protesters who picketed the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Exhibition in Kensington Gardens, London, today, Thursday 9 August.

“London 2012 has a LGBT Pride House but Russia won’t allow one at Sochi. This ban is part of a wider crackdown on LGBT communities and visibility in Russia. It is an attack on freedom of expression and association, and coincides with new laws in several parts of Russia that ban so-called homosexual propaganda,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation and coordinator of Thursday’s protest. “We have written to the IOC, urging them to intervene. Russia’s gay ban is contrary to the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the Olympic Charter. The IOC is duty-bound to require Russia to permit a LGBT Pride House,” he said.

Other participants in the protest echoed Mr Tatchell’s concerns.

Rakshita Patel, from the Peter Tatchell Foundation, added: “It is really important for LGBT athletes to have a safe, welcoming space – with their friends and family – especially in countries like Russia where the atmosphere is currently very homophobic.”

Megan Worthing-Davies of Pride Sports (UK), said: “The laws being used to forbid Pride House in Sochi are immoral, unfair and archaic. We call on Russia to repeal this ban.”

Carl Shultz, from the Federation of Gay Games, concluded: “Pride House reflects the equality principles of the Gay Games and the Olympic Charter. The Russian judicial authorities that rendered the Sochi ban contradict the modern trend to equality and the Olympic ideal.”

Thursday’s protest was supported by:

Pride Sports (UK)
The European Gay & Lesbian Sport Federation
The Federation of Gay Games
The Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association
Peter Tatchell Foundation
OutRage!