Should the Gay Games Choose a Gay-Friendly City?

picture-119Who will host the 2014 Gay Games? Three cities – Cleveland, Washington D.C. and Boston – submitted final bids, certainly hoping to cash in on the estimated $50-$80 million the event brings in. That’s money Chicago benefited from when it hosted the Games in 2006.

Originally called the Gay Olympics, the Gay Games has been around since 1982, making it one of the gay community’s most enduring institutions. (Which is all a very polite way of saying it’s the best excuse to watch men’s gymnastics you’ll ever have.) But there’s controversy on the field among this year’s candidates, with some arguing that Boston, home of gay marriage and equal rights, should be the natural winner and that Cleveland, whose city council created a domestic partner registry for gay city employees to show that the city is gay-friendly, is just not gay-friendly enough to earn our gay dollars. Who knew political tug-of-war was an Olympic event?

All things being equal, Cleveland should get the event specifically because it’s not a happy gay wonderland. One of the more irritating aspects of the gay community is our tendency to think that we only exist in big liberal cities on the coast, but yes, Chelsea, there are homosexuals in Cleveland, too. If we’re going to decry protest marches that never leave the gay ghetto, we should embrace the idea that the Gay Games is far more valuable as a teaching tool than it is as a moneymaker.

Fortunately, the Gay Games organizers agree. Kelly Stevens, a board member, told Spangle Magazine:

“If we only choose the gayest cities in the United States, we’ve made a mistake,” Stevens says. He cites the federation’s choice for its 2008 annual meeting: Cape Town, South Africa, a place he calls gay-friendly, “Yet it is a place where lesbians, especially black lesbians, are routinely raped in an effort to make them heterosexual.”

picture-38The Cleveland bid is especially poignant, because it’s not spearheaded by a visitor’s bureau or chamber of commerce–it’s a community driven campaign created by local LGBT groups. Sure, it’s Cleveland, a city most famous for the fact that its river used to catch on fire, but who doesn’t love an underdog?

In the wider scheme of things, the current bidding process is a clear-cut reminder of the choice facing the gay community: Either we reach out to places beyond our usual reach and empower gays and lesbians in small cities and towns across the U.S. (because after all, these are the people who stand the best chance of changing their neighbors minds) or we keep to the safe but constricted confines of our gay ghettos. The athletes at the Gay Games will reach for the gold. The least we can do is reach out beyond our comfort zone.

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  • brownstom

    The organizers of the Gay Games definatley have a chance to a major contribution to advancing understanding of gays and lesbians, in picking Cleveland. As with alot of Ohio and the country , the Cleveland area is a mix of very gay friendly places and very conservative areas. This is a perfect chance to open peoples minds and change their perceptions of gay people on a huge scale in middle America. Alot of straight people in Ohio still see the gay community in terms of stereotypes and we have an oppurtunity to change that.
    As a gay man who has lived his entire life in NE Ohio I welcome the chance to show my neighbors, friends and co-workers another side of gay life besides the bar and party scene they see so much in the media. While there is nothing wrong w/that aspect of gay life its just not the only thing out there. My husband and I have lived together openly for over 12 years and have just adopted our daughter. We hope everyday that our family may have broadened someones idea of what being gay means.
    The Gay Games would have a tremndous impact on peoples opinions and perceptions of our community in a state that drives alot of what happens politically in this country and I hope the organizers see that.
    Note to editor.
    Hey DUMMY the river fire was 30 years ago , get over it LOL. Seriosly we are a great city with wonderful museums , a great theatre district ,awesome resturants ( Iron Chef Micheal Symom , yum) and the best medical facilities in the world.
    So dont let stereotypes of a city cloud your own veiws

  • thatguyfromboston

    Go Boston, and by the way it’s spelled “definitely”!

  • Chip

    The North Coast Men’s Chorus, the gay men’s chorus based in Cleveland, does three big shows a year that get large and enthusiastic crowds.

  • Gurlene

    With the economy being what it is I would have to go with Cleveland. Boston is just too expensive.

  • Joseph

    Go Boston, and by the way “alot” is not a word.

  • Rick Heintz

    I’m hoping for Cleveland! Had to spend a month in Boston for work once and I’m sorry to say it’s not the most welcoming city to “outsiders”

  • thatguyfromboston

    We’re very welcoming. It can take a little time for us to warm-up is all. Just don’t stand in the middle of the sidewalk, and learn how to jaywalk properly and you’ll do fine.

  • Tim

    Good points have been made. There are many considerations.

    If one of the goals is to attract gays from across the nation and the world to come as spectators, Boston would probably a better choice. I can imagine individuals thinking do I really want to spend the money to go to Cleveland for a week?

    Proximity and accessibility to venues, ease of public transport, and accomodations are all practical considerations. Attractions such as appealing cultural and welcoming entertainment options will make a difference in whether people decide to make the trip. If the games end up in Boston or Washington, I will likely go. I will need a lot more information about Cleveland before I am convinced it would be worth it.

    Giving a boost to the host city should be a minor consideration. Attraction and success of the games should hold precedence.

  • Disgusted American

    YES YES YES..NO Excuses! The Games MUST be in a LGBT affirming/friendly city!

  • Paul

    Hmmm. Cleveland? Pass. I think I have to pick lint out of my bellybutton that weekend.

  • ksu499

    Cleveland would be a good pick. Too often, we require an entity to be immediately 100% in our corner before we will acknowledge their efforts. We need to learn how to reward forward progress. The city council took a lot of heat from the social conservatives for their action, something that did not benefit them personally. They just did it because they thought it was the right thing to do. We need to recognize and reward that. How far out on a limb would you be willing to go if you knew you would be targeted for doing it with no thanks coming from those who benefit from your risk?

  • ML

    Good points. I absolutely agree that there could be far more positive impact from staging the games in cities that on the surface seem less welcoming. Once you get past your prejudice, you may find something to like in places like Cleveland. You may also open some minds.

    I live in SE Michigan and am really tired of the attitude on both coasts that gays don’t exist anywhere else. We need to reach out beyond the liberal enclaves most of us live in and build bridges. Isn’t it a waste of time and resources to keep preaching to the choir? Hopefully that’s a lesson learned in CA after the Prop 8 debacle.

  • michael

    I think that next time they should pick Austin or Dallas. Austin is very liberal with so many fun things to do but Dallas is where the great shopping is! I love it here…Cleveland blech!

  • Tallskin

    come to Europe





  • jmachoutx

    “One of the more irritating aspects of the gay community is our tendency to think that we only exist in big liberal cities on the coast, but yes, Chelsea, there are homosexuals in Cleveland, too.”

    Hmm. A few questions:

    1. Really? Did you take a survey that showed that “the gay community” thinks that? Or are you just pulling that out of your, um, hat?

    2. Doesn’t “the gay community” include people from Cleveland and other places outside “big liberal cities on the coast”? If so, aren’t they aware that people live in those places — since they already do? Could it be that you’re the one who thinks that “the gay community” only exists in the narrow urban coastal centers in which you move?

    Perhaps it is time for some folks to go outside their usual confines…

  • RS

    I have always wanted to visit Boston — it’s probably #1 on my list of domestic cities that I have not yet visited.

    That said, I think that Cleveland might be a better choice, assuming they are supportive enough to not sabotauge the games. The Gay Games organizers’ first priority is to pull of the games safely and with fiscal responsibility. They have to at least break even, a challenge for them even in the most robust economies. Doing that requires a strong partnership with the host city. If Cleveland can come through on their end, it could be valuable.

    – The local news will be saturated with images of strong, athletic boy-and-girl-next-door images of LGBTs. Sure, they will also cover the drag queerleaders and so forth, and that’s fine, but the thousands of athletes in the city will provide a powerful symbol for the LGBT teens struggling in the closet.

    – The infusion of the gay dollar will help sway more moderate/conservative elements (just like the liquor store owner in Milk).

    This isn’t meant as a knock at Boston. And by all means, our allies deserve to be rewarded. It could very well be that Boston wins out simply because the city may be better equipped to help the organizers run the games safely without falling into the red. But if Cleveland can pull through, that would be my vote.

    (That said … on a personal, selfish level, I would rather visit Boston.)

  • Smartypants

    When I competed in the 1991 Gay Games in Vancouver, BC (silver medal in croquet — the butchest sports moment of my life) the organizers were very clear that one of their goals in choosing Vancouver was to take a gay-ok place and push it to become more gay-friendly.

    It succeeded. Not only was the immediate reaction positive, the presence of 30,000 openly glbt visitors with open pocketbooks (wallets for the lesbians) permanently changed attitudes. Vancouver continues to be one of the most gay supportive places in North America. I cast my vote for holding the games in Cleveland. It’s a great opportunity to build support in the center of the country. Plus, it will be much, much more affordable than Chicago or Boston, which means more glbt people with limited means can afford to join the festivities.

  • echelon

    I think Cleveland is a great choice. It appears as if they are trying to get their house in order, so we should in turn reward them. Our gay dollar is is what has helped to change public perception whether you like it or not. Now, many corporations have non-discrimination policies in place and support our gay media. Politicians are finally waking up and taking a look at our “disposable income.” Our economic potential is the sleeping giant in order to attain our political objectives and should not be taken lightly.

  • Justin

    I’d go with Cleveland. I’m partially biased as my dad’s entire side of the family is from there and I’ve always the loved the city. Ohio’s economy is one of the worst in the country, especially centered around Cleveland. I went to my grandmother’s funeral in Lorain (an hour west of the city) last May. Take one look at how the closing of steel mills destroyed that town and you’ll see how bad it is. If the economy is still in the crapper by the times the games come around, they influx of people attending will pump a ton of cash into the city that it desperately needs. Ohio itself is a toss-up, but Cleveland itself has always been a Democratic stronghold, similar to other blue islands in red states like Atlanta, Austin, or St. Louis.

  • petted

    Nothing like a giant body of water on fire to make you say it’s going to be an exciting day.

  • RM

    What if we had specific requirements for the host venue, but not the host city?

    For example, do the venues (and approved hotels and caterers and whatnot) offer full benefits to gay spouses? Do they have a nondiscrimination policy?

    Let’s support supportive businesses, and not punish them for having a bigotted government.

  • Lin

    Come to DC! But you might get shot…

    jk. sort of.

  • alan brickman

    just join the olympics already and show gays can compete on the same world stage…but don’t kill the gay games…they should be telvised too!

  • alan brickman

    should be held in the middle east….

  • rogue dandelion

    this seems like rewarding hate by putting it in a place that doesn’t support us, and having LGTB/allied spectators spend money in establishments that aren’t friendly-The money will just be used against the community later on. Protests are different, they aren’t celebrations and don’t benefit the locals. (they are more of a spectacle/mild inconvenience)

  • p. solanki

    What is so great about gays is the in-your-face style of fabulousness. I say pick the most homophobic place on earth and send our loudest drag queens to drown out their hate cries. Don’t like gays? Well kiss my butt-plugged behind!

  • epic

    which one was held in montreal again ..isn’t it weird i can’t remember which major international lgbt affiliated sporting event landed in my favorite city, straight ppl do not have our problems

  • Bob Lablah

    @Rick Heintz: Thank you. I used to drive for greyhound. I hated when I had to go to boston. Race be damned I found boston one of the most unfriendliest places on earth.

  • afrolito

    I wouldn’t be caught dead in Cleveland. I guess i’ll be reading about it on queerty.

  • jack mcnulty

    I believe one can get the idea that gays and lesbians live nowhere but on the coasts from the gay media. i’ve occasioanally subscribed to magazines like Genre and Advocate only to find that their features focus only on new york, south florida and california. these spots are fine places but the battle for the soul of American will be won elsewhere. In spite of an occasional mention of chicago the silence of the printed media on the heartland of the USA is astounding. Go Cleveland


    Why Cleveland you ask?

    The City of Cleveland Mayor’s office is supporting this effort, Positively Cleveland (tourism bureau) is supporting this effort, the City of Akron Mayor’s office is supporting this effort, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission is supporting this effort, local US Congressmen are supporting this effort…I could go on-and-on with the “whose-who” in the political spectrum who have come out welcoming the Gay Games to Cleveland. This is just the beginning!

    Cleveland has hosted numerous large-scale aporting events (ice skating championships, X games, hosting Senior Games 2013 for example) and the athletic facilities available are first-rate. Cleveland has outstanding public transportation with a superior hub airline that reaches globally around the world and a rapid-train connecting the airport to the City Center in the heart of downtown. Culturally Cleveland is home to superior museums, restaurants, theatres, entertainment venues, theme park/water park/zoo, vast metro parks, Lake Erie…the list is endless. The GLBT community in Cleveland is well organized with opportunities for any interest. Lastly, there is nothing like a warm Ohio summer on the shores of a Great Lake.

    I personally believe it is time for the GLBT community to make a decision: do you want to stay in your safe “gay ghettos” or do you really want to change the world and make a difference by venturing into unchartered territory and prove to the world that yes we indeed are human beings who deserve the same rights and responsibilities as our heterosexual counterparts? Cleveland is not NYC/LA/SFO/Miami…Cleveland is Cleveland…but it is certainly the PERFECT place to start reaching out and doing the hard work of convincing “the rest of the world” we do deserve to be treated as equals.

  • Dennis

    I believe DC is the front runner in the race for the 2014 games. DC has hosted many large sporting events (2003 World Figure Skating Championships, 2009 Gay Soccer World Cup, home to numerous college & professional football/baseball/basketball teams), & provides convenient transportation to the venues via the Metrorail system and three major airports including National Airport which is near the heart of the city.

    The museums in and around the National Mall and Smithsonian are world class and free to visitors. The Kennedy Center hosts cultural and artistic events including the yearly televised Kennedy Center honors. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Capitol building, and White House are landmarks known the world over.

    With the new administration there is also a growing spirit to welcome the world once again to the beauty that is Washington DC. Boston and Cleveland are fine cities and have their own strengths but I honestly believe that Washington DC deserves the right to host the 2014 Gay Games.

  • Spencer

    The Gay Games them selves will be successful in any one of the prospective citys. For all you nay wishers who don’t want to come to Cleveland I say “for shame!” You guessed it..I’m a resident of Cleveland. Cleveland has plenty to offer, and could benefit greatly from the exposure. Is it a good choice…for sure. biased…maybe.

    Lots of good comments here as well as some good arguments for each city. But come on…use your heads people, its logical!

  • Gregory Chapin

    Even our river is flaming…its a no brainer! I cant speak for the rest of the state, but i find Cleveland and most of its inhabitants to be very curious and supportive of GLBT lifestyles. To think that the gay-marriage issue is done and over with is wrong. Aside from the legal hurdles erected by the amendment, winning the hearts and minds of Ohioans is key to gaining legal recognition in the state. A positive event like the Gay Games could be a major catalyst for change in the future.

  • RAYY

    Those of you dissing Cleveland–evah been here? Yeah, didn’t think so. Paul–please DO stay home & pick lint out of your belly button, it was getting kind of grody. BTW, posts to correct spelling errors are cheap shots and #2 & #5–you’re kinding of giving yourself away as being the same person.

  • Ryan

    I came to Cleveland from Fort Lauderdale/Miami and have visited all over the world. I can’t imagine a better place for the gay games than Cleveland. I’ve never been in a city with as much spirit and pride as this place has. And those that seem to be knocking it as not gay friendly haven’t been here. It might not be across the finish line in terms of equality, but it’s on the way. With a Representative like Dennis Kucinich and a Senator like Sherrod Brown, everyone should be aware of our progressive values.

    For those bashers that don’t want to come: please don’t. You’ll just bring everyone else down.

  • Bob Olayas

    Thanks for using my photos or should I say “thanks for stealing them’ Yes, I’m in Cleveland and I’ll be waiting for you with open arms.

  • SteveDenver

    I’ll be there. The last time I attended Gay Games was in New York in 1994. Sure there were plenty of parties for twinks, but Gay Games is much more. There were people of all ages, nationalities, abilities and disabilities. If anyone had a medal around their neck, it was an immediate ice-breaker. I still have friends in Poland, Spain and England that I made during Gay Games.

    And lest you think that the GG’s are just a strut-fest, over 45 world records were set at the New York Gay Games, and credentialed officials made sure these achievements were properly acknowledged.

    Haven’t been to Cleveland, always associated it with that right-wing pig Drew Carey. This will be a chance to see the city.

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