Making a Splash at the Gay Games
By Seth Harrington
My second night in Chicago I was exhausted, but the day would be the first time I didn't have to be at the pool at 8 a.m. This, of course, meant party! I was waiting for the train down to Boystown, when a group of lesbians walked onto the platform. All of them were openly wearing their Gay Games ID badges'and we were nowhere near Andersonville, where the Games were headquartered. You wouldn't see me wearing my badge'and not just because it looked dorky.
I've been out and proud and un-self-conscious for several years. However, there has always been a part of me'my biggest, gayest part'that, unless I'm safely in West Hollywood, I've kept hidden. The next day, though, as I was hurrying through the streets of downtown, head-achey and desperately trying to make my 11 o'clock architecture tour, it was all I could do not to run into random people sporting their Games badges.
The truth is, there were gay people everywhere. In any part of the city I could spot a Gay Games T-shirt, a badge, or the ubiquitous Gay.com backpack. It felt right. It was a taste of what life could be and should be like. In Chicago, whether alone or surrounded by athletes I didn't feel like I had to hide, no matter where I was.
The last night of the games, at three in the morning, I dragged myself onto the subway. I looked down and found, amazingly, I was wearing my Gay Games pass.
Somehow the Opening Ceremony got stuck in 1987. The presentation was divided into acts with names like 'Exclusion' and 'Expression.' We were in the middle of 'Oppression' and the end was nowhere in sight. I slouched in my seat and glanced at the field just in time to see the microphone pass to yet another angry lesbian (perhaps an improvement on the angry gay men, who just sound whiny). I groaned and closed my eyes.
There had been a wonderful moment, though, when I ran onto the field with team California. There were thousands of people in the stadium and they were all cheering for us and I felt proud to be there, competing. But this moment had gotten lost in the stream of profanities that this woman, who had the microphone, was now spewing.
A week later, I reclaimed the moment, seated at the Closing Ceremony. In contrast to the Opening, this event consisted of one big act, which could have been titled 'Celebration.' From record-breaking to personal bests to the individual victories each participant won over his or her insecurities, there was much to be proud of.
And there were dancing cowboys.