Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Why The Gay Olympics?

A little controversy has erupted in one of Chicago's suburbs recently. To get right to the point, the Village of Lake Zurich just approved the use of their town's eponymously named (I've always wanted to use that phrase) lake for the rowing regatta in the Gay Olympics. This approval came over the heated objections of some of the town folk, who turned out with pitchforks and torches, and didn't want the shores of their lake and the streets of their town congested with the sight of garishly dressed (or undressed) men and women haphazardly wielding paddles.

Me? I'm just wondering if these guys can row in a straight line! Thank you, I'm here all week.

I kid of course, everyone knows that homosexuals can be just as fine at rowing as the rest of us, which really leads me to the key question that I want to ask; Why do we need a Gay Olympics?

I get the real Olympics, although to be honest I'm not so sure about Ice Dancing but who am I to quibble, and I definitely get the Special Olympics. Two years ago I umpired a Special Olympics softball game and it was a real experience. In the game I umped, the kids were of different ages, some in fact were young adults, and all were at the fairly extreme end of being mentally challenged. Yet, once they put on the batting helmet and gloves they were out there trying as hard as anyone else. The only difference was that winning wasn't so much the point as just getting a hit, or catching a ball. Yes, some moments were funny; and we all laughed together. Other moments were inspiring, and the whole experience was utterly delightful for everyone involved.

The Gay Olympics, it seems to me, are really rather pointless. For one thing, it isn't clear to me that any great moments in sport are being achieved here. Oh I'm sure there are some fine rowers, runners, and jumpers (insert joke here) but what does being gay have to do with it? Are we celebrating the diversity, or are we emphasizing the distinction? From my view it's much more the latter than the former.

Clearly our society hasn't not reached the point of complete acceptance of homosexuality in our culture, and I'm not sure that we ever will. This story is Exhibit One. Events such as the Gay Games, or worse, the gaudy display of the Gay Pride Parade only serve to underscore our differences by creating carve outs for a special class of citizen. These carve outs, as much as the bigotry of others, get in the way of achieving true equality.

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