Despite adversity, Hong Kong’s Gay Games went on as scheduled — a win for the city’s LGBTQ+ community
For the first time in its 40-year history, the quadrennial Gay Games were held in Hong Kong — a first not just for the city, but for Asia as well.
To gain more insight into the challenges that the 11th Gay Games faced, the FCC held a Club Lunch panel with three of the Games’ representatives on November 9th, the seventh day of the 9-day sporting event.
Sitting on the panel were Joanie Evans, Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games; Emery Fung, Football Lead and Diversity & Inclusion Director of GGHK; and David Ko, Director of Marketing and Communications of GGHK. Moderating the talk was FCC First Vice President Jennifer Jett.
The panel first discussed how Hong Kong won its bid for the 2023 Gay Games and why it was important to break new ground by coming to Asia.
“It’s not about us being in places where it’s easy,” said Evans. “It’s going to places where we know that the participants are not going to have that opportunity to experience what the Gay Games are about.”
For Ko, he didn’t fully understand why the Gay Games were so important to the LGBTQ+ athletic community until he witnessed the Opening Ceremony on November 3rd.
“They [Gay Games athletes] all talk about the atmosphere when they’re marching into the stadium and how that changed them. I never truly understood that until we experienced it ourselves last weekend. That was the moment I thought to myself ‘Oh, I finally get it now.’ I understand why everyone’s so passionate about this,” he said.
Similar to the Olympics, athletes walk out onto the field by country and are accompanied by music and cultural performances.
Political leaders also typically make appearances. Executive Council Convenor Regina Ip — a staunch supporter of the Gay Games — gave a speech at this year’s Opening Ceremony.
But not all of Hong Kong’s politicians were just as open-minded towards the Gay Games.
On November 1st, just two days before the Opening Ceremony, Junius Ho and six other anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers held a press conference calling for a ban of the Gay Games, claiming that they were a Western plot attempting to subvert national security and traditional Chinese family values.
As Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games, Evans has experienced plenty of opposition in various places from conservative and religious groups, but maintains that as race organizers, they don’t have a hidden agenda anywhere they go.
“For what people say about bringing the Gay Games to anywhere, it’s like they think that there’s an ulterior motive to it, and there isn’t. There’s no ulterior motive. We don’t want to benefit from anything. It’s not going to benefit us as an organization. It’s about what we can bring to the community and trying to bring the world together,” she said.
Ko also commented on the public’s overall negative response to Junius Ho’s comments.
“The feedback is overwhelming against him,” he said. “His remarks are being described as laughable, irrelevant, whatever, and that was very gratifying to us because it meant that people understand more than we think they do.”
The panel reiterated that the Gay Games as a whole is not a political organization and that they are committed to uniting people and celebrating diversity, which includes allowing people who do not identify in traditional gender identities to join as well.
The Gay Games’ Gender Inclusion Policy states that while some sports may still have traditional male and female categories, non-binary competitions and open competitions for all genders will be included whenever possible to give all athletes a chance to participate.
Fung, as a transgender man and football player, finds the Gay Games’ inclusion efforts to be one of the most impactful aspects of the event.
“The Gay Games are the only event or organization that I know of that will actually allow people who are trans, non-binary, or intersex to be part of the Games without putting up too many barriers… It’s very rare that there’s a space for people like us,” he said.
The Gay Games ended with its Closing Ceremony on November 11th.
Watch the full talk on our YouTube channel below: