If you couldn’t make it to Gay Games 9 in Cleveland/Akron OH earlier this month, you sure missed out on a lot. Here are a few highlights that I’ll take away.
Climate: The opening-ceremonies telecast address from President Obama and the live speech by Sen. Sherrod Brown (one of the few Democrats who stood up against DOMA way back in 1996 in Congress); the Midwest charm of queer servers at restaurants often approaching us to “commune”; the elderly woman at the McKinley monument approaching us to welcome us and share her Cleveland experience; and the churches that threw open their doors and raised the rainbow flag as parishioners passed out welcoming tchotchkes ...
Competition/Comradery: Proudly marching into Quicken Loans Arena in the all-athlete, Team Philly contingent at the opening ceremonies; besting and/or losing out to rival running clubs while also cheering them on; watching fellow runners compete in other sports admirably; battling injuries and the effects of aging to compete in the half-marathon; and sharing in the record-breaking gold, silver and bronze-medal haul for Team Philly ...
Adventure: Bar/party-hopping and realizing that the Gay Games’ official bashes were “where it [was] at” due to their power to draw folks away from the usual gay haunts; having one of our runners pursued ardently by a swimmer who seemed to remember in exacting detail a passionate affair 20 years hence; and battling the weather such that all completion (three to four races) were compressed into 63 hours instead of about 120 ...
Significance: Helping the Cleveland/Akron area economically; feeling empowered by networking with other Philly clubs and across our sport; changing others’ (and our own) perceptions of queer people; and having a ball doing it all!
— Mudhillun MuQaribu
The Gay Games out in Cleveland/Akron were great. We really felt welcomed, and both cities were clean, inviting and warmly decorated with rainbow and GG9 flags here and there. Downtown Cleveland showcased its beautiful, well-preserved architecture, as well as pockets of well-landscaped flowers. Everyone was very friendly and glad to share their city with us.
As well as mixing with cool people from all over, we also met some straight allies in restaurants and in athletic venues, who were happy to be there and watch the games just as avidly as we were.
The road races I did weaved through a beautiful park on the one hand and some residential neighborhoods and downtown areas of Akron on the other, enabling us to see various parts of the region.
It was a rush to meet folks from other countries and states and cheer for them as they did their best. There was a real esprit de corps and I saw good sportsmanship and good will everywhere. Cleveland and Akron did a great job of organizing, with teams of well-coordinated volunteers who were cheerful, helpful and knowledgeable. We enjoyed sampling many cultural and historical parts of Cleveland and Akron not directly connected to the Games as well.
We really enjoyed ourselves and want to thank the host cities for providing such a good time.
— Kevin Kuehlwein