Timberwoof Essays gay games medals
Eliminating Gay Games Medals

Here's a rant I wrote back in May of 1998, when I first learned of the proposal to eliminate medals from the Gay Games. It's somewhat histrionic, but it still expresses my thoughts on the matter. Warning: reading this may violate your Political Korrektness.

Not award medals at a sporting competition? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of! I don't know what "politically correct" concept of enforced equality inspired this ill-conceived notion, but I wish it would crawl back to its bland and wimpy origins and fade uneventfully away.

Competition, yearning for a prize, working hard to achieve a goal ... these are all natural and healthy things, and have been a part of life since the Cambrian Explosion[1]. Contests of all kinds, not just sporting events, have had prizes awarded to the winner throughout human history. There is nothing evil about winning.

Inclusiveness is a nice thing, but let's not carry it to ridiculous extremes. People are *not* all the same; we do not have all the same talents and abilities, and it's foolish to try to pretend otherwise[2].

No, wait, I'm sorry. I'm going about this all wrong ... let me try again in a mode that I think the antimedalists might understand. Waaaaa! I will never be a Sumo wrestler in this lifetime! I'm 5'10" tall and weigh only 130#! It's not fair, not fair, not fair! Sure, the Sumo Wrestlers can go on practicing and eating, but henceforth all the colored belts and the title of Grand Master shall be abolished. That way I can be equal with all of them. So there!

Not convinced? What's an amateur hockey goalie whining about wrestling for? Okay .... Waaaaa! I'l never be as good as Dominic Hasek or Martin Brodeur! Because my parents never sent me to hockey school when I was a kid, I never got the chance to develop my talent at an early age. It's not fair, not fair, not fair! So henceforth, all the hockey divisions everywhere shall be abolished and anyone who wants to can play in the HNL. So there!

How about this... Waaaaa! I'm skinny like those faboo ballet-boys, but I can't pliet worth a damn and I haven't a clue about Positions 1, 2, and so forth. Who do those elitists think they are, parading and dancing with their beautiful bodies in front of hoity-toity audiences everywhere? From now on, anyone who's taken Introductory Ballet lessons should be able to charge $50 for recital tickets. So there!

No, let's get real here. I'll never be as good at playing hockey as someone who started laying when he was a kid. That doesn't stop me from joining an adult amateur league and doing my best. It's fun to play in a tournament against other teams similar to my own ... and part of my motivation to practice and learn my sport is knowing that if I and my team play better than all the other teams, we will win the prize.

If someone proposed a hockey tournament -- err, a weekend of hockey practice -- with just beer in the lockerroom afterwards, and no prize or recognition for the winning team, I wouldn't go. If the antimedalists win (hah!) and the Gay Games become a week of warmups, drills, and scrimmage, then I won't go. I'll take my team to tournaments that matter[3].

I have been to three hockey tournaments so far, and though I haven't come close to winning a medal yet, I enjoyed them enough to want to go to many more. I've watched games and practices, with and without my friends playing. I enjoy watching a game much more when one or more friends of mine are playing, and when there is some tangible stake in the outcome of a game.

I would like for someone in the bland-equality, anti-medal camp to explain to me how I would enjoy games more if didn't get a medal for winning. Tell me, why would my friends in the stands take an interest in the games, knowing that my performance on the ice didn't matter? What problem exists whose solution is eliminating prizes for winners?

I would like fo someone in the bland-equality, anti-medal camp to explain to me how the gay sporting community is served by eliminating medals. Do they intend next to invade the space of the drag queens and tell them that while drag shows are fine, competitions and the concept of "best" drag queen is evil? I'd like to see them show up at a Mister Leather contest and tell the winner that he can't display his vest any more because competition is homophobic or whatever.

[1] When the Primordial Ooze invented sex and started creepy crawling all over the planet.

[2] You read me right. People are not all the same. People are different from one another. Some people are even more talented at some things than other people. Get this: Some people are extremely good at doing certain doing things, while other people suck at them.

[3] The Toronto Gay Hockey Association sponsors an annual Friendship Tournament. Team Seattle sponsors an annual Slide for Pride Winter Sports Festival, which includes an ice hockey tournament. Both tournaments give gold, silver, and bronze medals to the winners in each division.

Jim Provenzano is a writer for the Bay Area Reporter, a San Francisco gay newspaper. He asked members of the Gaysport mailing list their opinions on the subject, and here are the answers I gave him.

One of the upcoming topics for discussion at the Federation of Gay Games annual meeting in Seattle, Washington is the use of medals at Gay Games.

Hi, Jim! Thanks for your questions about medals at Gay Games. I just received the Sept/Oct TeamSF newsletter, which announced an important TeamSF meeting leading up to the FOGG meeting you mentioned. It did not, however, say anything about the subject of that meeting. I emailed them to ask what the subject is, but they wouldn't tell me. Thanks for letting us know what's going on.

I'm writing an article about this and would appreciate responses from queer athletes. Do you consider yourself competitive?

Hell, yes! You know I'm an ice hockey player ... I like to gather statistics on how well I've been playing. I know my skills are improving because my save average has improved and my team's scores at tournaments are getting better.

What do you think of the process of awarding medals?

Um ... a bunch of hockey teams get together and play hockey games. Then there's a set of playoff rounds and winners get medals. Then we have a big party. Is there a problem with this?

Does it go against the ideal of inclusion?

It doesn't go against my ideal of inclusion. If I were not allowed to join a local hockey league because I'm gay, then I would raise a serious ruckus. But that's not the case. People in the SF Bay area don't care that I'm gay (or at least they don't tell me they care, which is fine). They care that I'm a good goalie and that I challenge their skills as forwards. I've played in local leagues and in gay tournaments. I haven't won any championships yet, but that's not because of a lack of inclusion.

As queer people often shut out of sports for "not being good enough," do we compensate for that by seeking awards?

I'm 5'10" tall and weigh 130#. In high school I was the skinny kid who hid out in the library during gym class. Until recently, I had a minor heart condition that occasionally interfered with my game. Yet I play what has been called the toughest position in the toughest sport. I'm sorry, I don't buy into this idea that people aren't good enough to play sports just because they're gay. That's pure bullshit.

People aren't good enough to play sports because they haven't found within themselves what it takes to learn a sport and get good at it. If someone thinks he's not good enough to compete, that's his own problem; it's not the sport's, the organizers', or the other athletes'. It does no good to play the queer victim of homophobia and use that as an excuse not to do sports.

What's wrong with seeking rewards? All of life is about seeking and attaining rewards. Straight people seek rewards ... that's what competitions and medals are all about.

Or would eliminating medals rob us of the legitamacy we seek?

Yeah, but who cares? When I play in various hockey tournaments sponsored by gay hockey leages and sports associations, I meet other gay hockey players and play with and against them in games. The winners get medals. We have a party. We do this for ourselves because it's fun. We don't care whether straight people are there to bestow their formal approval on us.

But whether straight people approve of gay athletes competing and handing out medals is beside the point. The point appears to be whether gay athletes can achieve legitimacy within the community of Politically Korrekt antielitist equality enforcers.

The proposal to eliminate medals from the Gay Games was sent back to committee for further study. It died a quiet death under a firmy applied pillow.


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