The Swiss 3×3 basketball star Marco Lehmann has come out as gay, revealing that he’s been living a painful double life throughout his sporting career.
Lehmann, 27, has played full-court basketball professionally since 2012. He now represents Switzerland on the international stage, where he is considered one of the best shooters on the 3×3 basketball circuit.
He recently opened his heart in an article for FIBA, the official website for the International Basketball Federation, explaining that he couldn’t wait until retirement to be his true self.
“This is for all the people who do not want to live a double life anymore, those who live in a system where they don’t even exist,” he said.
“This is for the future generations so they can live a free sporting life without hiding. Not gonna lie, this is also for me so I can live free of this burden.”
Over the years Lehmann played seven seasons across 20 countries, always saying he didn’t have a girlfriend because he was focused on his career. His dedication to the game made him the second-best player in Switzerland – “and yet I wasn’t happy,” he admitted.
“I had been switching personalities for so long now, that it was affecting my mental health. Every week the same old thing: my boyfriend would drive me to the airport and the minute I would go through security, the happy gay man in a relationship turned into the emotionless pro athlete, who didn’t want to talk about his personal life.”
Explaining why he kept his silence for so long, Lehmann related several examples of the homophobia he’d experienced from coaches and players, which constantly reinforced the sense that to be gay was “taboo” in team sports.
He recalled how one coach berated the team for “playing like gays,” and a fellow player on a tour bus described homosexuality as “a sickness”.
“[Homosexuals] should kill themselves,” he heard them say. “Imagine you have to play with somebody like this on your team?”
For a time he was able to convince himself that he loved basketball so much that he should hide who he was for the sake of the game – until December 2019, when he hit rock bottom.
“I started to have emotional outbursts, tears, cold sweat running down my back. And for what? Just thinking about the next practice,” he said. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of having to switch from my home personality to my competitive one once more.”
Those days are now firmly behind him as Lehmann joins a handful of gay professional basketball players to come out while still playing, including Jason Collins, Derrick Gordon and Uri Kokia.
The time has come, he said, to simply be happy and enjoy his hard-earned career without the fear of living a double life.
“Starting today I will be Marco Lehmann, gay 3×3 basketball player,” he declared. “And if you’ll excuse me, I’m trying to win the World Tour and take Switzerland to the 2024 Olympics.”
Jan. 6, 2021 will go down as one of the most disgraceful days in United States history. It is normally the date set every four years for Congress to confirm the Electoral College vote and the election of a president and vice president. It is normally a day of formalities and unity. This year it was a day when a mob led by home grown terrorists including members of QAnon, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, supported by President Trump and his sycophants in Congress, broke down doors and windows to storm the Capitol building, overwhelming police and threatening members of Congress and their staffs.
What I find incredible is they were spurred on for weeks by a group of Republicans who supported President Trump’s wild claims the election was stolen. They helped Trump rile up his supporters, feeding them lies and conspiracy theories already debunked by state Boards of Elections, state legislatures and courts at all levels including the Supreme Court.
I can possibly understand Americans who have very little or no education believing some of these lies. But incredible as it seems some of the people spreading these lies and inciting insurrection were educated at our most prestigious universities. These elite schools should be embarrassed by their graduates who have committed sedition and they must take action in response if they are to save their reputations. This is not about First Amendment rights, which some claim, rather the actions of their graduates trying to overturn a basic tenet of our democracy, the right to vote and have your vote counted. They called for and supported insurrection.
I don’t know all the schools involved but we do know where some members of Congress who voted to overturn this election went to school. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) attended both Stanford and Yale. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attended Harvard, as did Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). Stefanik even serves on the advisory board of the prestigious Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard where hundreds have already asked them to sever any connection with her.
One hundred and twenty-eight members of the House of Representatives and seven senators participated in efforts to overturn legally certified elections and invalidate the votes of millions of people in numerous states. They should all be charged with sedition, which their speeches and votes surely were. The definition of the term sedition is “conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.” Their speeches on the floor of the Congress, and statements to the media, surely fit this definition.
Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned President Trump if he doesn’t resign she would introduce impeachment proceedings in the House. By the time this column is published that may have happened. We must not allow an American president to walk away without repercussions for the violence and insurrection he fomented. There should also be charges filed against Rudy Giuliani and Eric Trump for their statements inciting violence at Trump’s rally, which preceded the mob going from the White House to storm the Capitol.
The individuals who breached the Capitol must be considered domestic terrorists and should be dealt with as such. Their actions were an insurrection. The FBI is rounding them up across the nation and the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. and Justice Department, as well as the D.C. Attorney General, are looking at appropriate charges to file against them.
What must happen is an in-depth investigation of the Capitol Hill police, which may find some were complicit with the mob.
One thing that should not be overlooked is how law enforcement prepared for and dealt with this nearly all white mob. It is clearly different than it would have been if this mob had been Black or brown. The racism is clear and very troubling.
There is much still to learn about all this and we must be prepared for more violence leading up to the inauguration on Jan. 20. We must punish all we find complicit, and all those who entered the Capitol, to the full extent the law allows. We must make clear to all Americans and to the world acts of insurrection and sedition will not be tolerated if our democracy is to survive.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.
Transgender powerlifter JayCee Cooper is suing USA Powerlifting, the sport’s biggest U.S.-based organization, after it barred her from competition on the basis of her gender identity.
“It came as a surprise to me that when I applied to compete at my first competition, I was told that I couldn’t compete specifically because I’m a trans woman,” Cooper said at a news conference Tuesday. “I was gutted. I had been training for months and up until that point had experienced so much love and community around the sport.”
Cooper’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Minnesota state court by the Minnesota-based advocacy group Gender Justice, asserts that in banning Cooper and other trans athletes, USA Powerlifting, or USAPL, is in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
The suit also notes that other powerlifting and athletic organizations — on the local, national and international levels — have measures that allow transgender women to participate.
The International Olympic Committee adopted guidelines in 2015 permitting trans women to compete if their testosterone remains below a certain level for at least 12 months. The International Powerlifting Federation, the parent organization of USA Powerlifting, adopted the IOC’s guidelines, but the international group doesn’t mandate that its national affiliates follow them.
Cooper’s lawsuit says she was rejected from competing even though she provided documentation that her testosterone levels had remained under the IOC’s accepted limit for two years.
“USAPL denied Ms. Cooper’s eligibility to compete because she is a transgender woman, withdrew her competition card because she is a transgender woman, and then went on to adopt a categorical ban on participation by transgender women athletes at USAPL competitions,” the lawsuit says. “USAPL discriminated against JayCee Cooper, and continues to do so, because she is a transgender woman.”
In a statement emailed to NBC News on Wednesday, USA Powerlifting said it “is aware of the public notice made on the Gender Justice website but are not in receipt of any formal filing at this time. We dispute the allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present the facts within the legal system.”
‘Powerlifting is not a fit for every athlete’
USA Powerlifting didn’t have established guidelines about transgender athletes until January 2019, around the same time it informed Cooper that she couldn’t compete.
“USA Powerlifting is not a fit for every athlete and for every medical condition or situation,” the organization’s Transgender Participation Policy states. “Simply, not all powerlifters are eligible to compete in USA Powerlifting.”
The policy says USA Powerlifting is a “sports organization with rules and policies” that “apply to everyone to provide a level playing field.” In a question-and-answer section about trans women’s inability to compete, the organization says powerlifting is a “sport of strength,” as opposed to a “sport of skill.”
“Men naturally have a larger bone structure, higher bone density, stronger connective tissue and higher muscle density than women,” it says. “These traits, even with reduced levels of testosterone do not go away. While MTF [male-to-female] may be weaker and less muscle than they once were, the biological benefits given them at birth still remain over than of a female.”
A study published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that transgender women maintain an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers even after a year on hormone therapy. After two years, however, transgender women were “fairly equivalent to the cisgender women,” according to the study’s lead author. The findings were based on physical assessments of transgender military service members, not competitive athletes.https://www.instagram.com/p/BtHkZavluSv/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=8&wp=1116&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com&rp=%2Ffeature%2Fnbc-out%2Ftransgender-athlete-sues-usa-powerlifting-over-competition-ban-n1253960#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A825.0000000000001%2C%22ls%22%3A801%2C%22le%22%3A821.0000000000001%7D
A microphone picked up Thomas using the slur after he didn’t land a putt during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
“There’s absolutely no reason for me to say anything like that. It’s terrible,” Thomas told the Golf Channel after the round. “There’s just no excuse.”
Thomas, who could not be immediately reached Sunday, told the Golf Channel the comments do not reflect who he is and said he is “very apologetic.”
“As he expressed after his round, we agree that Justin’s comment was unacceptable,” the PGA Tour said in a statement Sunday.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, condemned the slur. “This type of discriminatory language causes real harm, and there is no place for it in sports. We must continue to work for greater inclusion and acceptance,” the HRC’s president, Alphonso David, said on Twitter.
Thomas, 27, is a former world No. 1 golfer and has won more than 10 PGA Tour events.
The disgust, anger, and recriminations over gay New Year’s Eve parties in this seaside resort area of the Mexican state of Jalisco and neighboring Riviera Nayarit, continues to spread in gay online social media — particularly in numerous Twitter threads and on Instagram. One Instagram account, @gaysovercovid has repeatedly called out party goers and party organizers.
Local media outlets in Jalisco and many Mexican social media users are also outraged.
The @gaysovercovid Instagram account has faced wave after wave of backlash from gay influencers many of whom are now embroiled in the controversy after having their Instagram posts publicly disclosed and then shamed by the anonymous account holder. There have been financial rewards offered to anyone who can unmask the account owner’s identity.
The account used the built-in abilities for tracking the influencers’ Facebook locations and Venmo transactions in an effort to uncover where they were attending parties. That brought about severe condemnation from those exposed while others celebrated that the account exposed the bad behavior of gay men.
In one example, in response to a social media post that depicted a Cedars-Sinai ICU registered nurse as a participant, social media users tracked the pictures to an Instagram account (@legstrong) listed for 25-year-old Armstrong Nworka. The Blade determined from online searches Tuesday, including Facebook using the handle ‘@legstrong’ and his surname, Nworka had profiled himself as gay, an RN, and employed at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills.
One of the comments left on his page read: “Disgusting, you give us gay people a bad name. You’re truly nothing more than a plague rat.” Nworka has since taken his Instagram account private. Nworka did not respond to a Blade request for comment.
The Blade also reached out to Cedars-Sinai and was told that there would be no comment on personnel matters.
The ‘plague rat’ comment was mild in comparison to the thousands of other vitriolic responses to other party attendees and especially organizers, labeled by critics as ‘super-spreaders,’ who openly defied both U.S. and Mexican public health mandates and restrictions to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
Palm Springs resident and gay circuit party impresario Jeffrey Sanker held the largest New Year’s Eve weekend bash, which included several events. Originally set to take place in Puerto Vallarta, apparently ignoring the pleas from local health authorities, elected officials as well as residents, Sanker’s White Party Entertainment company was forced to move the event to neighboring Riviera Nayarit after the Jalisco state government banned mass gatherings and implemented more restrictive coronavirus measures.
In a text to ticket holders, Sanker’s company told attendees not to reveal the location of the party, nor could they take any photos or videos of the event. The text said the steps were necessary because they “do not want this getting out and causing any issues with the public.”
That text was screenshot and then posted by @gaysovercovid as well as other accounts, which prompted one local news outlet in Puerto Vallarta, the Puerto Vallarta News, to editorialize on its social media accounts prior to the events:
“If you are interested in still visiting the COVID Superspreader New Years Eve Celebration where foreigners come to our community and throw big parties and leave COVID while causing our businesses to close and people lose their jobs- […] COVID isn’t causing businesses to suffer, it’s the actions of people. We are tired of it. We have supported this event in past years and given it positive coverage, but this year it’s irresponsible and should be canceled.”
In a phone call with an editor at PVN on Tuesday, the Blade was told that the area’s main healthcare facility, Puerto Vallarta Hospital was at 100% occupancy with COVID-19 patients and that the state of Jalisco had reached 65% positivity rate.
Officials in Jalisco uniformly condemned the fact that so many had traveled from the United States just to party without seeming to care about the consequences for local residents, many of whom are employed as staff in the restaurants, bars, hotels and transportation systems.
“They came to have sex, to dance it seems and to make party without regard to spread of COVID,” one government source told the Blade. “They have no sense of responsibility — don’t care about peoples here,” he added.
As part of the weekend long event, the PV Delice, a catamaran that featured a live band and open bar, began taking on water and sank off the coast of Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 31, around 5 p.m. while crew members frantically called for help to rescue passengers. Video posted on Instagram, Tik-Tok and Facebook documented at least 10 other boats rushing to aid the sinking vessel and plucking 60 victims out of the choppy water.
Witnesses told local news outlets that the boat was filled with White Party celebrants and was overcrowded. The boat sank to the bottom of the bay and there were no reports of injuries.
One passenger, a gay man from Chicago, Emilio Blanco, told the local LGBTQ news outlet, Out and About PV, “It was like the Titanic, it went all down slowly. I think the crew just didn’t know how to maneuver the catamaran very well, the sea was not very rough nor was it too windy. We were about to sail back to Puerto Vallarta, but the catamaran barely moved. I saw at least 10 small boats coming to help, I jumped in a private boat whose owners were graceful enough to send their captain help out. It was quite a scary situation.”
A spokesperson for Adrián Bobadilla García, head of the municipal agency of Puerto Vallarta, told the Blade Tuesday that the municipal government had made numerous notifications to the public regarding mandatory use of masks and maintaining social distance in public. He said that the boardwalk during the holiday however, wasn’t closed nor were the beaches. He conceded that enforcement was not as stringent as it should have been.
A majority of gay party attendees reportedly stayed in Puerto Vallarta. As a result, beaches were jammed mostly with maskless celebrants. One local resident who provided pictures and video to NBC Palm Springs said it was a “superspreader nightmare.”
“It is with sadness and anger that we have Americans at the height of a pandemic surge travel to Mexico to participate in New Year’s Eve parties knowing that people of color are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19,” said City of Huntington Park, Calif. Councilman Eddie Martinez, who also heads the Latino Equality Alliance.
“The action of these travelers has now put hotel workers, servers, janitors, and drivers at risk for the disease as well as to possibly put an additional strain on the hospital system in both Mexico and the United States. Party promoters and sponsors need to be held accountable if their actions result in more deaths for families, especially within the LGBTQ community,” Martinez added.
My wife began hormone replacement therapy just before quarantine started in March. Although my mother-in-law has known about my wife’s gender identity since early childhood, she previously discouraged her from transitioning. She recently called the family’s pediatrician to see what could have caused her daughter to be trans — treating her identity as if it were a malady. Over the past nine months, my wife and I have had limited contact with her and other conservative relatives in our less-than-supportive families.
Queer people are reclaiming space for ourselves this season, establishing new ways to observe holidays or practicing the same traditions with festivities that feel more affirming.
As the holidays approached, I dreaded the negative interactions sure to come at the annual family gatherings. Would everyone stare and ask invasive questions or just avoid and ignore my wife now? I wasn’t sure which would be worse. Thankfully, this year’s social distancing offers my family and other queer people a unique gift: a much-needed and hard-earned break from toxic family members and obligations.
I first sighed with relief when my mother-in-law had to cancel her usual trip to stay with us in November and December because of pandemic travel restrictions. Even before my wife’s transition, my mother-in-law depleted our energy during the holidays. The last visit had included a barrage of passive-aggressive remarks about our failure to observe her preferred traditions, unkind comments about my body and objections to our child’s nonbinary pronouns.
My relatives bring their own seasonal strain. After I spent years attending all of my family’s gatherings, my siblings quickly abandoned the large Christmas meal I cooked last year, showing up late and leaving after just an hour. Later that day, my mom pressured us to attend church despite knowing that it’s triggering for me due to a trauma my wife and I experienced in a religious community.
If it weren’t for quarantine, we would be making the same stressful end-of-year attempt to accommodate everyone’s needs except our own. Before transitioning, my wife spent every get-together censoring her behavior — monitoring her speech patterns, mannerisms, posture and other subtleties because she wasn’t out to most family members.
The recent queer-centered holiday flick “Happiest Season” shows how some queer people still feel they need to be closeted when returning home. In the movie, a woman brings her girlfriend to her parents’ house for Christmas but pretends the two are just friends — denying her sexuality to appease her family’s expectations. The fear of family rejection and pressure to conform isolates her partner and jeopardizes the mental health of both women.
Family rejection is a leading cause of negative mental health outcomes for queer people. A 2018 survey of LGBT people in the U.K. found that 28 percent of respondents were not out to family members who lived outside their homes. In addition, 38 percent of negative incidents they experienced were caused by parents or guardians — highlighting the risks of coming out to unsupportive family. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 1 in 10 trans and gender-nonconforming people experienced violence from a family member because of their gender identity; 8 percent were kicked out of their homes.
Queer youth are especially at risk because they need financial support and shelter from guardians. The Trevor Project reported that 6 in 10 queer youth had someone try to persuade them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with 35 percent of those noting it was a parent or caregiver. Meanwhile, 29 percent have been kicked out of their homes or run away.
Family members can also harm each other in less overt ways, such as misgendering trans and gender-nonconforming people or refusing to talk about queer identity at home. In the U.S. trans survey, 18 percent of respondents said they lived in families that were unsupportive of their gender identities, while 60 percent had families that were generally supportive and 22 percent had families that took a more neutral approach.
Even supportive family members aren’t always good allies and can unintentionally cause emotional trauma. Some of my wife’s and my family seem to be accepting — but they have prodded us with inquiries and concerns about my wife’s genitals, our sex life and what our kids think. We’ve smiled and gently noted that commentary and questions aren’t welcome.
Here again, social distancing is saving us from what could have been unpleasant confrontations: Texts, video chats and phone calls offer the ability to simply hang up or not respond when this line of conversation begins. I’m grateful these moments haven’t occurred while sharing a meal around a holiday table.https://compass.pressekompass.net/compasses/think/will-this-be-your-first-holiday-season-w-eTyb9L?embed=embed&paywall=anonymous
After training for hours on end, year after year, some women athletes – particularly those competing on the world stage – are getting their careers and successes ripped away because of “sex testing,” practices, which are invasive and medically unnecessary procedures based on disputed science that dictates what “natural” testosterone levels can be for women, and the role it plays in performance. Women from the global south are disproportionately targeted. Sporting officials demand that these women undergo irreversible sterilization surgeries or hormone therapies to have a chance at competing again. Philippa Stewart spoke to Dr. Payoshni Mitra, who has worked for years with affected athletes, about a new Human Rights Watch report, “‘They’re Chasing Us Away from Sport’” and why these tests have to end.
What is it that singles women out?
Often it is just that they look different, less “feminine” than men, and it often is men, in charge of the national or international sports federations, who think they should.
These policies disproportionately target women from the global south, specifically black and brown women. It is important to note that there aren’t any similar rules governing men’s bodies.
There is evidence of research studies by doctors affiliated to the World Athletics where women’s bodies have been investigated and operated on. They treated these women like guinea pigs. They would not have done this to an athlete from Europe or America.
Do the athletes give consent to be tested?
Not informed consent. They are normally not told exactly why they are being tested or what is going to happen. In the case of one athlete, she was told it was about high performance, others are told various things that aren’t true.
There is also no privacy, the coach is there when the physical exams are done. Then the women are pressured into surgery or hormone therapy as the only ways they could possibly be allowed to compete in their preferred event.
Often these women start competing because the prizes are a way to survive, to pull their family out of poverty. They love sports and see it as the thing that can change the fate of their family. And then suddenly they are told they don’t have a chance unless they take irreversible medical steps.
They are also told not to talk about it and to come up with some excuse about why they are not competing. This creates a feeling of shame for them, like there’s something wrong with them and they shouldn’t talk about it. It makes them feel inadequate, like they’re not the “correct” kind of woman. Athletes told me it feels like a way of telling them they aren’t good enough.
Are doctors willing to perform these tests without consent?
This isn’t a normal doctor-patient relationship. The athletic federations that are directly connected to the doctors are both requesting the invasive treatment and being given information by the doctors about the athletes. The athletes don’t have any autonomy around this process. Their medical information is passed on from the doctor to the athletic federation that decides their future and whether they will be allowed to compete.
Some people believe that if a woman doctor performs the test then it is fine. But it isn’t necessarily so. It is still an extra pair of eyes and hands on your body in a way you haven’t consented to. That is not fine.
The women are told not to speak about it because of “confidentiality,” but this protects the federations and the people performing the tests and not usually the athletes.
The World Medical Association has said these tests shouldn’t be performed. Has that made a difference?
Honestly, no. The WMA made it clear that the sex testing regulations are unethical and instructed doctors not to implement them. But the doctors are not controlled by medical authorities, they do what their collaborators – the athletic federations – tell them to do, and they follow what the international bodies say. There needs to be a change in sporting policy at the international level for these harmful practices to stop.
What happens after women are told they can’t compete?
Often these women start competing because of the prizes. Sometimes the prize is some food, and one woman told me she won a cow as a young girl, which meant her family could have milk every day. Sport, competing for the national team, it’s something to aim for because it pulls you out of poverty, it helps your family. Athletes in many countries get lifetime government jobs after they finish competing if they did well and brought pride to their country.
These policies disproportionately target women from the global south, specifically black and brown women. Dr. Payoshni Mitra
When that goes away, often the woman’s family stops supporting them. Especially because there are all these rumors around why they had to stop competing – that there is something shameful about them. These women can lose their support network overnight and they don’t even get told exactly why.
There are also long-term effects for these women if they try to stay in sports. They are constantly under scrutiny, they start to feel unsafe, people gossip about them constantly. It is a very hard thing to deal with when no one has told you why it is happening in a way that you understand.
South African runner Caster Semenya is probably the most famous case of gender testing. Is that where most people’s knowledge of these examinations comes from?
I am privileged to know Ms. Semenya, and she is a wonderful and extremely resilient champion, both on and off the field, who has a very important story to tell. But she is not the whole story. She was already at the top of her career when this happened and people are, rightly, rallying around to support her. She has support in a way that a lot of these women, at the start of their careers, often young and alone and not aware of their rights, do not have. It is, to my mind, a good thing more people are aware of these horrific tests now, but even with that, people don’t realize how many women it affects and what they go through, what they have to overcome.
She is a wonderful champion, but the media should highlight other stories too, of the women who don’t rise to those heights. The women who are just mid-level, proud to represent their country, and trying to build a better life, and then they have it ripped away.
What can be done to protect those women?
Education on rights – many athletes didn’t even know that the court of arbitration for sport existed, let alone that they could take their case there. I have been working with women athletes for years trying to make them aware of their rights. It is no coincidence that these policies affect women from poorer countries, where they don’t have the same level of awareness about their rights.
I advise athletes not to allow federations to communicate with them verbally. It is important to have evidence of what the federations ask athletes to do in writing. If they ask for every communication to be in writing, federation officials realize that they must take that athlete seriously and treat her respectfully.
Women are now challenging these policies in courts of law, both national and international. This is a recent development and it makes me happy to see that more and more women athletes from Asia and Africa are becoming conscious of their rights.
What about the testing policies?
They need to end. At a national level, and at an international level. There are some women who compete nationally, and then just as they are about to make it to the international stage, they get tested and dropped. There’s major downstream impact from the global regulations. That’s because the national federations or sport ministries see these international federation policies and think they have to test first. All levels of sport need to stop these tests now.
Is there anything that makes you hopeful things can change for the better?
These women have been scrutinized for so long and now, finally, that is being switched and it is the federations dealing with scrutiny for what they have done.
This report is the first time the world is truly hearing the voices of some of the women affected by these policies. Annet Negesa, the Ugandan runner who was sex tested and ruled ineligible, broke her silence for first time in an interview to Human Rights Watch last year. That was incredibly brave. Finally, after more than a decade of work, the world is paying attention.
I believe it is extremely powerful that all the affected athletes I am working with are now refusing harmful medical intervention. Dutee Chand and Caster Semenya have spoken openly about not succumbing to any pressure of taking medical steps. They have inspired athletes across the world to switch to a completely new, unrestricted event, rather than consent to these harmful and irreversible medical interventions. Switching events often outs them as having high testosterone. But that is not deterring them. It is a clear message to the World Athletics: “Enough is enough.”
This is as hard for me to write as it is for travelers to hear: It’s time to consider canceling or postponing your nonessential holiday trips.
Normally at this time of year, I would be writing about strategies to deal with the impending holiday crowds or how the two weeks after Thanksgiving or New Years are the cheapest times of year to travel, the so-called “dead weeks” when demand, and therefore prices, hit annual lows.
I’d be preparing for my annual holiday visit to Atlanta to see my family, or a “bleisure” trip to New York City to see the lights, visit some clients and pay through the nose for a Manhattan hotel.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic rages, with record rates of infections and hospitalizations in California and across the country, the “dead weeks” take on a whole new meaning. In the U.S., we’ve lost nearly 300,000 people, many of whom were, maybe this time last year, our fellow passengers on flights, or the folks across the hall from us in hotels. Maybe they were the business travelers behind us in a long line at SFO security, or the friendly older couple visiting New York City that we bumped into while gawking at the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
What about those travel deals I’ve been writing about in recent months when the virus seemed to be on the wane? If you booked holiday trips at those great rates, consider canceling them or pushing them into the spring. The airlines no longer charge fees for changes and cancellations on most fares, so it’s not going to cost you much to do so. Hotels in California regions that are affected by shutdowns are now closed to everyone except essential workers for at least the next three weeks, and thankfully offering refunds to those who have to cancel their trips.
We are the survivors of this plague, so let’s do all we can to vanquish this disease for good, including wearing masks, altering our holiday habits and staying off planes. Not forever, but for the next couple months until infection rates decline and we have widespread availability of a vaccine. Once we’ve pushed the virus off the table, we can get back to our frequent travels. But until then, we need to sit still, something that does not come naturally to the frequent traveling crowd.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN Monday that his concerns for the Christmas-New Year’s travel season were the same as his concerns for Thanksgiving, “only this may be even more compounded because it’s a longer holiday.” By mid-January, he warned of a very “dark period” as travelers begin to experience the impact of infections that occurred in late December.
COVID-19 spreads when people move around and breathe each other’s air, so let’s take a collective step back. Those plans to drive home or somewhere else and share air with family, friends or strangers? Nix them. You might be saving your life, or someone else’s, by just staying put. Not forever, but for now.
In a live online webinar broadcast from Hong Kong on Nov. 12, organizers of the 11th quadrennial Gay Games celebrated the start of a two-year countdown for the Nov. 12, 2022 opening ceremony at the Hong Kong Stadium for the world’s largest LGBTQ sports competition and arts andcultural event.
Members of the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 organizing team, which is an arm of the U.S.-based Federation of Gay Games, told the 79 people who joined the webinar from 29 countries that they expect 12,000 participants, 75,000 spectators, and 3,000 volunteers – a total of at least 90,000 from 100 countries — to take part in the Hong Kong Gay Games.
They noted that 36 sporting events are planned, including traditional sports like soccer, wrestling, volleyball, and figure skating as well as sports more common in Asia such as dragon boat racing, dodgeball, eSports, and trail running.
An outdoor Festival Village will be opened near the harbor in central Hong Kong that will showcase art and cultural events and exhibits as well as performing arts events including daily performances by bands, dance groups, and vocalists that have been associated with the Gay Games for many years, according to literature released by organizers.
Members of the organizing team also pointed to what they consider an historic first. The location of the Gay Games in Hong Kong will mark the first time in its 40-year history that the quadrennial event will be held in Asia.
“Unity is the key message of Gay Games Hong Kong,” said Dennis Philipse, a Hong Kong resident and the founder and co-chair of Gay Games Hong Kong.
“Carrying a torch of empowerment and connection in Hong Kong serves to bring our community together in this important time for our city,” he said in a statement.
“We are excited to welcome all the 12,000 participants and 75,000 spectators from 100 countries to the city as the Games serve to boost the local economy by 1 billion Hong Kong dollars,” he said.
Neither Philipse nor the other Gay Games Hong Kong organizers who spoke at the webinar mentioned the political strife and turmoil that has unfolded in Hong Kong beginning several years ago when pro-democracy protesters began a series of almost daily demonstrations, some of which turned violent. Many of the protesters said they were raising strong objections to China’s growing efforts in recent years to gain control of the local Hong Kong government that protesters say violates China’s international agreement in 1997 with Great Britain to allow Hong Kong to govern itself in domestic affairs for 50 years as a condition for Britain to cede Hong Kong to China.
The protests and virtually all of the episodes of violence appear to have stopped in July of this year shortly after China intervened by enacting a “national security” law that bypassed Hong Kong’s local legislature and which essentially bans demonstrations against the government of Hong Kong or China. The law defines such demonstrations as “sedition” and “subversion of state power” and calls for punishment of up to life in prison for violating the new law.
Federation of Gay Games spokesperson Shiv Paul told the Washington Blade in a statement that the Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 organizing team has created a contingency planning committee that has developed plans to address “potential scenarios/risks such as an on-going pandemic, social unrest or unseasonal weather events.”
“We are closely monitoring the health, political, sporting, travel, and international events that could impact the delivery of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong,” Paul said. “Plans are in development so that we have prepared actions that would assist in mitigating the potential impact of any unfortunate circumstances that might arise.”
Paul added that there has not been a recurrence in “protest violence” in Hong Kong since the new national security law took effect in July of this year.
“The National Security Law (NSL) targets activities that endanger national security (secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces),” he said. “It does not have any bearing on LGBT+ affairs or sporting competitions,” Paul stated in his statement. “Based on our assessment to date, we do not expect the NSL will have any direct impact on the Gay Games taking place in Hong Kong.”
Added Paul, “Once the coronavirus pandemic is more settled, we anticipate Hong Kong will deliver a strong program of events to rebuild the tourism industry and Gay Games Hong Kong will be well timed to be a strong event within these plans.”
Philipse and others who spoke at the Nov. 12 webinar from Hong Kong said LGBTQ supportive sports organizations and businesses in Hong Kong have expressed strong support for the Gay Games and have made financial contributions to support the city’s ability to hold the Games. Organizers also point out that local Hong Kong government officials have also expressed support for the Games.
“Becoming Asia’s first city to host Gay Games isn’t just a cause for pride and celebration for Hong Kong,” said Ricky CHU Man-kin, chairperson of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission. “It drives home the message that the LGBTI community and indeed all in society deserve to be visible, represented and included in sports and other areas of life,” CHU Man-kin said in a statement released by Gay Games Hong Kong 2022.
A 60-minute video recording of the webinar organized by Gay Games Hong Kong can be accessed through this link.
Additional information about Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 can be accessed here.
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that in order to compete in events between 400 metres and a mile, she must take hormones to reduce her natural testosterone levels – or else be considered illegible.
She said at the time: “I refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am.
“Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history.
“I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born. I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere.”
Refusing to back down, Semenya has now decided to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
According to Reuters, her lawyer Greg Nott said in a statement: “We will be taking World Athletics to the European Court of Human Rights. We remain hopeful that World Athletics will see the error it has made and reverse the prohibitive rules which restrict Ms Semenya from competing.”
Alongside her dazzling athletic career, Semenya has become a role model for queer people around the world in her fight for equality.