Tokyo will open Pride House, Japan’s first permanent such center, next month to raise awareness of LGBTQ rights before and during the rearranged Olympic Games in 2021.
Although there have been similar initiatives before previous Games, organizers said Pride House Tokyo, which will open its doors on International Coming Out Day on October 11, is the first to get official International Olympic Committee backing.
“Pride House Tokyo aims to educate the world and also Japan of the difficulties the LGBTQ community has playing and enjoying sports … while helping create a safe space for the community too,” Pride House Tokyo said in a statement on Monday.
“Many people might think that Japan is a human rights defender, but actually there are no laws to protect LGBTQ people.”
It is traditional for most nations competing at the Olympics to have a hospitality “house,” where they promote their country and hold parties for winning athletes.
Gon Matsunaka, the head of Good Aging Yells, one of the organizations supporting the project, said Japan lags behind many other developed nations when it comes to LGBTQ rights.
“Many people might think that Japan is a human rights defender, but actually there are no laws to protect LGBTQ people,” Matsunaka told Reuters via email.
“Society is filled with prejudice, discrimination and harassment towards LGBTQ community.”
“While we have to change the sports arena, we also hope Pride House Legacy can help change society as a whole as well.”
Officials with Gay Games Hong Kong 2022, the committee organizing the quadrennial international LGBTQ sports event scheduled to take place in Hong Kong in November 2022, announced at an online webinar on Aug. 27 that a “contingency planning committee” has been created to address potential “risks” associated with the event.
Although those risks include the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing “social unrest” in Hong Kong, organizers stated during the webinar that the Hong Kong government remains highly supportive of the Gay Games. They said a team of more than 100 volunteers is working diligently to safely accommodate the thousands of LGBTQ athletes and spectators expected to arrive in Hong Kong in November 2022.
The webinar took place less than two months after China enacted a highly controversial security law giving the Hong Kong government greater authority in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters who have been holding demonstrations, some of which have become violent, for more than a year.
The Federation of Gay Games, the international governing body that oversees the Gay Games, reaffirmed its decision to select Hong Kong as host for the 2022 Gay Games during its Annual General Assembly meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico last November. One year earlier, the FGG selected Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, who were the two finalist cities competing with Hong Kong, to become the host city for the games.
FGG officials have predicted at least 12,000 athletes will participate in 36 sports in the 2022 Gay Games, with at least 75,000 spectators expected to turn out in Hong Kong to watch the games and participate in at least 20 accompanying arts and cultural events.
“As mentioned in the webinar, Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 has set up a contingency planning committee and has drawn up a contingency plan to cover specific risks, like the pandemic and social unrest,” said Federation of Gay Games spokesperson Shiv Paul in response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade.
“FGG with GGHK are closely monitoring the health, political, sporting, travel, and international events that could impact the delivery of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2022,” Paul said. “Contingency plans are in development to mitigate the potential impact any unfortunate circumstances might cause,” he said.
“The team on the ground in Hong Kong are doing an excellent job in keeping the board up to date with concerns surrounding Hong Kong,” Paul quoted Joanie Evans, co-president of the FGG, as saying.
Paul added, “The GGHK team is composed of a team of 100 passionate LGBTQ+ volunteers and are looking forward to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games, first in Asia. They happily make Hong King their home, feeling safe in the ability to lead out, productive lives. The organization cannot speculate on sensationalized unconfirmed preconceptions.”
He was referring to a question from the Blade asking whether China might force local Hong Kong officials to arrest Gay Games spectators from Europe, North America or elsewhere if they make statements critical of China during the Gay Games cultural events.
Under the sweeping national security law enacted by China earlier this year, Hong Kong officials have made numerous arrests of dissidents denouncing China for infringing on what dissidents say was China’s 1997 agreement with the United Kingdom to allow Hong Kong to remain a semiautonomous region of China for 50 years after the British handed over its former colony to China.
Paul said the Hong Kong government has been involved in the Gay Games Hong Kong organizers’ application process for holding the Games in Hong Kong beginning in 2016.
“GGHK has been having ongoing and regular communications with multiple departments of the Hong Kong government to ensure that they are kept abreast of the process and support required from the government,” Paul told the Blade.
“In all the interactions GGHK is having with the Hong Kong government, support continues to grow within the Hong Kong government regarding GGHK,” he said. “New allies are offering support as it will be one of the biggest events to take place in Hong Kong during the next few years and stands to positively impact on the city,” said Paul.
“If I have hurt anyone out there I can’t tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart I am so very, very sorry,” he said.
Brennaman also acknowledged the uncertain fate of his job.
“I don’t know if I’ll be putting on this headset again,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be for the Reds. I don’t know if it’s going to be for my bosses at Fox. I want to apologize for the people who sign my paycheck, for the Reds, for Fox Sports Ohio, for the people I work with, for anybody that I’ve offended here tonight.”
Shortly afterward, the Reds announced his suspension.
“The Cincinnati Reds organization is devastated by the horrific, homophobic remark made this evening by broadcaster Thom Brennaman,” the statement said. “He was pulled off the air, and effective immediately was suspended from doing Reds broadcasts.”
The Reds “will be addressing our broadcast team in coming days,” the statement said, adding that the organization has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination.
“In no way does this incident represent our players, coaches, organization, or our fans,” the statement said. “We share our sincerest apologies to the LGBTQ+ community in Cincinnati, Kansas City, all across this country, and beyond.”
Brennaman’s father, Marty Brennaman, a former broadcaster and play-by-play announcer for the Reds, told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Wednesday that the language heard on the air doesn’t represent his son.
“As a dad, I hurt for him,” Marty Brennaman said. “What he said is not a reflection of who Thom Brennaman is. I know that’s not him. But I also feel terrible for the people the comment offended.”
In a report published this week, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recommends that eligibility regulations for women athletes like those enforced by World Athletics, track and field’s global governing body, be revoked immediately.
The regulations target women athletes with some variations in their sex characteristics that cause their natural testosterone levels to be higher than typical. The regulations deny these women the right to participate as women for running events between 400 meters and 1 mile unless they submit to invasive testing and medically unnecessary procedures. There is no clear scientific consensus that women with naturally occurring higher-than-typical testosterone have a performance advantage in athletics. There are no similar regulations for men.
These regulations rose to prominence as a result of the decade-long controversy surrounding South African runner Caster Semenya, who lost her appeal for equal treatment in the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year. Semenya’s case came in the wake of another groundbreaking fight against gender discrimination in sports by courageous Indian sprinter, Dutee Chand. Runners in Kenya, Burundi, and Uganda have also been negatively affected by the regulations.
The UN’s report roundly criticizes the regulations, saying they “create the risk of unethical medical practice” by blurring the line between informed consent and coercion and encouraging medically unnecessary procedures (a critique the World Medical Association issued previously). The report also points to the power imbalances between the doctors affiliated with sporting bodies and athletes, saying: “in sport, such power imbalances are compounded by athletes’ dependency on the sports federations requiring such medical interventions and the frequent absence of adequate and holistic support during the decision-making process.”
These regulations are stigmatizing, stereotyping, and discriminatory, and have no place in sport or society. They amount to a policing of women’s bodies on the basis of arbitrary definitions of femininity and racial stereotypes.
The report authors call on sporting bodies such as World Athletics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to carry out “in conjunction with athletes, public education campaigns to counter gender-stereotyped and racist attitudes to address negative and stereotypical portrayals of women and girl athletes in the media, including attitudes about appropriate norms of femininity.”
Indeed, as the convener of global sport, the IOC should lead in upholding human rights.
Lesbian athletes Billie Jean King and Megan Rapinoe are calling on the National Collegiate Athletics Association to move a major basketball competition from Idaho in the wake of the state enacting a law barring transgender girls from playing in school sports.
In a letter dated June 10, the athletes ask to “move all NCAA championship events in 2021 out of Idaho,” which is currently set to host the 2021 Men’s Basketball Championship that year.
“As the unifying governing body of college athletics, the NCAA has tremendous power in setting the standard for how values of diversity and inclusion can be reflected in policies and practices, and inspiring athletes, teams, schools and other institutions to do the same,” the letter says. “This is the time for the NCAA to stand with us on the right side of history, in support of the rights of all athletes in Idaho to compete in the sports they love.”
Nearly 50 professional, Olympic and Paralympic athletes signed the letter, including Jason Collins, the first openly gay man to play men’s professional basketball, and Chris Mosier, a transgender advocate and triathlete.
Separate letters from advocacy groups and more than 400 college student-athletes were made public Wednesday also denouncing House Bill 500, an anti-trans measure quietly signed into law by Idaho Gov. Brad Little at the height of the coronavirus crisis, and they call on the NCAA to move sports events out of the state.
The law requires college and public school sports teams to be designed as male, female and co-ed — and any female athletic team “shall not be open to students of the male sex.”
In the event of a dispute, a student may be required to produce a physician’s statement to affirm her biological sex based on reproductive anatomy, normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone and an analysis of the student’s genetic makeup.
That would effectively ban transgender athletes from participating in sports. Although similar measures had been percolating in state legislatures, Idaho is the first state to enact such a law.
Hudson Taylor, executive director of LGBTQ group Athlete Ally, said in a statement the athletes against House Bill 500 “took a powerful stand in support of trans athletes having equal access and opportunity in sport.”
“With one unified voice, professional athletes, student athletes and advocacy groups are demanding the NCAA stand on the right side of history by reaffirming their commitment to ensuring sport is safe and welcoming for all, and that trans athletes are able to be fully who they are on and off the playing field,” Taylor said.
Prior to the enactment of House Bill 500, Idaho High School Activities Association already had in its rules a requirement that transgender girls “complete one year of hormone treatment related to the gender transition before competing on a girls team.”
According to the Idaho Statesman, IHSAA says as of March 2020 it had “received just a couple of inquiries about Idaho’s policy and has fielded occasional calls about potential transgender athletes over the past five or six years, but so far, Idaho has not had an athlete use the policy.”
Although the NCAA hasn’t yet indicated it would move sports events from Idaho over enactment of House Bill 500, the organization did issue a statement against the law, according to advocacy groups.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for policy and action with the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement the sports league should back up its earlier stated opposition with action.
“Transgender athletes deserve the same dignity and respect entitled to all NCAA athletes. Because of HB 500, that simply isn’t possible in Idaho,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “We applaud the NCAA for speaking out against HB 500 and now encourage them to back up their words with action.”
If the NCAA decides to move sports events from Idaho over the law, it wouldn’t be the first time the league has taken such action over an anti-trans measure.
When North Carolina passed House Bill 2, which prohibited transgender people from using restrooms in government buildings consistent with their gender identity, the NCAA joined other sports leagues and businesses in cancelling events in the state.
Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed House Bill 2, lost re-election to now-Gov. Roy Cooper, who worked with the legislature to enact a compromise measure loosening the anti-trans restrictions under the law (although transgender advocates still objected to it).
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement “full participation in school sports is fundamentally a civil and human rights issue.”
“Anti-transgender discrimination has no place in any of our institutions, including school athletics,” Gupta said. “The NCAA must uphold its own non-discrimination policy, and we urge them to relocate games from Idaho while HB 500 is law.”
Meanwhile, litigation against House Bill 500, which was filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Idaho, Legal Voice, and Cooley LLP, remains pending in federal court.
Arli Christian, campaign strategist for the ACLU, said in a statement “transgender people belong everywhere — and that includes in sports and in Idaho.”
“While the lawsuit against the state of Idaho moves through the courts, it is important for everyone to speak out so that Idaho — and the rest of the country — sees how misguided and dangerous this law is,” Christian said.
The Washington Blade has placed a request with the NCAA seeking comment on whether the organization will move events from Idaho over the anti-trans law.
Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender girls to compete as girls in high school sports violates the civil rights of athletes who have always identified as female, the U.S. Education Department has determined in a decision that could force the state to change course to keep federal funding and influence others to do the same.
A letter from the department’s civil rights office, a copy of which was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, came in response to a complaint filed last year by several cisgender female track athletes who argued that two transgender female runners had an unfair physical advantage.
The office said in the 45-page letter that it may seek to withhold federal funding over the policy, which allows athletes to participate under the gender with which they identify. The policy is a violation of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education opportunities for women, including in athletics, the office said.
It has “denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals in events, higher level competitions, awards, medals, recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits,” according to the letter, which is dated May 15.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference says its policy complies with a state law barring schools from discriminating against transgender students.
“Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports,” the athletic conference said in a statement. “To do otherwise would not only be discriminatory but would deprive high school students of the meaningful opportunity to participate in educational activities, including inter-scholastic sports, based on sex-stereotyping and prejudice sought to be prevented by Title IX and Connecticut state law.”
The federal decision carries implications beyond Connecticut, said Roger Brooks, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the girls who brought the complaint.
“Around the nation, districts are going to want to be reading this, because it does have legal implications,” he said. “It is a first decision from the agency charged with enforcing Title IX addressing the question of whether males on the playing field or on the track are depriving girls of opportunities consistent with Title IX.”
The decision by the civil rights office names the conference, along with the school districts for which the transgender runners and those filing the complaint competed — Glastonbury, Bloomfield, Hartford, Cromwell, Canton and Danbury.
The office said it will “either initiate administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue and defer financial assistance” to the conference and those districts or refer the cases to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In its letter, the civil rights office said that it notified the athletic conference and the school districts of its pending decision in February, but that later negotiations failed to result in an agreement.
“All that today’s finding represents is yet another attack from the Trump administration on transgender students,” said Chase Strangio, who leads transgender justice initiatives for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT and HIV Project.
“Trans students belong in our schools, including on sports teams, and we aren’t backing down from this fight,” Strangio said.
The dispute, already the subject of a federal lawsuit, centers on two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who have frequently outperformed their competitors, winning a combined 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017, according to the lawsuit.
The ACLU’s lawyers for the transgender athletes have argued both are undergoing hormone treatments that have put them on an equal footing with the girls they are competing against.
Brooks said he hopes the judge in the lawsuit will take the Education Department decision into consideration.
One of the plaintiffs, Chelsea Mitchell, won two state indoor title races over Miller this year.
Mitchell, a senior, said Thursday that she is both happy and relieved by the Department of Education’s decision.
“It feels like we are finally headed in the right direction, and that we will be able to get justice for the countless girls along with myself that have faced discrimination for years,” she said. “It is liberating to know that my voice, my story, my loss, has been heard; that those championships I lost mean something.”
The plaintiffs sought to block the participation of Miller and Yearwood, both seniors, from spring track meets, which were later canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were also seeking to erase all records set by the transgender athletes.
Connecticut is one of 18 states, along with Washington, D.C., that allow transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions, according to Transathlete.com.
Several other states have polices barring the participation of transgender athletes, and Idaho recently became the first to pass a law banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports.
The ACLU and Legal Voice filed a federal lawsuit contending that law violates the U.S. Constitution because it is discriminatory and an invasion of privacy.
This is being done in the name of safety and fairness in sport for cisgender women and girls.
But the scientific evidence for excluding trans women and girls from sport on the basis this will maintain fairness for cisgender women and girls doesn’t exist, as Dr Vinny Chulani, director of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Program, explained in an interview yesterday with them.
“This is a decision that is really not based on science,” said Chulani, an esteemed practitioner in the field of LGBT+ care.
“There are so many characteristics that contribute to excellence in sports. And the same attributes don’t always carry over from one sport to the next. You need different skills for golfing than you need for archery, basketball, soccer, or gymnastics.
“Plus, there’s not really any sound body of evidence that speaks to the advantage that testosterone confers. When you take a look at some of the studies that have been done on transgender females in terms of their athletic ability, it overlaps with the range that you would find in cisgender women.
Chulani added that there were huge misunderstandings about sex, gender and bodies among legislators and those advocating for the exclusion of trans women from sport.
“Bills like Idaho’s fail to recognise the diversity within the transgender female population.
“They also fail to understand the biology of puberty and where we are presently in terms of treatment, specifically with puberty blockers.
“Remember that when you take a look at pre-pubertal bodies, assigned male and assigned female bodies look a lot alike; it’s not until puberty that they go their different ways under the influence of sex steroids…
“Nowadays, if you have a patient in early puberty who was assigned male at birth and has gender distress or gender questions, we can use puberty blockers to suppress male puberty.
“They would not develop the traits that would theoretically afford them the advantage. Yet this child, under Idaho law, would still be excluded.”
Chulani went on to talk about what he sees as a huge problem with the bill – how to implement a law that will “force women to prove their womanhood”.
With the burden of proof on those accused of not being women, those who cannot afford blood tests or genital exams to offer up medical evidence to schools and colleges that they are female will not be able to play sports.
“The other thing that’s crazy about this is that it’s being applied to kids in K-12,” Chulani said.
“That means the rules for participating in K-12 sports will be more stringent than those governing the Olympics.”
Finally, Chulani said, it’s important not to lose sight of what this bill really is: part of a larger anti-trans movement.
“This law in Idaho has to be viewed in the context of the march that we are seeing in legislative houses across the country,” he said. “Let’s not be ignorant, right? This is part of a larger anti-transgender agenda.”
Former US open-runner Scott Piercy lost several major endorsement deals Thursday for sharing a homophobic meme targeting former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and referencing far-right conspiracy theory QAnon.
Golf apparel brands Titleist and FootJoy, both owned up retailer Acushnet Holdings Co, alongside Swedish fashion house J Lindeberg, all dropped Piercy, Reuters reported.
“Whenever I post,” he wrote, “my intent is NEVER to offend. I want to apologise if any of my recent [sic] story posts have been offensive.
“I will do better!”
But the apology did little to minimise detractor’s fury. Titleist confirmed Tuesday it terminated Piercy’s contract, with FootJoy following.
Speaking to Morning Read, the 41-year-old acknowledged his “terrible lack of judgement” at sharing the meme.
Shortly after, clothing maker J Lindeberg issued a statement Thursday saying it had ended its contract with Piercy, too.
“When we choose our ambassadors, we choose individuals we know will represent us well on and off the golf course,” the statement read.
“The claims from Scott Piercy were unacceptable and far from our views and beliefs.
“We, J Lindeberg, as a company do not stand by the statements made by Piercy and we want to make sure our customers, employees, and other ambassadors know we support all communities and have no room for hate or discrimination in our company.”
Moreover, the star may face disciplinary action from the PGA Tour, according to ESPN, which said in statements it is “disappointed in the lack of judgement used” and that representatives had “addressed with Scott directly”.
The Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a controversial measure that bans transgender students from joining sports teams that do not align with their “biological sex.” The bill, which was passed by a deeply divided house with a majority Republican 31-29 vote, will now be sent to the state Senate. State Rep. Nancy Barto (R-AZ) proposed the measure, which will mandate public and private schools—including colleges in universities—to designate sports teams as either male or female based on how the law defines “biological sex.” Barto’s initial proposal required students to present a doctor’s statement that details their “internal and external reproductive anatomy” and “normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone.”
Democrats condemned the practice as invasive and Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D-AZ) called it the “show me your genitals law.” The revised bill will require students who want to participate in sports to take a genetic test. “We’re policing gender,” said Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez (D-AZ). “We’re trying to decide if that person is feminine enough or not feminine enough and we’re using that to justify subjecting our transgender athletes to additional barriers to participating in sports.”
The fairness of transgender athletes competing in women’s sports will be under the microscope in Australia on Sunday when New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard continues her bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Hubbard, who competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning seven years ago, will lift in the women’s 87-plus kg division in the Australian Open in Canberra on Sunday.
She kept her Olympic hopes alive by winning last month’s World Cup in Rome where she lifted 270kg, edging Ukraine’s Anastasiia Lysenko by 4kg.
The Australian Open offers another chance for 42-year-old Hubbard to shore up ranking points in qualifying, which requires lifters to compete in at least six events in an 18-month period before the Games.
Hubbard is eligible to compete in women’s events, according to the International Weightlifting Federation’s guidelines for the inclusion of transgender athletes. She is also eligible to lift at Tokyo if she qualifies.
The International Olympic Committee’s guidelines, issued in 2015, allow any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition.
Some scientists have criticized the guidelines, saying they do little to mitigate the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.
Sports like weightlifting, which place a premium on strength, are at the center of the debate.
Hubbard’s participation in women’s events has dismayed rival lifters and their coaches.
Her gold medal wins at the Pacific Games in Samoa last year, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa’s Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the island nation.
Australia’s weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at their home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 but organizers rejected their bid.
Australian former track athlete Tamsyn Manou, who won three Commonwealth golds competing as Tamsyn Lewis from 1998-2006, said on Thursday that women needed to “take a stand” over the inclusion of transgender athletes in their sports.
“There’s been a lot of people who are scared to come out and say anything because of political correctness,” Manou told local radio station 2GB.
Qualifying for Tokyo would be a triumph for the media-shy Hubbard, who thought her weightlifting career was over after suffering a serious arm injury at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Coming back from surgery, she has had unwavering support from Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand for her Tokyo bid.
“Nothing has changed for us,” Simon Kent, OWNZ’s head of high performance told Reuters. “We are still following the same parameters we have since the get-go. We follow the IOC protocols and as Laurel said, she meets (them).”