Winning never felt so good. And by hosting the World OutGames, Miami has done just that. The 10-day global LGBTQ-focused event licensed by the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA) has previously been held in Montreal, Copenhagen and Antwerp, making the Miami edition only the fourth edition of the event and the first time it is held in a U.S. city. Featuring more than 450 sporting competitions, as well as cultural events and a three-day Global LGBTQI Human Rights Conference, the overall goal is to promote the equality, strength, health and visibility of the LGBTQ community through sports, culture and human rights.
World OutGames is incredibly different from most other sporting competitions in its mission of inclusivity. “We are proud to bring World OutGames to the United States as a global statement of unity, inclusiveness and healthy competition,” says Ivan Cano, CEO of World OutGames Miami. GLISA — which was created in 2004 after an international think tank concluded that gay and lesbian sports clubs and teams around the world had a unique set of needs that were not being met — takes pains to provide athletes, coaches, managers, trainers and referees with opportunities to be involved in the games without fear of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex, physical or mental ability, marital status, ethnicity, color, nationality, religion or age.
“There are not many opportunities for same-sex dancers to compete,” says River Tumbleweed, who will be competing in the couples category with her wife, Sunny. The two women have been invloved in same-sex dancing for four years. Sunny even proposed at one of their competitions. The Tumbleweeds will also be part of the Country Western Dance Team, Scandalous, which is sponsored by Scandals Saloon. “We feel very fortunate for the opportunity to showcase our talents in a safe yet highly competitive environment.”
Diego Suarez, who first took up swimming 10 years ago to relax and exercise, is also excited about the games. “When I was competing in Stockholm, Sweden at the 2015 Eurogames, it was announced that Miami had won the bid for 2017 World OutGames, and I was ecstatic to be able to participate in the games in my hometown,” he says. “I will be participating in the swimming events and playing water polo for the first time.”
While there are no qualifying standards to participate in individual categories, competitions are arranged according to skill level. Venues across Miami-Dade, from Marlins Studium — where the opening ceremonies will be held — to Tropical Park and the University of Miami will host matches, races, meets and games ranging from basketball, beach volleyball and flag football to synchronized swimming, bodybuilding and dance sport.
Suarez is eager to “get in the water,” but he is also looking forward to the festive ambience World OutGames promotes. “The most exciting event every year is the speedo party, which is a tradition that is held by swimmers,” he says. He is also anticipating Pink Flamingo, an IGLA drag-show-meets-aqua-follies-synchro tradition that pits rival teams against each other in a fabulously friendly competition.
Beyond sporting events, World OutGames offers a cultural component that is slated to include art, architecture, music, dance, film and poetry. “Our three pillars — Sports, Culture and Human Rights — are at the core of everything we do,” says Cano.
As part of the program, a number of varied activities and events will be hosted by notable local LGBTQ organizations and groups throughout the city. Opening the cultural presentation, the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus celebrates the Village People’s 40th anniversary with a show at the Colony Theatre entitled It Takes a Village, People!
ARTworkOUT reflects the overarching message of the games by combining athleticism with artistic endeavor and intellectual stiumulation. Comprised of cultural, sports and wellness empowerment classes, it is presented by the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) in conjunction with Equinox fitness centers.
Marlins Park is offering a behind-the-scenes tour of the state-of-the-art stadium, followed by a home game between the Marlins and the Phillies, as part of the architecture portion of the cultural program.
In an additional nod to local architecture, community activist, historian, preservationist and freelance writer, Herb Sosa, will discuss the contributions of the LGBTQ community to the historic preservation movement — at a local and global level — in Preservation Under the Rainbow, presented at the Art Deco Welcome Center in Miami Beach by the Miami Preservation League.
For something a little more risqué, the city of Copenhagen is treating Miami’s participants to an exhibit titled Sex and the Sea. Part of the OutCities program, this special collaboration is meant to strengthen ties between destinations that share an interest in promoting LGBTQ equality and inclusivity. A previous World OutGames host, Copenhagen is actually sponsoring a number of activities. Docked at Museum Park Miami, the Georg Stage training ship sets the stage for author and radio producer Pejk Malinovski’s presentation about love at sea. The audio walk is sponsored by the Danish Maritime Museum.
Back on land, culture vultures can explore the Wynwood Art District as tour guide, Thom Wheeler-Castillo, discusses how the textile warehouse and immigrant neighborhood formerly known as Little San Juan evolved into one of the world’s largest outdoor art galleries.
On stage at the Colony Theatre, Diego Salterini and Hannah Baumgarten present the landmark Edward Stierle production, Dance NOW! and literature lovers should not miss the Favorite Poem Project event. It will feature a special appearance by the project’s founder — and the 39th Poet Laureate of the U.S. — Robert Pinsky.
In honor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting victims, City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, along with various leaders of the local LGBTQ community, will host the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus at SoundScape Park at the New World Center.
Also in remembrance of the 2016 shooting at the Orlando night club, the multi-disciplinary artistic exhibition, Pulse Points, presents a dynamic, inventive response to the tragedy. Curated by Cameron Basden and Octavio Campos and held at the New World Center, Pulse Points will feature drummers, dancers, DJs, choral voices and many other artists and performers from South Florida.
The Global LGBTQI Human Rights Conference is making its debut at World OutGames Miami. Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the conference is set to host speakers from a wide swath of countries with varying degrees of LGBTQ protections. Their stories are meant to highlight the global nature of the challenges and successes that LGBTQ people face.
Plenary speaker Juana Mora Cedeño, a Cuban LGBTQ activist, is sponsored by the International Institute for Race, Equality and Human Rights. Other plenary speakers include Tamara Adrian, the first transgender lawmaker in Venezuela’s National Assembly; Surat-Shaan Khan, a transgender interfaith Jewish activist famously known for his Rainbow Pilgrim Project; and Amini Fonua, a competitive swimmer from Tonga and New Zealand.
For more information, visit outgames.org.