Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I See Gay People...

I am so proud of Chicago! I am proud to live in a city that is proud and out loud about it's support of the GLBT community. I mean the mayor wants to showcase the city through us. Cool.
We attended the first official Gay Games VII event Saturday morning at 7AM.
The International Rainbow Memorial Run is the symbolic "torch" relay to bring the Rainbow Flag from San Fransico, the "Athens" of the Gay Games, around the world to Gay Games VII in Chicago. The last run event bringing the flag to the 2006 Games culminated at historic Rainbow Beach on South Shore Drive. What a beautiful and emotional morning.
I am an emotional person, what can I say.. Rainbow is a gorgeous beach, the morning was warm but not hot yet, the sun was INTENSE! OMG! BRIGHT! We had been out late over on North Halsted where the usual number of Friday night peeps were tripled, many speaking languages other than English. It is wonderful and exciting.

I am sort of an Olympic nut, so I remember each time the torch traveled through Chicago. I have actually held an Olympic torch, but the running of the Rainbow Flag has even more meaning to me. The Rainbow Run events done in conjuction with Front Runners Clubs and Names Project, raises AIDS awareness and is dedicated to the
memory of GLBT people around the world lost to AIDS with a specific remembrance of Gay Games founder Dr. Tom Waddell.
And, on it's journey to Chicago, this Rainbow Flag was used to lead the very first Pride Parade in a Black township in Africa. 150 marchers took to the streets in Guguletu, Cape Town in what was considered as a triumphant two weeks after a 17 year old girl was beaten and stabbed to death because of her sexuality.

Saturday, there was a signing of a memorial quilt and the pouring of libations for those we have loss to AIDS as my friend Carole's Drummer group accompanied in traditional African garb. NBC5's Lee Ann Trotter was the MC and Keith Boykin gave the moving keynote speech. We gave Tracy Baim (co-chair GGVII) a supportive hug because the week she's worked so hard for had begun, and talked with Lee Ann Trotter about homophobia, her public support, AIDS, and the opening ceremonies that night in which she was going to enjoy as a spectator, not as a reporter. Good to have people in the media that have your back.
Opening Ceremony Gay Games VII
First, we should have taken Metra. We thought about it but decided to drive. Wrong! The parking was $35 blankety-blank dollars at Soldier Field! Oh Well, they have to pay for that flying saucer sitting on top of this beautiful classic Greek architecture. Yuck. Surprise though, inside it is looks very, very nice. The flying saucer actually cut the sun's heat and glare and it was extrememly comfy inside. I do miss the look of the columns of the old building, but it is quite pleasant looking, comfy seats and great sight lines. Soldier Field may have lost it's landmark status since that saucer landed, but it is more user friendly. We got there early. Even though we are about five minutes from Soldier Field we didn't know what to expect traffic wise, so we had time to chill, walk around and go looking for friends.

Again, I see gay people....they came! Thousands of them. I love it.
First, acknowledgements to the Federation of Gay Games and the Chicago Board and staff and volunteers. Speeches by Keith Boykin and others and Megan Mulally introduced Mayor Daley. His speech was quite astonishing in it's passion yet his incredulous attitude reminded me of Lee Ann Trotter's that morning. He said in essence, he just can't understand what all the big deal is. These are people who are here and are going to be here. These are people we know, people in our families, people in every facet of society. So what is all the fuss about. That's his attitude. I say amen.

The athlete march began with San Franciso, followed by the nations, some in native garb. Then the announcer said "And now we have one lone athlete from Uganda." He received a standing ovation and the pride was evident in his strut and grin. It had to take courage and determination for this African man to travel here with his gay self. Next, the USA came out by States. It was interesting noting the number of athletes in certain states, especially the "red" states. Utah had a surprisingly large number and Wyoming had only one. "The great state of California" had more athletes than the entire world. Good grief! New York was well represented but last to strut out was CHICAGO. OMG! What a contingent! "And Chicago is still coming" 2500 strong! WOOHOO!
Chicago athletes enthusiastically come on the field last as the host city.

The world's athletes come to Chicago.

The rest of the evening was divided into four sections to tell the story of gay history. Exclusion, Oppression, Expression and Ignition were told via dance, songs and speakers. The GLBT community was represented by a lone man who acted out each stage.

Highlights were, Billy Porter, very funny Maragret Cho, totally rocking Andy Bell, expressing our anger was passionate cursing and I do mean cussin' Stacyann Chin. Woo! This lady's wrath woke up the house! Raising of the Gay Games flag escorted by my friend Eric, yayyyyy!! And the streaker! Of course there was a streaker, (nice butt).
Ignition, was very exciting with the GLBT guy now "out" and in silver pants doing cartwheels and dancing and running with chariots. Then tremendous fireworks and the lighting of the torch.

Monica said it was like being in her own little world. It was amazing the feelings I had. It was not like the Pride Parade that takes place on Halsted, we are allowed that. But this was huge, and OK and all over the city. It is about more than races and accuracy and faster, higher, stronger. It is about being free to be us without fear and having others, GLBT or not, want to join us. I think the Gay Games are expressing as passionately as Staceyann Chin did, our determination to not be closeted, not be restricted in who we love, where we work, if we can serve our country, teach children, and not be used as political pawns. Now I am going out there and enjoy the Gay Games in Chicago!

Athletes from New Orleans

The athletes make a rainbow.

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