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Celebrating 40 Years of the Gay Games

To celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, myGwork member Douglas Litwin, a longstanding board member and archivist at the Federation of the Gay Games, shares the 40-year history of the Gay Games, as well as stories of the record breakers, along with the impact the event has had on the community worldwide.

 Opening ceremony of the first Gay Games in 1982. Image credit: Federation of the Gay Games

What better way to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK than to focus on the international Gay Games which is currently celebrating its 40th Anniversary. Founded in 1982 in San Francisco, the Gay Games has a proud history of staging life-changing sports and cultural events in countries around the world. Through sports and culture, the Gay Games has altered stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people and educated millions about that amazing community and what it has achieved. Simply stated, the Gay Games is the world's largest sporting and cultural event open to all and is built on the core principles of participation, inclusion, and personal best.


To tell the story of the Gay Games, the parent non-profit Federation of Gay Games has published “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition.” It is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception in August 2022. The 40 day series of posts started 28 July 2022 – one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium – through 5 September, the 1982 anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings continue to remain online and available for viewing on the Federation of Gay Games website.


Twelve of the 36 individuals contributing editorial content for this series participated in the inaugural Gay Games in 1982, with several participating in all ten Gay Games. Eight have served as FGG Board Co-Presidents, one is a world record holder, others are highly-regarded sports administrators from around the world. They all shared unique stories about the impact the Gay Games has made on their lives and communities.

These loyal individuals who've been to every one of the 10 Gay Games do not do this for personal glory, but rather to help show the world what the LGBTQ+ community is able to achieve, in spite of stereotypes that still pervade the global sporting world. These individuals include swimmers (Charlie Carson of New York City), wrestlers (Gene Dermody of Palm Springs, CA), bowlers (Jim Hahn of San Mateo, CA), and track and field athletes (Rick Thoman of San Francisco, CA). The Gay Games has seen the participation of such firsts as a swimming world record set at Gay Games III (1990 in Vancouver) by Michael Mealiffe of West Hollywood, CA, a 100-meter world record set at Gay Games IX (2014 in Cleveland) by 99-year old Ida Keeling, who was trained by and ran alongside her 63 year old daughter Cheryl, herself a world-record holder, and blind figure skater, 61-year old Stash Serafin who was allowed to participate at Gay Games IX (2014 in Cleveland). 

A number of famous athletes with professional and Olympic credentials that have also participated in the Gay Games lent their names to support the organization. The 40th anniversary of the Gay Games will continue to be celebrated through November 3–11, 2023 during Gay Games XI, being co-hosted (for the first time) in Hong Kong (first time in Asia) and Mexico’s Guadalajara (first time in Latin America). 


Registration for both events is now open:

Click here find out more and register for the Hong Kong Gay Games 2023. 

Click here find out more and register for Mexico’s Guadalajara Gay Games 2023.


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