Jock Talk: 4 LGBTQ+ groups drop support for Valencia, Spain as Gay Games host

  • by Roger Brigham
  • Tuesday May 28, 2024
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Gay Games Co-Presidents Joanie Evans and Jan Schneider have assured stakeholders that the 2026 event will go on as planned in Valencia, Spain despite the withdrawal of four LGBTQ+ organizations. Photos: Courtesy FGG
Gay Games Co-Presidents Joanie Evans and Jan Schneider have assured stakeholders that the 2026 event will go on as planned in Valencia, Spain despite the withdrawal of four LGBTQ+ organizations. Photos: Courtesy FGG

The election a year ago of a right-leaning coalition city government in Valencia, Spain triggered several local LGBTQ+ organizations this week to drop their support of the 2026 Gay Games being held in that city. The Federation of Gay Games immediately responded by saying it understood and regretted the departure of those organizations, but felt it was important to go forward with the games as planned.

"The last thing we want as an organization is that local LGBTQ+ entities do not support our event in their city, state and country," Federation of Gay Games co-presidents Jan Schneider and Joanie Evans wrote Gay Games stakeholders Monday, May 27. "However, we respect their decision to withdraw but continue to work with the other LGBTQ+ entities that maintain their connection with us."

Gay Games XII is scheduled to be held in Valencia in June or July 2026, with specific dates yet to be announced.

Earlier Monday, Valencia Diversity Foundation (FVD) accused local government officials of "hijacking" the Valencia Gay Games organization and said it was withdrawing its support of the event along with its three member entities: Lambda-LGBT+ Collective for Sexual, Gender, and Family Diversity; Avegal Association of Companies and Professionals for Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals, and Bisexuals of the Valencian Community; and LGBTQ+ Sports Club Dracs València.

"We deeply value the support and contributions that these four LGBTQ+ entities have made to the development and organization of the event so far, and we regrettably accept their decision to withdraw," the FGG said in its press statement. "We would like to extend our gratitude to them for their hard work, past support, and collaboration."

Holding fast in its support of the Valencia games at least for now is Samarucs, whose website reports it is "the longest running LGBTQ+ Sports Club in Valencia, boasting 18 years of uninterrupted activity" and a supporter of the FGG and European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation, which runs the EuroGames.

The FGG had been negotiating with the city and the LGBTQ+ groups the past few months without success. Valencia has been governed the past year by a coalition of the conservative People's Party, and the far-right party Vox. Reuters reports Vox is "anti-Muslim, anti-feminist, socially conservative, economically liberal, and opposes Spain's political system of devolved government." Toss in it being homophobic and increasingly aggressive in attacking transgender rights, and you've pretty much got the picture.

In a phone call with Gay Games stakeholders May 28, FGG board representatives said they had received assurances from government officials that venues would be provided, athletes would be able to compete under the gender with which they identify, participants would be free to express themselves, and the government would not interfere in operations. In other words, the Gay Games would reflect the values of the progressive national government rather than the more extremist elements of local government.

"We're confident the people making the decisions are on our side," FGG communications officer Duncan Campbell said. "These people want to do a good job."

The situation in Valencia unfolds against a backdrop of what the FGG referred to as "the ongoing erosion of LGBTQ+ rights and funding that is occurring throughout the world, particularly as a result of the growing support for right-wing governments."

Then again, isn't that pretty much the backdrop against which the Gay Games have always been held? Indeed, isn't that pretty much the justification for its existence, to stand and compete and celebrate when elements of society and government would wish us out of existence?

"We believe it is essential for the LGBTQ+ community to be proudly visible everywhere in the world," stated the FGG release. "Our visibility highlights the struggles we face, and shines a light on the needs of our community, especially where we lack rights and respect. We want the Gay Games to be a beacon of light for the LGBTQ+ community, a place where every member of our community can find a safe and inclusive space to be their authentic selves, and this is needed even more in countries or communities which lack LGBTQ+ rights. As a community we have a responsibility to be visible in the face of adversity."

In its release, FVD said it continued to support Gay Games 2026 but that the event should be removed from Valencia and held in a city such as Munich, Germany.

"In case the Gay Games Federation finally decided to keep Valencia as its headquarters of the Gay Games 2026, the FVD unfortunately will be forced to strongly oppose the project and call for a boycott of the event at the local, national, and internationally, being certain that it will have the understanding and support of multiple friendly entities and organizations, as well as society in general," FVD wrote.

In response, the FGG wrote, "We want to reassure all stakeholders that the Gay Games in Valencia will proceed as planned. We firmly believe that Valencia is the ideal host city for our Games, and we are confident in the continued collaboration with the Valencia City Council to deliver a successful and memorable event. Having worked alongside the local community for a number of years, we know our event holds immense significance to them and local businesses, as well as across Spain and Europe."

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