Letters to the Editor

  • Wednesday August 9, 2006
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'American' Gay Games

I read with a slight smirk the column, "Chicago's Gay Games a success," [Sports Complex, July 27] the smirk coming from seeing the word "success."

As a participant at the last Gay Games in Sydney, I looked at the list of this year's participants in key sporting events after the medals ceremony in each sport. What was missing from the list of participants in each sport were nationals of Europe and Canada. Some sports had fewer than five athletes represented from those places.

I think an appropriate name for the event would be the "American Gay Games," since about 90 percent of the athletes were American.

Tragically, another large "gay sporting event" recently took place in Montreal. That event garnered gay athletes from Europe and Canada. I'm sure their promoters will call it a "success" in a few weeks as well.

Come on, gay community! How do we expect to be taken seriously by the power brokers of the straight world when we act like petty bitches regarding activities that are supposed to be representative of how together we are?

Larry Denger

Oakland, California

[Editor's note: According to Gay Games officials, approximately 2,700 of the nearly 12,000 athletes at Gay Games VII were from outside of the U.S., or about 77 percent were from the U.S. and 23 percent were from other countries.]

Embarrassed over split

As someone who has been depressed and embarrassed about the gay community ever since I heard about the Outgames split over money and power, the past week has been tough for me. I've always been so proud and impressed by the world coming together at the Gay Games; it almost makes me cry that 20-30 angry, bitchy people (on both sides) couldn't hold the community together. I don't know who did what, but I know the result. We are divided. And for that I don't know where to begin to find the ability to forgive them.

Thank you for Jim Provenzano's column ["Outgames a go," Sports Complex, August 3]. I have friends who chose to attend the Outgames, so I was glad to hear that they got to go to fun parties and mingle with cute gays from around the world. But good for Provenzano for not letting the world off the hook for this shameful, embarrassing moment in gay pride history.

Dan Dyer

San Francisco

We should be celebrating

Jim Provenzano's assessment of the Outgames is an extremely unbalanced column with an apparent agenda to de-legitimize the Outgames' efforts to create a new, exciting LGBT sports and cultural event, which has the potential to enrich our community. As a Bay Area Outgames athlete returning from an exciting and successful week in Montreal, it is disturbing to feel a lack of support from my "hometown" LGBT newspaper. We should continue to support the Gay Games, which has worked extremely hard over two decades to develop LGBT sports opportunities. We can also cheer the expansion of this movement now that LGBT world sports competitions will be organized more often than every four years.

We should be celebrating, not lamenting, that the Outgames succeeded in implementing its vision of a large scale sports and cultural event combined with an LGBT human rights conference. The very significant Canadian governmental and tourism board financial contributions, instead of being criticized as a sign of dependency, is a promising model of private-public cooperation with clear mutual benefits. It also demonstrates how Montreal and Canada are creating a society where the LGBT community can become an integral and equal participant and partner in events and Canadian society. I recognize that the financial concerns of the Federation of Gay Games that resulted in FGG's change from Montreal to Chicago to host the 2006 Gay Games are intended to avoid repeating past brushes with bankruptcy and ensure the success of the Games.  However, if indeed both the 2006 Gay Games and the 2006 Outgames come out in the black, albeit via different funding models, we should be happy to have two successes that together included thousands more LGBT athletes and friends.

There are several other issues raised in Mr. Provenzano's column that point to a Gay Games bias and misrepresent the facts. The suggestion by Mr. Provenzano that the Outgames sports component was overshadowed by the conference and cultural events is simply wrong. Outgames 2006 was first and foremost a sports extravaganza, with easily accessible venues and very well organized competitions that were a privilege to participate in as well as be a spectator or cheerleader. That Internet search engine results yield a cached entry identifying Montreal as the official site for the 2006 Gay Games is hardly the fault of the Montreal committee, which long ago corrected this on its Web site. The participant count is also a weak attempt at discrediting the Outgames, in that 10,000-plus athletes for an inaugural event in a year when the Gay Games involved 12,000 athletes less than two weeks earlier is a remarkable feat. Montreal's projections of 16,000 athletes may have been met if the FGG/Montreal split did not occur. The statement that "all Chicago's foreign participants were eventually given visas" is also incorrect, per my understanding that at least some Gay Games participants were never able to secure their U.S. visas. Unlike the implied statement by Mr. Provenzano that the Outgames registration fees were significantly higher than the Gay Games, these fees were nearly equal, depending on the sports selected for participation. Lastly, Mr. Provenzano's use of inflammatory and questionably accurate verbiage is one more reason I see his writing as an attack on the Outgames. Examples include: "plotting," "shell game," "gleefully pounced," "deliberately misleading," and "a veritable hornet's nest of deceptions"

For sure, Mr. Provenzano also recognized many positive features of the Outgames, but with an overall strongly negative tone about the Outgames, these are difficult to fully appreciate. Let's honor all of our LGBT athletes and organizers of these excellent events.

Roy Schachter

Castro Valley, California

Sharing the heartburn

We share the heartburn that Jim Provenzano has expressed (most recently in the August 3 Sports Complex column) over the choice athletes had to make between two quadrennial international LGBT athletic events scheduled only weeks apart.

Few athletes, even those of us from the prosperous nations overrepresented at these events, have the means to attend both. Rather than dwell on the negative publicity surrounding the Gay Games/Outgames split and choose sides based on the perceived veracity of the mud slung by each faction, the San Francisco Bay Blades (the Bay Area's only LGBT rowing club) approached this decision based on the anticipated quality of the competition and rowing venue.

We are grateful to those San Franciscans who came before us and established the first Gay Games in San Francisco in 1982 and did not take lightly our decision to attend the Outgames in Montreal.

We found it impractical, if not impossible, to take time away from our jobs and pay the expenses associated with travel to both Chicago and Montreal to compete in the rowing competitions. In making this forced choice, there were some important considerations that led us to choose to compete at the Outgames.

For over a year, we have known that the Outgames rowing regatta would be held on the rowing basin used for the 1976 Olympics and that the races would be sanctioned by FISA (the international governing body for the sport of rowing). The selection of the rowing venue for the Gay Games was not confirmed until early 2006 and as recently as March 2006, it appeared that homophobia in the community 50 miles from Chicago where the rowing was to be held might result in relocation or cancellation of the regatta (Sports Complex, March 9). The 2002 Gay Games in Sydney did not offer rowing, and because it is not a core sport recognized by the Federation of Gay Games, rowing may not be offered in Cologne in 2010. Early indications are that rowing will be among the events offered at the 2009 Outgames in Copenhagen.

The San Francisco Bay Blades trained hard and won gold in two rowing events in Montreal. The excitement of rowing on an Olympic course in a FISA-sanctioned regatta is an experience that most rowers never have. The competition was tough, and the representation of rowers from other nations was much broader as the results on the Web sites of the respective events bear out.

While we feel we made the right choice, we wish we did not have to make one at all. Had the Gay Games/Outgames split not occurred, we would have the best of all possibilities – a top notch rowing venue, FISA sanctioning, and the best and broadest competition. We chose to focus on the athletics rather than the politics and feel we chose well.

John Moroney, President

San Francisco Bay Blades Rowing Club

Candid column

'Twas great to encounter such a candid and straightforward column, unimpeded by the filter of political correctness, on the Montreal Outgames; along with the accompanying allusions to the years of low-integrity, malicious personal/political history that inspired the split in the global sports movement and has fueled the formation of GLISA and the production and promotion of the Outgames "movement." Time and again, the Outgames organization has exhibited, through action and word, the destructive nature and foundation of their mission. To read references to what has lain beneath the surface for so long, and – in remaining un-articulated – been given tacit approval from our own (and by "our," I mean LGBT) press and media, is simply refreshing as well as entertainingly offered.

Thank you for having the courage and integrity to print this Mr. Provenzano's point of view. More of this, please.

Kile Ozier

New York, New York

[Editor's note: The writer was director of ceremonies at Gay Games VII.]

Wishes Outgames the best, but...

I am moved to write Jim Provenzano about his recent column entitled "Outgames a go." It is so rewarding to me to finally hear someone else speak the truth about what had occurred between the Federation of Gay Games and Outgames. The Outgames have done such an amazing job of hiding the truth of their own actions to the international sports world that they should award themselves a gold medal. As many times as I have tried to speak the truth to others, it does my heart good to hear it from Mr. Provenzano.

It was also nice to hear about how things ran up in Montreal since at this point I have heard very little. I honestly wish them the best in creating another international sporting event in the hopes of spreading the gay sports movement even more throughout the world.

Thank you for speaking out with the truth. It is honestly appreciated by your readers. I for one will certainly pay closer attention to your column and the B.A.R. as a worthwhile community-based newspaper.

Nelson W. Luesse

Oakland, California

More on Outgames

Great piece on the "Outhouse Games" in the August 3 B.A.R. I've been out of San Francisco for the past two years so I haven't kept abreast of Jim Provenzano's ongoing reporting of the despicable, unethical manner in which the Montreal organizers behaved prior to the split with the Federation of Gay Games. I was, however, aptly informed of the events leading up to it. I really appreciate that Mr. Provenzano did not take the easy, politically correct path of welcoming the Outgames with open arms and playing forgive and forget. While carrying a grudge is normally not good for any of us, accurate, fair reporting of the facts is critical. I believe Mr. Provenzano has accomplished that very thing.

Thank you for your forthright coverage of the topic.

Chuck Vrana

Omaha, Nebraska

Taking the easy way out

My partner of 30 years and I feel the effects of discrimination in a variety of ways and on a frequent basis, from receiving a letter from the state of California disputing domestic partner discounts that we had claimed a few year back to trying to procure bereavement rates for an unexpected trip to Georgia. That is only part of the reason why we are committed to the same-sex marriage issue.

No matter how they sugar coat it and try to justify it, we cannot help but feel that the Beyond Marriage group is just trying to find a way to drop us so that they can take an easier, less burdensome road ["'Beyond Marriage' statement sparks dialogue," August 3].

We do not claim that marriage is for everyone, but it is a vital fight that we are facing at the moment and, to pull this "too much, too soon" excuse at this point in the battle reeks of desertion.

I suggest a more catchy name for their group is needed. Oh, I don't know, something like Citizens Obviously Willing to Abdicate Rights in Difficult Situations (COWARDS).

Diego Sans

San Francisco

Secondhand smoke is dangerous

When we talk about tobacco in the LGBT community we often focus our attention on tobacco use among members of our community, while ignoring the effects on community members who do not use tobacco ["Tobacco an LGBT issue," July 27]. In California we sometimes suffer from the illusion that we have solved the problem of secondhand smoke. When tobacco use crosses a certain percentage in a given community the effects on the rest of the community are magnified because of the nature of tobacco smoke. In recent years the increase of use among young gay men has especially magnified the problem of secondhand smoke in the Castro District. Smoking at outdoor venues and in doorways has created secondhand smoke problems equivalent to those experienced before the bans.

The recent surgeon general's report spelled the problem out very clearly. There is no acceptable level of secondhand smoke exposure. Pointing out the truth about the effects of public smoking is often mischaracterized as demonizing smokers. In a community that prides itself on its struggle for equality and civil rights we often put addiction above the right to breathe clean air. Asking people who do not smoke to forfeit their right to sit at outdoor seating is unfair. Until we destroy the idea that smoking is somehow synonymous with being gay, we will never be able to tackle this problem in a way that is fair to the majority of the LGBT population who do not smoke. The tobacco industry has never been our friend. Those of us who are older only need to think back on the days when tobacco champion Senator Jesse Helms stood on the floor of the Senate saying we deserved to die because of our lifestyle. I wonder if he would say the same now that tobacco causes more deaths in our community than AIDS?

Robert Starkey

San Francisco

Intolerance against smokers

The posters depicting a cigarette on the gay flag and displayed during gay Pride month had the question, "When did these become part of us?" on them and there were designated smoke-free zones at this year's Pride festival. The question should have been, "Why did the SF Pride group think it was all right to endorse discrimination and promote intolerance against smoking members of the gay community?" Our flag represents the entire community and should never be used for one's personal agenda. Smokers are already being discriminated against in housing, employment, etc. Sound familiar? Many in our community believe we need more anti-smoking laws. Remember there always were – and are – laws against homosexuality; just because there is a law doesn't make it right. If you expect tolerance and respect for your lifestyle you must do the same. Maybe we should expand the slogan to read "I'm here, I'm queer, I smoke – get over it."

Tom Soucie

San Francisco

Rejected by community

I've lived here since 1979. On July 30, I thought it would be nice to get out of my sunless apartment and get some fresh air at the Up Your Alley street fair. For the first time ever since I've been here there was a mandatory $5 cover just to get in. Being on a limited income, I didn't have $5 so I was sent away. That money that's being collected is probably going to some program for people with AIDS. I've had AIDS for over 15 years and was hoping to have a good time at the fair. Maybe even seeing some old pals of mine that are still alive.

You know, it's not like they were renting some big hall for a dance. It was a simple fair where the community should be allowed to gather and walk for free in the street. I felt rejected by my own community and had to spend the day by myself in my room. If this happens for future street fairs, I'm screwed.

Richard Barglowski

San Francisco

Must-read book

Dean Kuipers's book, Burning Rainbow Farm , is a must-read book for any kind of patriot-activist ["Up in smoke," August 3] . But the book needs a sub-title; "The Murders of Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm by the U.S. Government" would be more explanatory. I, too, was unaware of their fates at the time. Everybody was distracted by another U.S. "fiasco" (9/11). The lawyer in my cannabis marijuana jury trial was less than useless with her cell plugged into her ear. Her fiancé was a U.S. naval officer stationed at the Pentagon "that day." A vantage point, not far from Vandalia Michigan, just across the border from Detroit, afforded no better information about the assassinations of Tom and Rollie by FBI sharpshooters. The information didn't "leak out" until the "smoke" had cleared.

Tom and Rollie are heroes of the marijuana movement and of every patriot who values freedom, justice, and peace in life. Their deaths demonstrates the affinity the U.S. government has with nations who promote "extra-judicial summary executions of marijuana/drug users" e.g. Brazil, Columbia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, et al. The truth is long overdue. I believe author Kuipers has related it to his readers but I haven't read it yet. Just what I've learned piecemeal over the years, and more, should all be there. This is one book to buy. Doubtless, one will not find it in our "public" libraries.

Randall St Jacques, CFO

Marijuana Party Windsor West

Windsor, Ontario