The Gay Games, Safe Spaces and the Promotion of Sport for All?

  • Chelsea Litchfield
  • Jaquelyn Osborne


In the early 1980s, the creation of the Gay Games and other sporting events for gay and lesbian identified athletes offered an opportunity for such athletes to participate in sports, supposedly free from sexual discrimination. The Gay Games is based on participatory discourses whereby everyone who enters and is allowed to participate, regardless of age, sexuality, race or sporting ability. Notably, the Gay Games culture is often lauded by participants and this event provides a space for participants to compete and socialise and make new friends with like-minded people. Additionally, the Gay Games provides a ‘safe space’ for participants where they do not have to ‘manage’ their identity as gay or lesbian. This sub-culture is examined in this chapter by providing an analysis of the experiences of Australian lesbian-identified hockey and soccer players and their Gay Games participation. Alongside these women’s experiences, this chapter also provides a critique of the ‘accessibility’ of the Gay Games. This accessibility includes both cultural and financial critiques. The cost of entering events at the Gay Games are high; in fact, all participants must pay both a ‘base rate’ for entry into the Games and a cost per sport in which they participate. On top of this expense, the travel costs to attend the Games are substantial and often require international flights and accommodation. Consequently, a large percentage of participants at the Games are middle-class, middle-age to older athletes. Therefore, while the Games provide an affirming space for a number of gay and lesbian participants, a deeper critique of the Games uncovers that accessibility for all is not necessarily the case. In other words, these events are simultaneously inclusive and exclusive, especially in relation to class, sexuality and discrimination.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chelsea Litchfield
    • 1
  • Jaquelyn Osborne
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Exercise Science, Sport and HealthCharles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia

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