I'm sure by now you have heard all the brouhaha about the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. During the ceremony there will be a segment highlighting Australian cinema, which will include drag performers on a float in celebration of Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. This film, which won an Oscar in 1995 for best costume design, told the story of two transsexuals and two transvestites traveling through the Australian outback in their fabulous bus. Actual gowns worn in Priscilla will be featured during that particular segment. Ceremony director Ric Birch has said that between 40 to 200 drag queens will participate in the program making it the first Olympic ceremony ever to include open drag performers.
But the buzz seems to have gotten twisted somehow. Olympics Minister Michael Knight has been quick to point out that the decision to have the drag queens as part of the ceremony is not about celebrating homosexuality but about celebrating the movie Priscilla. There has been some backlash since the announcement about the inclusion of the drag performers with some people threatening to demand refunds for tickets bought to the closing ceremony. But Games Chiefs have refused to back down reinforcing their statement that the show is just a tiny part of the ceremony representing an award winning Australian movie and not celebration of gay culture.
Yet, despite these claims, the decision to use drag queens in the closing ceremony is being hailed as a breakthrough for gay rights. The news has even prompted a discussion among Federation of Gay Games members as to whether showing drag while ignoring other aspects of gay life was fair. Also, despite these claims, the news has provoked protest from church groups and conservative politicians who claim that using drag queens for the closing ceremony will turn the city of Sydney into 'the world capital of sleaze.'
Hello? It's not about us, it's about the movie! There should be no controversy. Yes, Priscilla is a movie very much belonging to the gay community because of its content. But it is also an Australian movie and the people who are celebrating it are doing so because of where it came from, not because of whom it went out to. That's the bottom line.
All this talk of the closing ceremony has seemed to overshadow the real gay issue in the Olympics, which is the actual gay athletes that are participating. Athletes such as American diver David Pichler or French tennis player Amelie Mauresmo. Perhaps we did spend some thought on Norway's Mia Hundvin and her Danish lesbian lover Camilla Andersen when the former beat the latter in a preliminary match of handball at Olympic Park. But were we aware that although Danish law permits same-sex marriages and these women married over the summer, the Danish Olympic Committee asked Olympic officials to remove mention of their relationship from Andersen's official biography? Probably not. Yet these are the stories that we should be scrutinizing, imbibing and remembering.
When we get our panties all up in a bunch because we feel that some drag queens are not representing the gay community properly enough, I feel it is a direct slap in the face to the athletes that are actually out there representing us among the best of the best. Athletes who have paid their dues and paved the way for the new generations of gay Olympians. Athletes like:
Tom Waddell who placed 6th in the decathlon in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico at the age of 38 and founded the Gay Games, which had its first competition in 1982. He died of AIDS complications in 1987
U.S. Olympic swimmer Dan Veatch who competed at the 1988 Summer Olympics and has swam at meets of the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics.
Australian Olympic diver Craig Rogerson who finished 12th in the 10-meter event at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Dutch Olympic swimmer Peter Prijdekker who competed at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. At the Gay Games in Amsterdam in 1998, he set a European masters record at age 50 in men's freestyle.
Canadian Olympic boxer Mark Leduc who won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
And of course, U.S. Olympic diver Greg Louganis who won 4 gold medals at the 1984 and '88 Olympics and who came out publicly at the Gay Games in 1994 where he served as a spokesman.
The closing ceremony to the Olympics in Sydney will include a section devoted to Australian film that will possibly also feature, aside from Priscilla, Strictly Ballroom, Crocodile Dundee, Babe and Mad Max. It's not really about representing the Australian's big knife, post-apocalyptic tyranny or even the pig. It's about the movies. Our gay representation is being featured now, before the closing ceremony, on the tracks, in the pools, on the uneven bars and on the softball diamond. Whether they've come out publicly or not. So let's keep our sights on the hopefuls so we may then enjoy the "fabulous" show to follow.
The Women's Sports Association fall volleyball league is forming. Games will be played on Monday night at the Broadway Armory, 5900 N. Broadway. Games will be played between 6:45 and 10 p.m. Call Marcia at ( 773 ) 728-3133 after 6.
Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) welcomes players of all skill levels to participate in the largest GLTB volleyball league in the Midwest, Nov. 5-March 4.
Call ( 773 ) 508-0736 or email@example.com or www.chicagomsa.com .
CMSA will also be offering Women's Volleyball beginning Sunday, Dec. 3. Call Josie ( 773 ) 506-9693.
The Chicago Women's 8 Ball League is scheduled to begin league play in late October. Call ( 312 ) 320-7036.
The Windy City Cycling Club Fall and Winter Social Season has started. Join them for some late-afternoon snacks, brainstorming, and camaraderie. Come right after a Hyde Park Ride, Saturday, Sept. 30, 4-6 p.m., ( 773 ) 769-6489.
CMSA men's and women's flag football leagues are now playing. Call women's contact person Bibi at ( 773 ) 509-1915; ( 773 ) 880-0212 for the men's league.
Volunteers are needed for Chicago 2006, the group organized to bid on bringing the Gay Games to America's Heartland in 2006. Volunteers perform committee work, promote Chicago 2006 at events, assist with the development of the formal bid documents, and help publicize Chicago to the GLBT and straight community throughout the Midwest. Call Volunteer Coordinators Amelia firstname.lastname@example.org or Corin email@example.com . See www.chicago2006.org .
Timber Lanes is hosting a Friday Night Women's Bowling League again, at 1851 W. Irving. Call ( 773 ) 625-6555. Their Sunday Happenings League, the longest running gay and lesbian bowling league in the area, started Sept. 10. ( 773 ) 549-9770.