Hong Kong kicks off Asia’s first-ever Gay Games in landmark step for LGBTQ+ inclusion

Athletes are hoping that the Games will foster inclusion and bring about positive change for LGBTQ+ people living in Hong Kong.

This article is about Hong Kong hosting the Gay Games. In the photo, athletes running on a track.
Image: Via Unsplash - Jonathan Chng

Despite lacking legislation to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination and not recognising same-sex marriages, Hong Kong will play host to the first-ever Gay Games to take place in Asia. 

Set to launch on Friday, November 3, the Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK) will host more than 2,300 athletes from 45 countries, including South Korea, China, the US and the UK.

While the Hong Kong government has approved the event, they have advised organisers to adhere to the city’s laws and regulations in a “safe and orderly manner.”

“Our aim is not to advocate for any specific political or legislative changes but to provide a platform for sports, arts, and culture that promotes inclusivity and diversity,” said the games’ organising committee earlier this week. 

Despite a year-long delay due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Gay Games will see athletes from all over the world competing in traditional sporting events such as tennis and swimming, but also in events more culturally specific to Hong Kong such as dragon boat racing and mahjong. 

In a statement on the upcoming nine-day event, Gay Games co-chair Lisa Lam said that she hopes the Games will bring visibility to the LGBTQ+ community in a part of the world where LGBTQ+ acceptance is relatively low. 

“Biases come from misunderstanding or stereotypes,” Lam said. “Bringing different people together, you are able to break down stereotypes.” 

The arrival of the Gay Games in Hong Kong follows a series of court victories in favour of LGBTQ+ equality for the city, including on the recognition of same-sex unions and legal gender change



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Un post condiviso da Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023 (@gaygameshk2023)

Hong Kong originally won the bid to host the Gay Games in 2017, though organisers have since faced a series of challenges to bring the Games to fruition. With little support from the government and backlash from lawmakers suggesting that the event could pose a threat to national security, organisers were unable to get the Games up and running before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

As a result of the stringent quarantine rules for travellers following the onset of the pandemic, Guadalajara in Mexico was named as a co-host for the Games. Unfortunately, with the option to travel to Mexico now on the table, many athletes from Europe and the US have opted to forego the lengthy trip to Hong Kong. 

Other participants are hesitant to travel to Hong Kong, citing a Beijing-imposed national security law that has led to the arrest of several activists following a 2019 pro-democracy protest. Despite being invited to participate in the Gay Games, Taiwan has reported that they will not be sending a delegation to Hong Kong out of concern for the athletes’ safety. 



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Un post condiviso da Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023 (@gaygameshk2023)

Despite concerns surrounding the event, footballer Gina Benjamin is hopeful that the games will bring about real change for LGBTQ+ people in Hong Kong. 

In addition to participating in the Gay Games as an athlete, Benjamin moved to Hong Kong from Britain in 2016. After she moved, Benjamin met her now-partner in the city. However, due to local laws only recognizing heterosexual marriages, Benjamin and her partner were forced to travel to the British Embassy in Vietnam to get married in August of 2023. 

As a result, Benjamin has been working tirelessly to push for legal reform for same-sex marriages in Hong Kong. She similarly hopes that the Gay Games will show the local government that the city holds strong support for LGBTQ+ rights. 

“We’re playing to possibly change laws,” Benjamin said in a statement.

© 2023 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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