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New online sports network devoted to LGBT athletic tournaments

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CCE Sports Network, gay news, Washington Blade
CCE Sports Network, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo courtesy of the CCE Sports Network)

The recognition of LGBT sports in the United States has reached new levels in the past few years with help from the support of advocacy groups, politicians and straight allies.

The emergence in 2012 of the CCE Sports Network is the latest stamp of validation for the growing LGBT sports movement. The CCE Sports Network is the nation’s only live web streaming sports network dedicated to the LGBT sports community.

The United States is home to more than 200 LGBT sports tournaments and the Network is presenting a portion of those events to athletes, family members, friends, fans and supporters all over the world.

The Network, which launched in May 2012, is the brainchild of Thomas Garnet and Adrian Uribazo who bring 17 years of video experience to their company.

“We had been searching for something new and different,” says Garnet. “We had been considering Pride Festivals, but that was already being covered.”

During the Miami Pride Festival, the pair stumbled across the tennis booth, which was promoting a tournament in Key Biscayne. The Sunshine Tennis Cup would become their first tournament coverage.

As of September 2013, the Network has filmed 12 live broadcasts in cities such as Miami, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Washington. The sports covered so far have been tennis, soccer, swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming. They recently covered the Capital Classic XXI tennis tournament in D.C.

“Our goal for 2014 is 20 tournaments,” says Garnet. “We are also planning on adding volleyball, flag football, basketball, rugby and softball to the sports line up.”

The network’s production workflow is set up for a multi-camera live web streaming, complete with play-by-play commentary, score updates, social media updates, live chats, commercials and music. Upgrades can be made to the broadcast to make it look and feel more like traditional sports television.

“Guest commentators have been a big hit for us,” says Garnet. “We invite player-athletes into the booth to give their own perspective and insight into the players and matches. It ends up being informative and funny.”

My first interaction with the CCE Sports Network was at the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships (IGLA) in Seattle last month. I walked into the natatorium, saw their equipment and was immediately intrigued. I finished my swimming races for the day and Kris Pritchard of the Washington Wetskins told me their next water polo match was that afternoon.

After returning to my hotel room, I logged onto the CCE website and there was the water polo match; live and with commentary. I was overwhelmed that this network has set up a platform to profile and recognize the skill, talent and athleticism of the LGBT athlete.

The stories that that emerged as a result of the CCE Sports Network coverage of IGLA were incredibly touching.

A water polo athlete went up to the commentator booth and asked to give a shout out to his brother, who was serving in the Paktika Province in Afghanistan and was watching his little brother play water polo on his iPad.

A sister got to watch her brother compete in swimming for the first time since high school and a father almost missed his flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport; he wanted to watch his little girl compete.

Similar stories were heard after the CCE coverage of the Capital Classic tennis tournament, here in D.C. From their Twitter feed:

@CCESportNetwork I’m thrilled w/ your coverage! I hadn’t been able to see my brother compete since HS! I still can’t get over how fun it was to watch my brother play again! I missed getting to cheer for him!

With the CCE Sports Network still ramping up their operations, there will be many more feel-good moments to come for athletes and their friends and families.

“By 2015, we hope to have weekly live tournament broadcasts along with our own monthly sports show,” says Garnet.

For now, CCE is working on gaining new sponsorships, building their video archives and acquiring connections in the European market. The visibility they’re providing in showcasing the athleticism of the LGBT sports athlete will certainly help to further the cause of the LGBT sports movement to rid the playing field of homophobia.

You can see the Capital Tennis Association players, the Washington Wetskins water polo players and the District of Columbia Aquatics Club swimmers in action in their video archives at ccesportsnetwork.com.

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Sports

Paris prepares for the gayest games since Tokyo

Everything LGBTQ about the 2024 Summer Games

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The biggest name in LGBTQ sports at this Olympics is that of the fastest woman in the world: Sha'Carri Richardson. (Screen capture via NBC News)

When this week’s Summer Olympic Games kick off in Paris, it will bewith an abundance of flair, fireworks, and joie de vivre — that’s French for “joy of life” — and more inclusion than ever before.

For the first time, the Olympics have achieved gender parity, with 50% of athletes identifying as men and 50% identifying as women, and at least two athletes identifying as transgender nonbinary. There is one trans man, boxer Hergie Bacyadan of the Philippines. These athletes will compete in 32 sports and 339 events, starting this week, and once again there will also be a Refugee Team featuring 37 athletes from all over the world, vying for medals in 12 sports.

There will also be a huge amount of LGBTQ representation among more than 200 countries and that Refugee Team. The big name athletes include track and field star Sha’Carri Richardson, shot-putter Raven Saunders, basketball superstars Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, new “Pops” Brittney Griner, Alyssa Thomas (who is engaged to her WNBA teammate DeWanna Bonner), BMX Freestyle riders Hannah Roberts and Perris Benegas, the British diver Tom Daley, who is competing in his fifth Olympic Games, and Brazil’s legendary soccer player Marta, who will compete for a sixth time.

But determining exactly how many athletes are out is no easy feat.

Published estimates of total competitors range from 10,500 to 10,700, and the official Olympics site counts 11,232 athletes, including one 18-year-old woman representing the People’s Republic of China who will compete in a sport making its debut at this Olympics, called breaking — better known as breakdancing. She is identified only as “671,” no first or last name, just “671.” Good luck, “Six!”

While we don’t know how “671” identifies, there is a consensus that these games will see the largest contingent of out athletes since the 2020 Olympics were played in Tokyo in 2021, delayed a year because of the pandemic. GLAAD and Athlete Ally counted 222 out athletes competing in Tokyo, as mentioned in their comprehensive guide to these Summer Games, a collaboration with Pride House France.

In 2021, the editors at the LGBTQ sports website Outsports had estimated there were 120 competing in Japan, and updated that number to 186 after learning about other athletes who were LGBTQ, including some who came out after competing. That number, they said, set a new record.

This year, they have once again done the math, and calculated how many queer competitors will participate in this year’s Summer Games: Fewer than in Tokyo, but more than in any other Olympics.

“At least 144 publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and nonbinary athletes will be in Paris for the 2024 Olympics, the second consecutive Summer Games where the number has reached triple digits,” says Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski. “There are also a record number of out male Olympians.”

And yet, Team USA has only one man who is publicly out: distance runner Nico Young, a cross-country and track and field athlete at Northern Arizona University. Young, 21, came out as gay in 2022 in a post on Instagram.

“I am living proof that it is not a choice, it is something I have always known and been aware of, but have kept silent out of fear of rejection,” Young wrote. “I have struggled to accept myself, but I am becoming more proud and happy with who I am. I have realized that the only reason I never liked this part of who I am was because of what society has told me, not because of how I actually feel. This is a quality of myself as well as so many other people that should be accepted and celebrated just the same as a straight person’s identity is.”

USA has the most out athletes

At least 24 countries — including the Refugee Team — are represented by at least one publicly out athlete in 32 sports this year. As before, the United States has the most out athletes of all with 28, about one-fifth of the athletes on the “Team LGBTQ” list compiled by Outsports.

Brazil has 22 out athletes, Australia has 17, Great Britain is fourth with 10 and Germany has nine.

Not surprisingly, out women athletes far outnumber out men on their list by about a 7 to 1 margin. But it’s not women’s basketball that has the most out athletes of any sport, with more than 30 players identifying as LGBTQ. It’s women’s soccer.

Tierna Davidson of Menlo Park, Calif., is the sole American competing in women’s soccer who is publicly queer. She proposed to her partner Alison Jahansouz in March. At Stanford, Davidson and her team won an NCAA title in college football. Then, at age 20, she won the 2019 Women’s World Cup — the youngest player on USWNT — and the Bronze with Team USA in Tokyo. But with the departure of the team’s gay icons, namely Megan Rapinoe, Davidson, 25, told The Athletic she said she feels pressure like never before.

“I think that there’s no illusion that the ratio of queerness on the team has decreased a little bit, at least with players that are out,” she said, noting that as an introvert she is not seeking the high profile of Rapinoe. “And so, I think it’s important to recognize that I am part of that ratio, and that it is important to bring issues to the table that are important to me and to my community, and be able to be that representative for people that look up to queer athletes and see themselves in me on the field.”

Canadian soccer player Quinn, 28, returns to the Olympics this week as the first transgender nonbinary athlete to have won a gold medal, at Tokyo in 2021, as the Blade reported. They came out to their team in an email in 2020, and recently took part in a Q&A about that experience.

“I think I had a better relationship with my teammates after coming out,” they said. “I had a new confidence and ability to be vulnerable with them and it strengthened many relationships in my life. There were some players on my professional team at the time who were ignorant, but having the overwhelming majority of players and staff support me really created an environment where anything less than that wouldn’t be tolerated.”

As of press time, GLAAD and Athlete Ally are still counting how many out athletes will be competing in Paris. But the numbers aren’t as important as visibility, GLAAD President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis told the Blade.

“LGBTQ athletes continue to shine at the Olympic Games, including transgender athletes who will help reporters and viewers to see their humanity as well as their achievements,” Ellis said. “For the first time there will be gender parity among Olympic athletes, a significant milestone that comes as transgender and nonbinary people are also included. This guide, created in collaboration with Athlete Ally and Pride House France, is uniquely positioned to help media covering the Games include and report on LGBTQ athletes so their talents and stories are centered to inform and inspire acceptance among audiences around the world.”

Of course, compiling all these lists is a gargantuan task, one that LGBTQ historian Tony Scupham-Bilton of Nottingham, U.K., has been doing for more than a decade with a blog called The Queerstory Files. He told the Blade he contributed to the list Outsports published.

“I had six athletes which they didn’t have on their list when we compared them last week, but there were about 20 athletes on their list which I didn’t have,” Scupham-Bilton said, noting that inclusion is increasing. “Paris has already exceeded previous levels of representation and involvement. That indicates a probable increase in medals. I have also noticed that there has been an increase in the number of Olympians coming out between Olympics.”

One other big change in terms of representation that this historian sees is how the Olympics themselves have embraced the LGBTQ community.

“Even though there have been Pride Houses at most Olympic Games since Vancouver 2010, the majority of which have been supported by the various organizing committees, Paris 2024 is the first to include it on its official website,” Scupham-Bilton told the Blade.

As the Blade reported, Team USA celebrated Santa Cruz, Calif., native Nikki Hiltz qualifying for the Olympics with their record-setting finish in the 1,500-meter race earlier this month with an Instagram post that drew a flood of negative comments from straight cisgender men.

Hiltz, 29, is the other trans nonbinary athlete competing in Paris. Team USA’s post showed them writing “I ❤ the gays” on a camera lens. A lot of the comments showed ignorance of their actual identity, calling them a “cheater” and “a man.”

Hiltz responded with grace, in an Instagram post about how far they’ve come since 2021. That year they finished dead last in the Olympic trials, held shortly after they came out. Earlier this month, Hiltz reflected on their growth.

“I’ve spent the past 3 years rebuilding my confidence and reshaping that narrative. Telling myself every single day that I belong. Showing up to meets, taking up space, and making friends with those little voices in my head that consistently tried to convince me I was too confusing, I was a burden or I wasn’t enough,” they wrote.

This year, in Eugene, Ore., was different.

“I stood on the start line of the Olympic Trials 1500 final and told myself ‘I can do this, the world will make space for you. Remember to enjoy this race and have fun playing the game of racing, this is your moment.’ The gun went off, it got hard, I didn’t crumble, I didn’t fall off the pace, I held on and 3 minutes and 55 seconds later I broke the finish line tape and became an Olympian.”

But by far the biggest name in LGBTQ sports at this Olympics is that of the fastest woman in the world: Sha’Carri Richardson. She missed out on competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021 for testing positive for cannabis, and now is going for gold.

Richardson graced a recent cover of Vogue, and told the magazine how committed she is to this goal: “Everything I do—what I eat, what I drink, if I stay up too late—it’s all reflected on the track,” she said. “Every choice. That’s what the world doesn’t see.” But she also talked about keeping herself fixed firmly in the present. “If all I’m doing is looking ahead, then I can’t be where I need to be. Which is here, now.”

The Blade will be there, in Paris, to bring you all the excitement from the Olympic Games.

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Books

New Isherwood biography an insightful read

An honest, sympathetic look at prolific writer’s life and work

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'Christopher Isherwood: Inside Out' (Book cover image courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

‘Christopher Isherwood: Inside Out’
By Katherine Bucknell
c.2024, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
$45/864 pages

“Christopher Isherwood: Inside Out” is an insightful biography of the prolific English writer, author of “Goodbye to Berlin” (the inspiration behind “Cabaret”), “A Single Man,” and “Christopher and His Kind,” among others. Katherine Bucknell, director of the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, as well as editor of several collections of Isherwood’s diaries and letters, draws on his letters, journals, creative work, and interviews to build an extensive look at this talented writer.

Isherwood was born in 1904 to landed gentry, with properties, a large house, and servants. His father was in the British Army and the family moved around for a while, including a stint in Ireland. His father went to fight in World War I and died in France, leaving his mother to look after Isherwood and his younger brother. This clearly affected Isherwood, although he wouldn’t discuss it until much later. While this section of his childhood is important to Isherwood’s later development, the many details make for slow reading.

The book really picks up when Isherwood travels to Germany in 1929, where he fully embraced his sexuality. In Berlin, he first lived next door to Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science, one of the first sexology research centers advocating for decriminalization of homosexuality. Isherwood met many young German men, falling in love with Heinz Neddermeyer, who he tried to help get out of the country as the Nazis gained power. His short novels “Mr. Norris Changes Trains” and “Goodbye to Berlin” are fictionalized versions of the people he met and his experiences there, although they don’t tell the whole truth about his sexual adventures.

Decades later, as the German translation of “Christopher and His Kind,” a nonfiction account of Isherwood’s time in Germany, was to appear, Neddermeyer, now with a family, wrote to Isherwood despairing that the book would out him. The translation wouldn’t be published until after Isherwood’s death.

Isherwood emigrated to America with his school friend, the poet W.H. Auden, in 1939. The two collaborated on several plays and covered Japan’s invasion of China, even sleeping together several times. This move, near the start of World War II, plus Isherwood’s pacifist refusal to fight, caused bitter feelings with some friends in England.

He settled in Los Angeles where he discovered the Vedanta Hindu-inspired philosophy. He translated the Bhagavad Gita with the religious leader Prabhavananda, who he deeply admired. Although Isherwood struggled to practice all of Vedanta’s teachings, including celibacy, the religion accepted him completely.

He also met Don Bachardy, with whom he’d spend the rest of his life. Thirty years younger than Isherwood, Bachardy shared with Bucknell the challenges in their relationship. While Isherwood encouraged him to study art in England, Bachardy had affairs there, as did Isherwood back in LA. In their letters, Isherwood was “Dobbin” while Bachardy was “Kitty.” Seeing their love grow and develop is one of this book’s pleasures.

Despite the biography’s length and slow start, it reveals an honest yet sympathetic look at Isherwood’s life and work. It should inspire readers to pick up his books, either again or for the first time.

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Out & About

DC Center to host Alzheimer’s awareness event

‘Seniors & Cognition’ talk to explore warning signs, healthy brain practices

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The DC LGBTQ+ Community Center, the DC Department on Aging and Community Living, and the Alzheimer’s Association are joining forces to host “Seniors & Cognition with the Alzheimer’s Association” on Thursday, July 25 at 2 p.m. on Zoom. 

Guest speakers will walk the audience through understanding Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, their warning signs, healthy brain practices, and more. The lecture series will consist of three 1.5-hour sessions, with the others set to take place in August and September. 

To register, visit the DC Center’s website

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