China plans to participate in its first-ever Gay Games in Paris in 2018, and they are already poised to dominate — at least in terms of sheer numbers.
“With already 20 registrations for badminton, swimming, volleyball, marathon, bike, track, triathlon and other sports, Team China is aiming to bring the largest delegation ever to participate in a Gay Games,” said Gay Games organizers.
Why the sudden Chinese interest in the Gay Games? That’s thanks to Qiu Hua, who first learned about the annual games at a badminton club in 2014 and has been promoting them in Chinese ever since.
“People in China don’t know about the games, and this is the first time there has been a direct link between the games and China,” Qiu told Chinese news site Sixth Tone.
In 2014, a Chinese athlete tested the waters, taking home a silver for swimming — China’s first Gay Games medal. But this time around, Qiu said he hopes to have 100 team members. Building a team of that size in the world’s most populous nation is harder than it might seem. Qiu told Sixth Tone that the typical recruitment channels — LGBT athletic clubs and teams — are difficult to find.
In China, LGBT people lack legal recognition and protections. Same-sex couples are not legally permitted to marry or adopt children, and there are no protections against discrimination. Transgender people have the right to change their legal gender, but only after having surgery. And government agencies frequently censor media with LGBT content. Under these condition, only 5 percent of the country’s LGBT community reports being out at work or school.
The this year’s Olympic Games in Rio included 52 openly gay athletes, none of them were from China. Still, Qiu told Sixth Tone that Honk Kong is launching a bid to host the 2022 Gay Games, which would be the first time the games took place in Asia.