Thursday, 8 December 2016

Rio Paralympic Review: Part 2

Day 2 of the Rio Paralympics saw the start of the rowing competition and the sole lgbt representative in that sport was Israel’s Moran Samuel. She earned her place at Rio by becoming world champion in her category last year. In Rio Moran won a bronze medal in the single sculls final on Day 4.

On Day 3 Belgian wheelchair athlete Marieke Vervoort began her defence of the 100m T52 category gold medal and Paralympic record she won in London 2012. A bronze medal was all she achieved this time but was a seasonal best time. She did better in the T52 400m in which she held the world record by winning the silver medal. Despite this success most media organisations’ attention centred on Marieke’s comments on euthanasia.

The sitting volleyball competition also began on Day 3. America’s Monique Burkland was the sole lgbt player. In London 2012 she and her team won silver. In Rio they became the Olympic champions.

Day 3 saw a new sport appear at the Paralympics, the triathlon. Team GB’s David Hill finished in a disappointing 10th place, made even more disappointing in that only 11 athletes competed and that he was only pipped out of 9th place by a photo finish. Even though triathlon was making its debut at the Paralympics David Hill wasn’t. Way back in Athens 2004 he competed in swimming as a 15-year-old, the youngest member of Team GB that year. In the run-up to the Rio Paralympics David was appointed as Athlete Ambassador for Team GB who, with Matt Lister (who competed in the Olympic canoeing trials for Rio but didn’t qualify) were appointed to raise the profile of elite lgbt athletes. Their job was to give support and encouragement to new Paralympians and Olympians.

The last lgbt Paralympian to begin competition was GB’s flag bearer Lee Pearson. Apart from being the most successful British Paralympian still competing (he intends to be at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics) he is also the most successful lgbt Paralympian of all time. He has won at least one gold medal in each of his 5 successive Paralympics and won 14 medals in total. In previous games he has entered three equestrian dressage events and medalled every time. In Rio one event was dropped, but he still won a team gold and an individual bronze. A knighthood is surely on its way.

The closing ceremony of both the Rio Olympics and Paralympics can go down in history as being the first in which the Rainbow Pride flag was seen. In previous years there has been a vigorous attempts by the IOC to remove flags that weren’t national flags from all venues. Even Kathy Freeman had to get special permission from the IOC to carry the Australian Aboriginal flag to celebrate her gold-medal-winning race in the Sydney 2000 games. This year there was a plethora of flags – national, regional, provincial and club flags, and the Rainbow flag. In the Olympic closing ceremony when IOC President Thomas Bach was making his speech there was someone in the crowd waving two Pride flags behind him. In the Paralympic closing ceremony several of the performers wore Pride flags around their shoulders.

One well deserved mention goes to all the volunteers of both games in Rio. For many years they have been given special recognition at the closing ceremonies. There are countless lgbt volunteers whose names are not known. But one of my followers who was also a volunteer at Rio 2016 left a comment on my Olympic Alphabet article and all I can add is my admiration to all the volunteers. I’ve volunteered at much smaller events such as Nottingham Pride and enjoyed it very much. I even applied to be volunteer for London 2012 but was unsuccessful. However, I attended the London Paralympics and saw first hand the joy, enthusiasm and energy of the volunteers.

Finally, how did Team LGBT do in the final medal table? Of the 12 medals won by athletes they won 10 events (2 team medals). As with the Olympic medals I’ve taken medals won in individual events from the athlete’s nation and counted them in the Team LGBT total. Medals won in team sports where both straight and lgbt  athletes played are counted in both Team LGBT and their national team. That places them down in 29th place in between Ireland and Mexico.

Now that the dust has settled and the results analysed all that remains for me to do is produce an updated lgbt Olympian list. This will appear in early January.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Rio Paralympic Review: Part 1

Unlike the Olympics the Rio Paralympics are much easier to review from an lgbt perspective because there were fewer lgbt athletes to follow. And there’s no better place to start than with the list of those athletes. The table below lists the known openly lgbt Paralympians in Rio with any medals they won. 

Jen Armbruster
Monique Burkland
sitting volleyball
Abby Dunkin
wheelchair basketball
Megan Giglia
David Hill
Allison Jones
Angela Madsen
field athletics
Asya Miller
Desiree Miller
wheelchair basketball
Marieke Miller
wheelchair basketball
Cindy Ouellet
wheelchair basketball
Lee Pearson
Moran Samuel
Marieke Vervoort
wheelchair racing

One other name could have been included. Clare Harvey, a member of Britain’s women’s sitting volleyball team at London 2012, was hoping to compete in Rio. Team GB did not have a women’s team going to Rio so Clare switched her sport to field athletics and the throwing events in particular. In 2015 she qualified for the discus competition in Rio. Unfortunately, just a few weeks before the games she injured her foot and had to withdraw.

The Paralympic opening ceremony included two record breakers carrying their national flags. For the USA Allison Jones and for GB Lee Pearson. Allison Jones was making her 4th appearance in the cycling competition but that’s not the record that is significant. What is, is her additional appearances in 4 Paralympic Winter Games in alpine skiing. These 8 appearances makes Allison the lgbt Paralympian to have competed at the most games, and the only one at both summer and winter games.

Lee Pearson was making his 5th appearance in the equestrian dressage competition. He has won at least one gold medal each time and holds the record of having more gold medals, and the most medals overall, than any other lgbt Paralympian or Olympian. He left Rio with a career total of 10 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze, and he has already made clear his intention of competing in Tokyo in 2020.

The Rio Paralympics started well for Team LGBT. On the first day of competition the first medal they won was a gold. Megan Giglia of GB won the women’s 3 km individual pursuit breaking the Paralympic record and her own world record in the process. The only other lgbt cyclist, the above-mentioned Allison Jones, competed in the same 4 events as Megan but just missed out on a medal. Allison’s highest placing was 4th in the road race.

Also competing on Day 1 was Angela Madsen, at 56 the oldest lgbt Paralympian to compete. She was the Paralympic and world record holder in the F56 shot put category, but she only finished 8th in the combined F56/57 event in Rio. It was, however, with a seasonal best distance. Two days later Angela finished 7th in the F56 javelin event.

Team events began on Day 1 also. In goalball Team LGBT was represented by Jen Armbruster and Asya Miller for the USA. For Jen this was her 7th Paralympics and for Asya her 5th, and the 3rd for both of them as a married couple (yes, the Paralympics beat the Olympics in having the first same-sex married couple). They went into the quarter-finals as 2nd top in their group. After defeating Canada they met Turkey in the semi-finals and were thrashed 11-1. Turkey went on to win gold. Jen and Asya played Brazil for the bronze medal and just won 2-3, with Jen scoring all 3 US goals. Asya was the top scorer for the US in the whole goalball competition.

The wheelchair basketball competition also had a married couple competing – for different teams. Desiree Miller played for the USA and her wife Mareike Miller (née Adermann) played for Germany. Team USA also included Abby Dunkin with Stephanie Wheeler, a 2-time Paralympic goalball champion, as coach. USA and Germany were placed in different groups which meant there was a possibility of Desiree and Mareike Miller playing against each other in the quarter-finals. Both finished top in their groups and reached the quarter-finals.

Also reaching this stage was Team Canada with Cindy Ouellet. They didn’t make it to the semi-finals, losing to the Netherlands, but they won the 5th position play-off against China. Germany and USA both won their quarter-finals. The semi-finals would see the USA face GB and Germany face the Netherlands. The final scores were USA 89 – GB 78, and Germany 55 – Netherlands 45, meaning Desiree and Marieke Miller would play against each other in the gold medal match.

The USA led though most of the final match, though their scoring rate dropped below Germany’s in the last quarter, but their lead was already too great for the Germans to catch up. The final score was Germany 45 – USA 62. With Desiree winning a gold and Marieke winning a silver at least they were both going home with a medal.

Tomorrow I’ll continue this Paralympic review by starting with the competitions that started on Day 2.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Seven Heavenly Gay Virtues : Dont' Be a Creep!

Humility is the opposite Virtue to the Sin of Vanity. On my Rainbow Deadly Gay Sins flag and my Rainbow Heavenly Gay Virtue flag they occupy the last stripe, the violet or purple stripe. Purple is the traditional colour associated in European folklore to Vanity in allusion to the purple robes of Roman and Byzantine emperors who were considered to epitomise Vanity more than anyone else.
Most of the main religions in the world place Humility as one of the highest Virtues. More than any other it relies on each individual’s own perception of his or her own place in the world and an acceptance of it.

Other words used as equivalents to Humility over the centuries have included Modesty and Self-esteem. We should not fall into the trap of being too humble and over-modest in case we turn into a creep like the character Uriah Heep from Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield”.
Don't be a creep like Uriah Heep!
Humility is perhaps the one of the Virtues which is most difficult to maintain, particularly in communities like the lgbt community which is constantly being attacked. The vast majority of homophobia is aimed at the community because the attacker considers the victim as being of lesser value in society. This arrogance (a characteristic synonymous with the sin of Vanity) destroys the self-esteem of so many young people and they commit suicide. Their belief in themselves is destroyed by their attackers and their Humility is destroyed with it.

Speaking up for your rights and those of others may not seem very humble and modest but activists and campaigners have always proclaimed that the lgbt community has as much right to be accepted into society as equal to any other. There are still too many nations on this planet who look down on the lgbt community with as much Vanity and Arrogance as the ancient emperors did on their own people. Many revolutions were the result of the people opposing the arrogance of their rulers. Unfortunately, all too often these revolutionary governments replace one rule of Vanity and Arrogance with their own.

This year the whole world has witnessed an event that should make us all feel humble and modest – the Paralympic Games. Admiration and respect can be linked with the Virtue of Humility. The achievements of those athletes go far beyond anything the ordinary person, or even an Olympian, can do. And respect goes to the 14 lgbt Paralympians who competed out and proud in Rio. I’ll be writing more about them in a couple of days.

At this time of year which is full of celebrations we are constantly being reminded that others are not as fortunate as ourselves. I hope we all have the Humility to accept that we are the fortunate ones and that we should not take everything for granted. Equality that has been given to the lgbt community by one government can easily be taken away by another. Many families will have little to celebrate because one of their family members, an lgbt family member, has been murdered. Transgender murders in the USA this year are higher than ever. We should also remember that there are some families in this world who reject any member who is brave enough to come out as lgbt and is forced to leave their family home and perhaps have nowhere else to live at this time of year.

It’s a traditional seasonal Christmas message which often gets lost among the celebrations.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

On The Boardwalk

Several years ago on World AIDS Day I wrote about various AIDS memorials. Deep in the everglades of Florida some 130 miles from Fort Lauderdale, on the St. Sebastian River (a highly appropriate location as St. Sebastian has been called the patron saint of AIDS sufferers) is a secluded area where an AIDS memorial takes the form of a boardwalk.

The memorial is in the grounds of a spiritual community called Kashi. Although it is run on eastern sacred beliefs Kashi welcomes people of all faiths and none to sample the tranquility of this ashram (the name given to such eastern spiritual communities).

The Kashi ashram was founded forty years ago by a woman from Brooklyn, New York, called Joyce Green. She came from a Jewish family, married and had children, and then went through some spiritual awakening in the 1970s. In 1967 she founded Kashi and adopted the spiritual name of Ma Jaya. During the worst times of the early AIDS crisis Ma Jaya spent a lot of time with AIDS patients across America. In 1990 she founded The River Fund, a non-profit charity which provided physical and spiritual support for AIDS patients around the world. specifically in the USA, India and Uganda.

In 1991 an American AIDS patient and activist called Bruce Cummings, a member of the Kashi ashram, suggested that a place of remembrance should be created in the grounds of the community where people with HIV and the loved ones of those who lost their battles with AIDS could reflect on their lives. Sadly Bruce Cummings died before the memorial could be built, but he left some money to contribute towards it.
Ma Jaya remembered the boardwalks of Coney Islands near where she was raised where she saw many homeless people. She determined not to ignore these and other “throw-away people”, as she called them. With many AIDS victims being “thrown away” by their families Ma thought a boardwalk in the ashram wetlands would be an appropriate memorial.

The memorial boardwalk was finished in 1994. On its planks are the names of AIDS victims. The names of many of the patients whom Ma Jaya visited in the early days are etched, as well as those of members of the Kashi ashram. In time other names were added, not only those from the lgbt community but also children who died of AIDS illnesses.

A second boardwalk was constructed recently, and the Kashi website invites people to submit names of family or friends to be added to the memorial. Kashi has to make a charge for adding names, after all it is, technically, a private memorial not a public one.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Time Out Update

UPDATE : I have revised and updated the "About This Blog" and "Heritage CV” pages and "About Me" information. I am currently beginning to index the whole blog in more detail. This will be a major task and I hope to make the finished index available in instalments throughout next year. I am also considering setting up a Facebook page. My schedule for December has been set out and I hope to begin blogging again on 1st December.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Time Out

After some thought I have decided to give myself a little rest. I’ve been spending several hours a day researching and writing since the day I first began this blog back in August 2011 and can’t believe how much I have written in five years – over 700 articles.

Recently I’ve had affairs in my “proper job” which need dealing with and I must concentrate on them for a while. I don’t want to be away for too long, but I intend to take off the rest of October and all of November. That means several articles I have promised to write will appear at a later date.

During December I’ll get right back to it again, finishing some of the articles that I’ve begun and researching and writing new ones, and I hope to return by Christmas 2016.

That doesn’t mean that I'm going to stop working on my blog completely. I’ve thought of tidying up some of the articles and going through them to revise, amend or correct them. When I’ve finished revising an article I’ll add a note to say so and, hopefully, keep you updated on the revisions.

If there happens to be anything in the news or media which could relate to one of my articles I'll write a little piece and link you to them.

There are also several other ideas I’ve been toying with, including collecting related articles together in book format. These will give me the opportunity to expand the original articles and introduce new illustrations.

I hope you don’t mind if I take some time off, and I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, particularly my most dedicated followers, for your interest and support. Perhaps you all need a rest from me as well!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Coming Out Socially

Today and tomorrow are designated as National Coming Out Day in the USA (today) and the UK (tomorrow). If there’s one thing that proved my belief that people in the public eye don’t have to come out to the media to be described as “out publicly” it was the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

As I described in thisOlympic Alphabet article as soon as the list of known lgbt Rio Olympians was published many others asked to added. The new names were all openly lgbt but hadn’t made a big media event out of it. Most of them were out only on social media.
When I was researching for the initial list I “discovered” 10 former Olympians who were also out on social media in July alone. That’s how many I often identify in one year!

I’ve said several times that coming out is a personal thing. Do it however you want, as long as you feel comfortable about it. Social media has increased the ease with which some people can express their sexuality and gender. Just a few words on Twitter of Facebook is all they need.

My friends at Outsports, Jim and Cyd, wrote about the issue of determining if someone is out publicly or not in this article.

Perhaps it is time to stop saying “out publicly” and just say “out”.

Since Coming Out Day last year there has been the expected celebrity outings who have declared their sexuality and gender in the media. Here are just a few.

Gus Kenworthy, US Olympic and world champion skier,
Tofik Dibi, Dutch Green Party MP,
Eliot Sumner, Sting’s daughter,
Jill Soloway, creator of award-winning series “Transparent”,
Amandla Stenberg, “The Hunger Games” actor,
David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland,
Lilly Wachowksi, director of “The Matrix”,
Harris Wofford, US senator,
Javier Raya, Spanish Olympic figure skater,
David Rodriguez, Mr Spain (not Mr Gay Spain),
Nicholas Chamberlain, Anglican Bishop of Grantham, and
Lord Ivar Mountbatten, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.