The Gay Games have long struggled with a fractured relationship with the International Skating Union that has threatened to punish members if they compete in the Gay Games. Now a new breakthrough between the two organizations will open up the Gay Games for all of the world’s figure skaters.
Here’s the background.
Central to the figure skating competitions at the Gay Games are various events that the International Skating Union won’t sanction, most notably the same-sex pairs. The ISU mandates that pairs be of opposite sex for all sanctioned competitions, but the Gay Games and other LGBT figure-skating competitions have understandably held same-sex pairs as integral to their events.
The rift began in 1998 when the ISU notified its members that action would be taken against them if they competed in the Gay Games that year, held in Amsterdam, because of these non-sanctioned events. It’s a hurdle the International Gay Figure Skating Union and the Gay Games have long wanted to clear. Yet for many years they didn’t even try after having been declined twice.
As Gay Games 10 organizers in Paris began talking with the ISU, some skaters feared that the event would remove same-sex pairs skating to bridge the gap.
"We couldn't stand by and allow the Gay Games to have a figure skating competition that doesn't allow same-sex pairs skating,” said longtime skater Laura Moore, who is an honorary lifetime member of the Federation of Gay Games.
Instead, organizers found a middle ground that builds inclusion and advances the conversation.
Gay Games organizers have been working with the French Federation of Ice Sports to secure an agreement with the ISU. While the events won’t be sanctioned by the ISU, the French Federation has been given permission to help organize part of the skating event. The ISU has agreed to not take any action against members who wish to compete in Paris in that French Federation event.
This will be the first Gay Games that members of the union will not risk punishment for their participation.
Half of the competition will be run by the French Federation under ISU rules, and the other half — including same-sex pairs — will be run by the International Gay Figure Skating Union under Ice Skating Institute rules.
"My biggest hope is that it feels like a natural add-on to the traditional Gay Games experience,” said Bradley Erickson, president of the IGFSU.
"What it will feel like to the skater is that these events are on one day and other events are on the other day. It won't seem that different. But there will be different judging panels based on what's required for certification."
This should be the most inclusive figure skating event at a Gay Games, with people freer than ever to compete. With the open door from the ISU, it may also attract more non-LGBT competitors. We’re not sure Eric Radford or Ashley Wagner will suddenly show up, but who knows!