The 2022 Commonwealth Games don’t begin until July 28 in Birmingham, England. But they’ve already unveiled plans for a centralized safe space for LGBTQ athletes. And for some participants, it will be one of the most supportive environments they’ve ever experienced.
Pride House Birmingham will open its doors a week before the Games begin on July 22 in Birmingham’s Gay Village. It will function as a gathering space for LGBTQ athletes from around the world. Pride Houses have been present at many international competitions over the last decade, including Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Additionally, Pride House has scheduled a variety of informative programs through the duration of the Games on topics such as Sports and Human Rights, Queer Sport and the Commonwealth, or Celebration of Birmingham Queer Culture.
According to Patrick Burke of Inside the Games, there are 36 nations participating in the Commonwealth Games with laws on the books criminalizing homosexuality. For athletes representing these countries, Pride House represents a place where they can be their true selves without fear of reprisal.
Co-organizer Hugh Torrence recalled witnessing a group of LGBTQ athletes from Botswana visit the Glasgow 2014 Pride House for the Commonwealth Games official website. The moment left an indelible impression on him, as he remembered “these women were in tears, overcome with emotion at being able to be in a space where they felt they could be themselves.”
What’s more, Pride House also represents a space where out athletes can find support to speak up about LGBTQ and human rights issues throughout the globe.
During a Pride House panel, former England international soccer player Anita Asante spoke about the opportunity that the space gave Commonwealth Games participants.
“Obviously there are ways to go,” she noted, “There are lots of Commonwealth countries that still have hostile laws and policies. This is an opportunity to raise that issue, but also celebrate our community and all the good things that go along with it.”
Commonwealth Games Federation member Hartwell Mhunduru was even more pronounced in his hopes for what Pride House could represent, declaring, “What I’m passionate about is ensuring that the safe space goes beyond just a phrase.”
With that in mind, Pride House has also scheduled full year’s worth of educational programs that will continue long after the conclusion of the Games. During this time, it will open its doors for LGBTQ young people to create their own teaching programs centered around the intersection of human rights and sports.
During the Games, Pride House Birmingham will be focused on allowing LGBTQ athletes to live openly and safely. But the hope is that doing so will inspire athletes and allies to speak up and support the growth of more safe spaces like it throughout the world.