Mixing It Up, Olympic Style

We are a few days away from Opening Ceremonies, stumbling and bumbling our way into a Games postponed a year and now without live spectators. But the athletes have waited and trained and practiced and now it’s Their Time.

Jasmine Blocker, USA, handing the baton to teammate, Obi Igbokwe, in the 4×400 m relay. Get ready for Mixed Gender Team events! Youtube Video by NBCSPorts.

There will be some changes for Tokyo 2020, not the least of which will be boxes of face masks and gallons of hand sanitizer. It’s not even really weird that the year these contests are being held is not the year they will be named (Wha? Not Tokyo 2021? Nope).

Consider that the Games of the VI Olympiad were in Berlin, in 1916. Didn’t know about those? They were cancelled because of World War I, but the IOC kept them in the official list. Whereas the IOC didn’t include the 1906 Games in Athens, which are now called the Intercalated Games, because the IOC didn’t run them. Whenever you wonder why the IOC is doing something out-of-touch with reality, just remember the VI Olympiad.

But these changes are exciting, so let’s discuss. Let’s talk about some of the new sports, the new Mixed Teams, and the new peoples we will see competing.

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Are We Not Proud?

As 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and the 49th anniversary of the San Francisco LGBT Pride March, this seems the perfect essay topic to round out the month of June. It’s also the 30th anniversary of the first time I marched in pride, the 26th year since I was at the 1993 Million Queer March in Washington D.C., and the 7th year since the last time I did that slow walk down the mile or so on Market Street in June, tweeting on a whistle, waving my rainbow flag, and wishing I could sit down soon.

American Pride, American Anti-Pride

Our unique cultural history is full of expressions of pride and also full of disapproval. After all, some of the original European settlers were Puritans, “thrown out of every decent country in Europe,” as Bill Murray says in Stripes. Puritans were excessively anti, weren’t they? Plus the Catholics. Pride is the first and, therefore, worst deadly sin. Being proud in some religious interpretations meant you were unwilling to surrender–theoretically to a higher power–but logistically to the control of the straight white man standing on the pulpit.

It’s always seemed a bit ironic that the Puritans were seeking religious tolerance in the New World so that they could practice their religious intolerance, but we’ll let history sort that part out. Certainly, the New World liked the tolerance part of it and established that clear separation in government between church and state, which started to let different attitudes about sinning and behavior–including pride–blossom throughout society. When the writer of the Declaration of Independence becomes a Deist, fire and brimstone speeches naturally become less popular.

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

At the same time, these new Americans in 1776 were ecstatic about the nation they were bringing into being. John Adams wanted “pomp and parade” and fireworks, and the United States has celebrated just so for centuries now. Americans love to revel in their pride of country on July 4th, now replete with parades and festivals. It’s coincidental that the holiday comes right after LGBT Pride Month, but great that we can continue the celebratory spirit.

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