As an athlete, I love competing. I love being able to leave it all out on the court, trying my best and working alongside my teammates for a common goal. I am very lucky in that my team is very supportive. We play in lots of tournaments and I really enjoy them; again, I am lucky that the places we go tend to be open minded.

I wish I didn’t have to be lucky. I wish it was the way all athletes, regardless of their personal lives, were treated. And that’s why we need things like the OutGames. We still aren’t accepted out there. Not all athletes and not all over the sporting world. That means we need sporting events where people from all different backgrounds and experiences can compete together in a place where they are accepted and celebrated. People need to know that they can be both LGBT AND an athlete. That it doesn’t diminish their athletic skills in any way. And people need to see that, for example, transgender people aren’t just trying to get some kind of an edge or handicap and that gays can occupy the same locker room as straight people without incident. It sounds completely ridiculous to have to even type these things but I know—from experience—that homophobic people have expressed these kinds of concerns to me. I think if they see sporting events that take place at the OutGames, they’ll see they are no different than any other competitions and quite possibly lose some of that fear. Most of it is based out of ignorance anyway and if we can educate them, it may make things easier for future athletes. I like that idea.

Just like the Olympics, we can foster a sense of global community with things like the World Out Games. The spirit of inclusion can be found in everything from the opening and closing ceremonies to the festival village. By dividing the focus on human rights and culture—not just sports—we can include a diverse group of people who will all benefit from such an event. The games provide resources that many would not have access to otherwise, like civil rights lawyers, human rights activists, and media coverage of important issues. It is a chance to promote and support the community on a large scale.

It is also great that they have social events at these games. Athletes who may be used to being ostracized or silenced are able to meet and mingle with others who have experienced the same kinds of triumphs and discriminations. And since these events are open to all, some of the social events can be the highlight of OutGames.

If you are an athlete and interested in learning more, you can check out the World OutGames page here. They will be held in Miami in May of 2017, so you have some time to train!