Friday
August 4, 2006
SGN.org
Volume 34
Issue 31
 
search only SGN online
Thursday, Aug 17, 2017

 

 



 
Family Affair: Partners and Parents Participate in the Games
Family Affair: Partners and Parents Participate in the Games
by Jim Provenzano - SGN Contributing Writer

Opponents of LGBT rights like to crow about "family values" as their exclusive domain. But at both Gay Games VII and Outgames I, families are not only fans, but participants as well.

"ATHLETIC SUPPORTER"

Lionel Pires and his partner, Allan Dillabough, of Newport, R.I., are attending Gay Games VII (July 15-22) while enjoying an anniversary. The two men met in Vancouver during Gay Games III in 1990.

"I met Al at Wreck Beach, a popular Gay nude beach," says Pires, who admits with humor, "Yes, I was totally nude."

A gold medalist in racquetball at the second Gay Games, held in 1986 in San Francisco, Pires recalls Dr. Tom Waddell's speech at the opening ceremonies as inspirational. "His dream was being realized," says Pires, who traveled with 220 members of Team Boston to compete.

"The significance of what was taking place wasn't lost on me," says Pires. "Gay athletes - plural. It was one of the most self-empowering moments of my life, but also very scary, as I wasn't out." A top-ranked New England player and pro instructor, Pires registered under the name Lee Pires, fearing, he says, "that somehow the racquetball world at home would find out."

Out by 1990, Pires later won bronze in Vancouver, where he met Dillabough, who eventually moved to Rhode Island to live with Pires. The two also owned a Gay bar for several years, and after closing it, organized social events with former patrons to keep their extended "family" together.

"I think the bar was good for our relationship," says Pires. "Each night we would open the doors to the general public, not just the Gay community. I believe isolation is suffering." Through ongoing social events, he says, "We're trying to keep our community networked now that the bar is closed."

The two men have competed with - and against - each other in squash in New England tournaments, and both competed at New York's Gay Games IV.

After that, Pires returned to racquetball. "It's the game I play best, and I never enjoyed winning when I played Al. I'm a bit driven. Playing my best is important to me." For Chicago's Games, Pires will compete again in racquetball, with Dillabough as his "athletic supporter."

THE FINISH LINE

Lyle Philip Whitaker II of Kansas City, Kan., not only has his partner, Curtis Brown, traveling to the seventh Gay Games with him, but his mother, Phyllis Whitaker, will join him as well.

"My mother has traveled with me to give me all the support I needed," says Whitaker. "This year she's going to compete alongside me, and she will throw the shot put, discus, and javelin."

"Why should he have all the fun?" says the elder Whitaker, who is 71.

A highly accomplished multi-sport athlete in high school and college, Whitaker played softball with Team San Diego at Gay Games IV in 1994, and also competed in track and field, winning three gold medals (shot put, discus, and javelin) and a silver in high jump. At the next two Gay Games, he continued to win multiple golds and silvers in field events.

His mother traveled with him to Australia for a two-month visit, where Whitaker placed among the top competitors at the 2002 World Masters Games, and at Sydney's Gay Games VI.

To pay for the trip, Whitaker made quite a sacrifice: He sold his house. "It was totally worth it," says Whitaker, who finished among the top 20 in the world in his throwing events, including placing third in the world in the shot put. "That was definitely my favorite medal of all time."

Whitaker has also placed as high in numerous U.S. national track meets. But before the State Games of America in 2005, he was diagnosed with cancer (squamous cell carcinoma).

"Chemo and radiation had no effect on my cancer," says Whitaker. "The only way to get rid of it was through surgery. I only let that scare me, not stop me from doing what I love to do." Whitaker finished second and third in all his events, including a new event for him - hurdles.

"My legs were like lead weights coming around that last turn," he says. "But I heard the roar of the crowd, my adrenaline kicked in, and all I could think of was the finish line."

Still recovering from his cancer surgery, Whitaker has been forced to limit his current training to gym workouts, but is optimistic about his events in Chicago. Whitaker credits his partner for encouraging him. "Curtis has been very supportive of me through everything good and bad," he says.

"WHAT A COUPLE IS"

Ballroom dancers - and life partners - Bradley Stauffer and Soren Kruse will compete together at both Gay Games VII and Outgames I.

Both now U.K. citizens and residents, Stauffer was born in California and Kruse in Hamburg, Germany. They've lived together in London for 10 years, and have been dancing together since 1998.

"Ballroom had always been a closet interest of mine," says Stauffer, who discovered the large same-sex dancing community in London. At first, he says, "Soren said it was stupid and that he wasn't interested. Eventually he came along to a social dance and changed his mind very quickly."

The couple first danced together competitively at the U.K. Gay Sports in 2000. Since then, they developed their technique and competed in several countries. Most recently, they won three major B class titles in 2005 (in London, Vienna, and Sacramento).

"We have danced throughout Europe and the U.S.," says Stauffer, "and have been made to feel welcome wherever we have danced. When you have the courage and the integrity to stand on a dance floor with your partner, people are generally fairly impressed - and if you can dance, they are really impressed.

"It is, of course, wonderful to dance with your life partner," says Stauffer. "But doing something so intense together can also be stressful. We often joke that ballroom will bankrupt and ruin us. But at least we don't have to make excuses to our boyfriends about why we are spending five nights a week in the studio and most weekends traveling to competitions with another man."

Although some contests still prohibit same-sex dancing, Kruse says most European contests have been supportive. "I believe some [officials] have recently defined ballroom dancing as only between one man and one woman. To Americans that will sound familiar. It's up to us to challenge what a couple is."



Jim Provenzano is the author of the novels PINS and Monkey Suits. Read more sports articles at www.sportscomplex.org. He can be reached care of this publication or at sportscomplex@qsyndicate.co.

International Readers
We want to learn about you and have you tell us about Gay Life where you live.
...more...



Wha's happening in Iran
and more...

REPORTS & MUSINGS FROM THE VETERAN GAY AND AIDS HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE
...more...


Seattle Gay Blog
It's new!
A blog created
by the SGN staff,
so you can be heard

working for the freedom to
marry since 1995


copyright Seattle Gay News - DigitalTeamWorks 2006