Kathryn Kircher [Gay Games promote the wrong lifestyle, Viewpoints, Jan. 18] presented her view about the upcoming Gay Games. She wrote that the games validate the “homosexual lifestyle,” that they are not a “serious athletic gathering” and that “God” may not approve of homosexuality. For a woman who claims to have fostered a loving, listening relationship with a gay colleague, she comes off as careless at best.

After reading Kircher’s piece, I closed Wednesday Journal, noticing the back page color photo of boys’ high school wrestling. Recently I received a letter about “little husky” wrestling. As a parent, I wondered if this would be a comfortable place for my 6-year-old girl who loves wrestling. Further into this sports section, there are photos of high school male and female basketball players; articles on a coach dispute at a local high school; blurbs on high school hockey and brief coverage of gymnastics, swimming. Young girls of the Oak Park Gymnastics Center were pictured.

I mention this coverage to highlight the institutionalized bias associated with sports that permeates our culture. Adults often have a rigid view about athletic competition in general and athletes specifically. Children learn these stereotypes at an early age. In the struggle to create avenues for all strengths, shapes and sizes, the Gay Games provides one enlightened perspective on the inclusive possibilities of the sporting world.

I am a former physical education teacher and a triathlete of 20 years. Triathlon is an Olympic sport (although many battles were fought for such inclusion) as are swimming, running and cycling. Are they serious athletic events? If I were to rely on local sports coverage, I most likely would conclude not, except when Olympic years roll around. An enormous amount of societal energy goes into perpetuating the status quo.

As a Phys. Ed. teacher, I was witness to this struggle beginning early on in life. Girls who keep up with boys in athletics are sometimes labeled “tomboys.” Boys who don’t excel at particular team sports are called all kinds of things. Those people who believe that certain sports are male, and that certain sports are female, or that prowess at certain sports make a true athlete are stuck in a lost paradigm. I have known national caliber triathletes, rock climbers, kayakers, tennis players, baseball players, runners, golfers, orienteers, all great in their own passion and sport.

So when asked if it is a serious endeavor to support an event whose purpose is to “foster and augment the self-respect of lesbians and gay men throughout the world and to engender respect and understanding from the non-gay world,” I can think of nothing more honorable and Olympian. In today’s hateful, unhealthy, obese, stressed world, how delightful?#34;an event that brings people from all over the world together in order to pursue personal excellence, enjoy sport and celebrate their own health.

Finally, you might insist, but how does this relate to Kathryn’s piece? She said she’s all for engendering respect for gay people, just not the lifestyle. This lifestyle buzzword is a pitiful mask of the fact that the only way a gay person can fit into such a mold is by living in the closet, which is not a healthy option, for world class athletes or as age-group competitors.

Karen Steward Nolan
Oak Park

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