Pride House Birmingham is building a secure space with a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere for LGBTIQ+ audiences, athletes and officials at the Commonwealth Games to be held in Birmingham in 2022.
Piero Zizzi, one of Birmingham’s Pride House organizers, said:
“As a Brummie, I am hugely proud to be leading on this project. Pride House Birmingham will celebrate the fantastic diversity of England’s second city, explore our relationship with the Commonwealth and create a lasting legacy for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in sport.”
The Pride House has been conceptualized on the three pillars: Celebrate, Participate, Educate. The programming will include group sport and physical fitness, cultural gatherings, workshops, education and collaboration with local schools, as well as a range of parties and other events to celebrate the Games’ and Birmingham’s vibrant LGBTIQ+ community.
Pride House, as an idea, was introduced in Vancouver in 2010, when the local group developed an LGBTIQ+ welcome venue in Whistler at the Winter Olympic Games. They decided to create a hostel similar to the National Houses created around the Olympics & Paralympics events, as a safe space for the LGBTIQ+ community to watch and experience the Games.
The initiative has introduced an ambassador program with four athletes, all aiming to participate in Birmingham 2022; they are Indian sprinter, Dutee Chand, Jamaican swimmer Michael Gunning, Scottish wheelchair basketball player, Robyn Love, and English race walker Tom Bosworth.
In 2019, Dutee Chand, the professional sprinter became the first Indian woman to win gold at the 100-metre World University Games in Naples. Earlier that year, the national champion also stated that she was in a same-sex relationship, making her India’s first openly queer competitor.
Chand wanted to take a break from romantic pursuits at the time, having gone through two unsuccessful same-sex relationships, but she credits her current partner made her feel free to love once again, even in the face of a serious backlash from her country’s people. “I was treated like a pariah and made to feel like I didn’t deserve to live,” she shared with Vogue in a 2019 interview.
However, Chand says that we’ve come a long way as a country. India has made considerable progress in normalizing this issue, and people have also been more willing to accept others. While people’s mindsets are changing, there is still a need for more acceptance. Her association with the Pride House project reinforces her beliefs for the inclusion of LGBT+ athletes in mainstream sport.
Here is how the ambassador feels about the role:
“I am honoured and thrilled to become a Pride House Birmingham Ambassador. It was right before the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow in 2014 that I was dropped from the Indian national team due to Hyperandrogenism Regulations of the World Athletics. Since then I have fought for my rights to compete the way I was born. Being the first openly bisexual athlete from India, I feel the need to celebrate and embrace difference. Sport is for all and it must provide a safe space for everyone.”