Representing the United States (and specifically New York City), I am super excited to compete in the Gay Games 2018 in Paris next week. Not only will I twizzle, drape and ride deep edges with skating partner, Chris Lipari, I will experience the near-spiritual connection of ice dance duo Christian Erwin and Joel Dear, as well as watch septuagenarian Wade Corbett — the oldest figure skater in the competition — strut his stuff.
I will also be thrilled to see my fellow Chelsea Piers coaches, Angela Chiang, Maria O’Connor and Tara Nicole Stamm, work a welcoming crowd, as well as Laura Moore, the Grande Dame of Gay Games 2018 Figure Skating herself, flash her trademark Miss America smile during her effortless and graceful spread eagle.
The New York City figure skating community has always had a noticeable presence at the Gay Games 2018. But this year, participation feels different — more urgent, more compelling — I would even go so far to say a political statement. LGBTQ rights are under a newly strengthened, vicious attack, sanctioned by our own government and its institutions. With the Trump administration pushing for an even more conservative Supreme Court, rolling back workplace rights against sex discrimination, implementing a ban on transgender military service and siding with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, they are hard at work dismantling and erasing every gain this group has made since 2009.
Gay Games 2018: A celebration of sports and culture
From Jackie Robinson to Billie Jean King to Adam Rippon, sports has always been the great equalizer, inspiring people all over the world to accept differences when sheer talent demands it. And this is what the Gay Games does so well — creates a venue where all can participate and universally celebrate our love for sports and culture, minimizing differences, bringing us closer to each other. With over 10,000 athletes from 91 countries, competing in 36 sports, it’s bound to break barriers and spread its mission of diversity, inclusion, participation and personal best.
But these connections need to be taken further, to translate into real legal and economic solutions. It’s not enough to socialize, laugh and have a drink with somebody different. Our fight for the politics of our own identity must embrace others in need: the LGBTQ, minorities, women, children and the economically-disadvantaged — because advocating for others is advocating for ourselves.
But I’m hopeful. Although the need to demonize others that are different will always exist, we Gay Games athletes (and athletes everywhere) are on to something. We just need to show the world how beautiful, powerful and easy it is when people from all walks of life come together to reach common goals, producing real accomplishments. We New York City figure skaters will do that in Paris next week and I can’t wait!
Marni Halasa, a lawyer, journalist and professional figure skater, ran in the last election for City Council for District 3. She has been a staff coach at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers for years, and currently coaches national-ranked skating team, The Sky Rink All Stars. As a Gay Games gold medalist, this will be her 4th Gay Games.