Three Cheers for the Gay Games

CHEER at Gay Games 9 in Cleveland's historic Music Hall. Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski.

CHEER at Gay Games 9 in Cleveland’s historic Music Hall. Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski.

Monday night found me at Cleveland’s Music Hall for the Gay Games’ CHEER competition. And there was lots to cheer about.

For starters, the atmosphere was great. Enthusiasm filled the historic theatre, and the crowd was wowed from the start of the opening ensemble routine through every stunt and pom pom team’s performance.

The athleticism and skill in the stunt routines was incredible. These teams were equal to or better than many college cheerleading teams as they did lifts and acrobatics.

Peppy music for each routine added to the energy level. Robot Unicorn hit it right on the head with their choice of The Lego Movie’s “Everything Is Awesome.

I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when emcee Sanford Smith announced that the second part of the evening would be the pom pom competition. But these were not your 1980s Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

Instead, teams performed intricately choreographed dance routines that incorporated pom poms into the dance. And they surpassed dance routines I’ve seen at professional NBA basketball games. My favorite was probably the Cheer New York team’s number, where the variations on hip street clothing really gave you a sense that they could be dancing in the streets of the Big Apple.

Beyond all that, here are three more things to cheer about:

1. The teams were very diverse.

Duh! I know, this is the Gay Games, so you’d think the coed teams would be diverse. But the diversity went beyond making sure LGBT people were included.

As judges scored each team, Smith invited different team members on stage to talk a bit about who they were and their experience with cheerleading. One mom of 4-year-old twins traveled to Cleveland for the games, while her partner was back at home in California with the kids. Another woman had been encouraged to get involved by her husband; they were moving soon because his medical residency had just finished, and she hoped to start up a cheer team in Seattle.

There were young men in their 20s, and a British man nearing 50. And then there was Caesar, who is mostly deaf. When he was growing up, people told him “You can’t dance, you can’t cheer, you can’t hear,” he said. “It bothered me, and I did it,” Caesar added.

2. The teams were not your stereotypical cheerleaders.

Again, duh! But again, it was more than gay pride.

Some of the women were cute, tiny, and petite. And some of the men were tall and muscular. However, there were both men and women with lots of curves who fit the classic endomorph body type. This was a refreshing change from my memories of grade school and high school.

Cheer New York performs in the pom pom competition at Gay Games 9. Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski.

Cheer New York performs in the pom pom competition at Gay Games 9. Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski.

3. It’s all for a good cause.

Competing against each other was actually not the teams’ usual focus. Instead, they raise money for charity.

“”What we really do is raise money for people living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases, such as cancer,” Smith said. The group also supports the Gay Games scholarship fund.

Towards that end, funds from a goodwill collection at the end of the evening will go to help the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland. The organization provides a wide range of services, from health and adequacy to assistance with food, housing, and transportation. And that’s something to cheer about too.

 

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One response to “Three Cheers for the Gay Games”

  1. Wilson Villafaña says :

    Partaking in GG9 was probably one of the best experiences of my life. Competing with Cheer New York and winning the gold was amazing. But getting the chance to meet and “play” with all of the members of Cheer SF and Cheer LA was an experience that I’ll never forget. I will cherish thoes memories forever. God willing, I hope to do it again in Paris 2018. #PCARocks!

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