Meghan Joyce says Gay Games 9, which Cleveland hosted this week, was an opportunity for people from around the world to celebrate who they are.
“It really brought the community together,” said Joyce, 24, who graduated from Buckeye High School and lives in Medina. “I am just so happy that it happened in Cleveland.”
The quadrennial event hosts gay athletes from around the world who compete in more than 35 Olympic-style sports. This year’s competition, which ends today, was expected to draw more than 9,000 participants.
Joyce and teammate Jessie Hall, 24, also of Medina, won gold medals for team indoor volleyball.
Their team competed against seven other teams in their division to take home the top prize.
Unlike the Olympics, the competitions at the Gay Games are not based on national teams. Two of their other teammates were from Germany and trained there before meeting up with the rest of them before the games started.
“We built chemistry from the moment we met,” she said.
Joyce said her and her teammates would meet at her father’s house in Litchfield Township, where there is an outdoor volleyball court, to prepare for the games.
Hall, who works for a clinical research company, said she plays volleyball recreationally and played basketball in high school.
The Cleveland Foundation sponsored the Gay Games 9, which held events in Cleveland and Akron and several other Northeast Ohio communities.
The first Gay Games were held in San Francisco in 1982 and again 1986. The previous event was held in Cologne, Germany.
Paris is scheduled to host the games in 2018.
The closing ceremony of Gay Games 9 will take place today on Mall C in downtown Cleveland on Lakeside Avenue across from the Convention Center from 5-10 p.m. Tickets to the ceremony are $15.
The Gay Games were designed to be more than a competition for medals.
The games were founded in 1980 by Dr. Tom Waddell, a gay American athlete, as a “vehicle for change.”
According to the Gay Games website, at the time gay athletes were marginalized.
“The Gay Games are not separatist, they are not exclusive, they are not oriented to victory, and they are not for commercial gain,” Waddell wrote. “They are, however, intended to bring a global community together in friendship, to experience participation, to elevate consciousness and self-esteem, and to achieve a form of cultural and intellectual synergy.”
For gay athletes like Joyce and Hall, who both came out as gay to their friends and family when they were 20, the games are just that.
Joyce said the games are much more than just competition — they are about making a statement that gay people are normal people who just happen to love someone of the same sex.
Joyce said she didn’t really know she was gay until she entered college.
“My family is really supportive of me,” Joyce said. “No one in my family really treated me differently.”
Joyce’s mother, Gina Joyce, attended some of events at the Gay Games.
“The most amazing thing I experienced was how everyone got along so well,” she said. “I met some wonderful people and it was like they had all known each other for a long time.”
Gina Joyce said it wasn’t difficult to accept her daughter when she came out as gay four years ago.
“I was just so glad that she was happy,” she said. “It was fine with me.
“I could not imagine not having a relationship with my daughter just because she is gay. That is ridiculous.”
Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or firstname.lastname@example.org.