“The first Gay Games, and the fierce backlash from the Olympics, was a defining moment in building an international LGBTQ+ sports movement.” -Kenrick Ross
LGBTQ+ people have ALWAYS participated in sports and fitness. Over the past 50 years, an international LGBTQ+ sports movement has blossomed around the world, with thousands of clubs, groups, leagues, and competitions creating affirming and welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ people (and allies, families, and friends!)
As politicians across the United States try to deny LGBTQ+ people — and trans, intersex, and nonbinary kids, especially — access to sports, it’s a perfect time to celebrate the history and impact of LGBTQ+ amateur sports. Because whether for community or competition, fitness or self-care, for countless LGBTQ+ people around the world, affirming sports can be life-changing, and even life-saving. — Kenrick Ross, Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and avid amateur tennis player.
Image by DBenitostock / Getty Images.
KR: “Many LGBTQ+ sports groups developed at the height of the AIDS epidemic, offering spaces of refuge and resistance. Tournaments often doubled as fundraisers for organizations serving people living with AIDS when resources for such work were scarce.”
KR: “In bringing their whole selves to sports, many LGBTQ+ amateur athletes are challenging stereotypes well beyond sexual orientation.”
KR: “‘Out’ pro athletes still remain few and far between, but their presence in sports like soccer and tennis has had a huge impact on encouraging amateur athletes to take up more space.”
KR: “Today, the issues are different from those confronted by LGBTQ+ athletes of previous generations, but the potential for sports to create community, and spaces of visibility, comfort, and resilience remains the same.”
Kenrick Ross (he/him) is the Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), the nation’s leading organization empowering LGBTQ+ Asians and Pacific Islanders.
He has spent the past two decades in social impact leadership launching and leading new programs, initiatives, and startups, and stewarding organizations through transformative change and growth in staff, mission, services, and constituencies. He is passionate about social justice and entrepreneurship; civic engagement; intersectional diversity, inclusion, and equity; and inclusive sports, and he’s shared his thoughts on them as a panelist or presenter at more than 50 events for companies and organizations like Reuters, Dropbox, The LGBT Task Force, The Trevor Project, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, etc., and in media, such as Esquire, Gay City News, and Good Morning America.
He is founder of Urban&Out, a network for LGBTQ+BIPOC professional and leadership development, and, more recently, chief evangelist for @LOVE, an LGBTQ+tennis platform.
He was born in Guyana, raised in the NYC area, and currently lives in Newark, NJ with his husband Joseph, and cats, Kitty and Pet. He holds a BA in Politics from New York University, and an MS in Urban Policy and Leadership from CUNY-Hunter College.