Pan Am Games Make Loud LGBTQ Statement

When it comes to inclusion, the 2015 Pan American Games is setting the bar high for everyone else.


Every four years, in the year before the Summer Olympics, athletes from the Americas come together to compete in the Pan American (Pan Am) Games. But this time around, something was noticeable different.


Held in Toronto, Canada, this year’s Pan Am Games included the PrideHouse—a housing complex set up specifically as a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer athletes. Located in the heart of Toronto’s “gay village,” the PrideHouse pavilion was the first-ever of its kind at the Pan Am games. What’s even more encouraging is that it was conceptualized, proposed and brought to life by the Pan Am organizing committee, and not just LGBTQ activists.


Canadian soccer star Erin McLeod, who plays goalie for the Canadian National Women’s Team as well as the Houston Dash, was a torchbearer in the opening ceremonies. According to the Toronto Star, McLeod also helped mark the opening of the PrideHouse at the start of the Pan Am Games.


“As an out athlete, I think it’s very important for athletes who aren’t necessarily out or who are struggling to have a place where they feel safe and to perform at their best,” McLeod told the Toronto Star. “I know for me, to be exactly who I am is when I’m at my best and playing my best, so I think it’s an important message for not just Toronto but Canada to send to the world.”


Inclusion and safety concerns for LGBTQ athletes were highlighted during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. With the Summer Olympics being only one year away, the Pan Am Games organizers have set an important precedent—all athletes have the right to compete in a safe and welcoming environment.  The International Olympic Committee has already taken a necessary step in the right direction by having each host city sign an anti-discrimination agreement. But perhaps they need to take things a step further.


As more LGBTQ athletes come out and participate in athletic competitions on an open platform, the world will have to continue to evolve and make necessary changes. Rio De Janeiro will be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, and they have reportedly sent a delegation to Toronto in order to gain some insight into how they should set up their own PrideHouse. It’s a positive sign, considering that Brazil still has a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ awareness and inclusivity.


Thank you Pan Am Games for showing the rest of the world what inclusion at athletic competitions should look like. For that, you deserve a medal.