“Here, in Canada, it’s pretty cushy. If you’re gay, you’re treated like a real human being,” he says, while making last-minute preparations for the launch. But being gay is illegal in 14 of the countries participating in the Games, and in two, homosexual acts are punishable by death.
That’s why at Vancouver’s Pride House, even though the focus will be on making people feel welcome and safe, creating a space to meet up with friends and even trade pins, they also want to encourage people to share their experiences about gay life in other countries. Maps will show where it’s illegal to be gay, where it’s punishable by death, where it’s legal to be married and where it’s not.
Refugee counselors will also be on hand. “If there’s an athlete, a visitor, or whatever, and they say, ‘You know what I can’t go back,’” because of discrimination in their home country, “we’ll have people here to walk them through the process,” says Jennifer Breakspear, the executive director of Qmunity, which is hosting Vancouver’s Pride House. Maybe no one will claim asylum at these Games, she says, but in almost every Olympics held in a Western nation, at least one person has.