Gay Games : A respite for oppressed athletes

For Agence France Presse

With Brice Le Borgne, during the Gay Games in Paris on August 2018, we met, photographed and interviewed 5 athletes forced to hide their sexuality in their home countries and for who sport offer a crucial respite. 5 portraits to discover here

Clare Byarugaba, Swimming, Uganda.

Clare is a 31 year-old LGBT activist in Kampala. In 2014, a local newspaper put her on the front page presenting her as lesbian, forcing her to come out. It's her first time participating at the Gay Games. "In my hometown, I can't take the bus, I have to drive everywhere inside of my car. I am afraid that people will recognize me. I was so proud to wear the uganda flag during the opening ceremony at this gat event. But now, I may face more problems when I will return home", Clare says 


Zhang Nan, table tennis, China

Unable to share the truth about being gay with his family, 21-year-old Zhang Nan flew to Paris on the pretence of taking French classes. "My friends know I'm gay, but you can't be openly gay in China. The government never talks about it." He is part of a delegation of 69 competitors from China joining 10,000 athletes at the games. "The competition here is very hard. But I came here mostly to find a man," he laughed.


Yulia Zhdanova, Dance, Russia

Yulia won the gold medal during the International Latin dance competition. She also trains six couples in Moscow, some are gay and participate in the Gay Games. "Since one of us got beaten up, we have to close the door during the training, and we face many challenges to find money, for example", she explains. Since 2013, a russian law condemn ( fine or jail ) every 'homosexual propaganda towards minors". In her sport, for this gay event, men dances with men while women dances with women in a duo.


Hon Sum Ray Lau, Fencing, Honk Kong. 

Hon Sum Ray is a 38-year-old high school mathematics teacher. Because of the social pressure in his hometown, he has yet to come out yet to his friends and family and said that he was coming to France for tourism. However, he is looking forward to the 2022 Gay Games which are scheduled to take place in Hong Kong.


Jay Mulucha, Uganda, Basketball

Jay is a 32 year-old transgender basketball player. "In Uganda, being gay is illegal. You can be beaten, arrested, evicted from your home, jailed or killed," he says. Despite being expelled from the university, dismissed by his family and assaulted, he wants to begin living openly as a gay man."They feel at home, but they have a lot of challenges, to find money for transportation, food, their equipment. It makes them lose moral. But such a team is unique, we are proud."

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