rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The World Out Games: Queering Copenhagen

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

The result of three years of cross-continental and inter-cultural work, the World Out Games opened this week in Copenhagen, integrating sports, culture and human rights, and as GLISA's Julia Appelgate explained: "building a world community of out activists, athletes and cultural workers."

The Games launched with more than 5,500 athletes, cultural producers and activists taking part in one of the largest street parties the city has seen and, as Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Ritt Bjerregaard described in her welcome: "making Copenhagen Queer."

Indeed, local residents and tourists have been encouraged to participate throughout the week via not only the sporting events, but also at cultural and arts events held at venues dispersed throughout the city.

Though same sex marriage remains illegal in this predominantly Lutheran state of five million people, Copenhagen's claim to queer fame lays in registering the world's first same sex domestic partnership, via "the Registered Partner Act," at its city hall in 1989. In fact one of the week's many guest speaker highlights was an address by the surviving member of that first couple: Axel Axgil.

Axel Axgil and Svend Robinson

Now 95, Axgil was also the founder of the International Homosexual World Organization in 1948, a first for gay advocacy. Addressing the Games' crowd, Axgil explained that after the euphoria over the launch of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "I had to face up to the fact that not all of us were covered in the UN declaration." His words were a reminder of the more than 70 countries where homosexuality still meets imprisonment or death -- a reality made physically present in the opening parade of nations by volunteers who carried the signs of countries not represented in the athletic components.

By contrast, Canada, as noted frequently over the opening days, has made more progress than most in its recognition of LGBT rights, and it showed at the Games: Canada was strongly represented in the parade of nations, with one of the largest contingents of athletes at the Games, and was also very well represented at the conference with individual delegates, politicians (federal MPs Bill Siksay and Libby Davies were in attendance) and most notable were labour: CUPE, HEU, BCGEU, PSAC, CUPW, CUFW, EFTO and the CLC were all out in force.

Canada at the World Out Games

One the major events at the Games has been the three-day human rights conference, co-chaired by Canadian LGBT rights trailblazer, Svend Robinson. Over 750 delegates from 80 countries, including 250 fully sponsored delegates from the global South, registered for the conference and have been participating in some 110 workshops and plenary sessions.

This year's Games also mark the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, and one of the keynote speakers at the human rights conference was Virginia Apuzzo (who, among other accomplishments, was the highest ranking out gay person ever to serve at the White House). She reminded delegates to be vigilant: that hard fought for rights will be lost if activists become complacent: "it is true we have made extraordinary advances since 1969 -- but let us never forget that many challenges remain. Just as India has decriminalized homosexuality, Burundi has criminalized homosexuals." And from the audience, we were reminded that Canada's much acclaimed and hard fought for rights are currently under threat by Conservative government.

The call for "the LGBTI community" to stand together was however met with caution. Though the language of "community" is often used in regards LGBTI, as filmmaker Parvez Sharma noted, "there is no meta community": the LGBTI community is made up a diversity of experiences, interests and power relations, which can be very divisive and exclusionary. The World Out Games, in fact itself emerged out of split with the Gay Games. Three main lines of tension quickly arose at the conference, concerning the inclusion of transgendered and transsexuals in the conference content and conference organization; First world imperialism; and Israel/ Palestine (specifically in the choice to include Tel Aviv in the "Out Cities" portion of the Games). In fact there was an "alternative" Out Games conference held before the Games, and a "radical conference" is planned for after...

Countries not at the Games

Stay tuned to rabble for more video and audio from the Games.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.