Australian fights homophobia with World Gay Boxing Championships

SEB STARCEVIC

Lying sick in hospital, Martin Stark was not only worried about his poor health – the gay boxer was also crushed by the news that boxing had been dropped from the 2022 Gay Games.

So the 45-year-old Australian decided to create another LGBT+ sports festival to achieve his dream of competing on the world stage.

“I was calling myself the future world gay boxing champion, I was going to go and win gold for Australia,” Stark told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

“I was in my hospital bed, and I thought, ‘I can’t stop this journey I’ve started’ so I decided to create the World Gay Boxing Championships.”

Homophobia in sport is a global problem, with fear of abusive chants, threats, bullying and physical assault leading many players to hide their sexuality.

In a 2015 international study initiated by Australian gay rugby groups, 80% of respondents said they had witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport and 75% said it was not very safe to be an openly gay spectator at a sporting event.

Such attitudes led to the founding in San Francisco of the Gay Games in 1982. Hong Kong is set to host the 2022 event, which is expected to attract some 15,000 participants.

Stark said he hopes his 2023 championship – to be held during the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, when the city will also host World Pride – will attract LGBT+ boxers from around the globe and encourage LGBT+ people to participate in sport.

“I want the LGBTQI community to be empowered to do whatever they want to do and achieve their dreams,” said Stark, who has so far funded the championship on his own and organised it with the help of friends.

“For me, that’s encouraging people to participate in the sport of boxing.” – Thomson Reuters Foundation.