In 2017, thousands of participants, spectators and leaders from around the globe will travel to Miami for World OutGames IV. This ten-day event will bring to life more than 450 events across three areas: sports, culture and human rights. World OutGames Miami promises to ‘challenge attendees physically, stimulate them intellectually and enliven them emotionally.’
Leading the charge in bringing this larger-than-life event to South Florida is long-time community advocate Ivan Cano. As Chief Executive Officer of the World OutGames, Cano was instrumental in fighting for it to be hosted in Miami. One of our ‘Movers and Shakers’ profiled in last year’s inaugural round up of Florida’s 100 brightest LGBT community members, we had the opportunity to dive deeper with Cano. We discussed the path to where he is today, the fight he fought to bring the OutGames to Miami, and his true opinion on all things body and soul.
In his late teens, Cano started working for the Gay Games in 1994. Beginning as a volunteer, he soon became a staff member and worked there for about a year. “That experience really set me off on this path to be an activist,” he told us. “Seeing the absolute pure joy of people being out and open to be themselves in the mid-90s and bringing their best to the table. Obviously at that time we didn’t have social media or internet that branched me to Europeans or Asians or South Americans. Here, it was a global event where all these people came out of the woodwork and got to meet and create relationships and friendships during those times. That really cemented all of the feelings and passions to bring me to nonprofit work.”
The next important event in Canos’s development as an activist and community leader was attending the 1994 National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. The National LGBTQ Task Force organizes the annual conference, a skills-building event for community and allies with over 2,000 attendees each year.
From the Boston to New York AIDS Ride to Gavin Newsom’s mayoral campaign in San Francisco, Cano spent the next years of his career focusing on non-profit and activism work for the LGBT community across the nation. At one point, he faced a crossroad, whether to pursue politics or stay in the non-profit sector while working in hospitality. He chose the latter.
“I felt like there was a missing link in my heart as I was getting a little older. I realized what are my next steps after accomplishing so much in New York, San Francisco, and London? I realized that I should be doing more for my culture. I decided to move to Miami. It was warm, it was Latin, and it was right up my alley! But once I moved, little did I know that I was starting from scratch.”
After acclimating to his new community, he quickly became involved in many different initiatives and local organizations including Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade and Festival. While chairing at the Miami Beach LGBT Business Enhancement Committee, Cano raised an important question when he saw something was missing from the local LGBT community in Miami.
“I always had a question in the back of my mind; why aren’t we doing anything with sports here? I spoke with some key leaders and they said that it was possible but it would take a lot of time and money. Money is the key factor and energy. After I landed here in Miami, I always asked the question: what if? What if? Why can’t we? Why can’t we? I like to push the button and I kept trying to push it but no one listened to me so I dropped it.”
However, the desire to bring something sports related for the LGBT community in Miami was still in the back of his mind. Then a meeting at the Convention Center changed all of that. “One thing led to another and within two hours we brought up that same question, what if we could bring the WorldOut games here? Because the bidding was still in the cycle and we could apply. After that conversation with Bruce Townsend and Jerry Torres, that ‘what if’ became a two month race to build a board, create a bid, get people to buy into it and the rest is history.”
Licensed by the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association, the World OutGames Miami 2017 will be held throughout Miami – Dade County. Half of it if not more will be in Miami Beach, where the games main village will be located. Other venues being used or looked at are the Convention Center, Flamenco Park, FIU, Downtown Miami, and Tamiami Park.
The OutGames not only welcomes all levels of athletes to participate, but also members from outside the LGBT community as well. “First and foremost, the games are open to anyone. Gay, straight, transgender, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, anybody under the sun. Everyone is welcome to come because we aren’t gonna ask that question first and foremost. If are going to talk about a global event and diversity and unity, we have to stop drawing the lines and invite everyone with a true sportsmanship spirit. Bring your best and be your best.”
Cano cites the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority and Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau helping and supporting the important endeavor to bring more LGBT people to the community – not only for the OutGames but all year long.
Cano wants the games to transform people’s perspective on sports, taking the possible negative experiences from childhood and develop them into positive experiences and life long relationship. “Some of us have had a very negative experience with sports back in grammar school or high school. Being the person who was picked last because your body was funny or you looked funny or you were awkward or you were just different. Here, it is about turning something negative into a positive.”
I related my recent experience of trying to transform my body, but Cano quickly reminds me that we are much more than that. “It’s so interesting you mention physical body. At the end of the day, your mind and soul is really what makes you the person you are. Not your body. That is just an after affect. Being in a positive space where you are going to bring your best and have fun is what we are trying to do here. It’s competitive but it’s a bonding experience. It fills your bucket of friendships. That is one of the beauties of sports. It’s another avenue to be your best.”
For more information on the World OutGames Miami 2017, please visit www.outgames.org.