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Gay Games author wins national book award

Victoria University researcher Dr Caroline Symons has won the Australian Society for Sports History Book Award for 2011 for her history of the Gay Games.

The citation for the award, announced last week, said the society chose to honour the book because it was a "meticulously researched and sophisticated social history" that promoted the "centrality, as opposed to the marginality of gay, lesbian and transgendered people in global sport".

"The Committee considers The Gay Games: A History an engaging narrative that reveals both the lived experiences and personal stories of individuals, groups and communities involved in the organisation and participation of various Games."

The society commended Dr Symons' use of oral history, participant observation and archival research in her book, which traces the history of the Gay Games from its origins in 1980 to the Chicago Games in 2006.

Dr Symons, a historian and sociologist who lectures in sports sociology and event management, said the award was a great honour not just for her, but also for gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex communities across the world.

"I've had tremendous feedback from participants and organisers of this international event in sport that celebrates the social aspects of GLBTI culture as well as sporting performance," she said.

"One of my motives in writing the book was to acknowledge and celebrate the inclusiveness of the diverse queer community. Another objective was to raise awareness of gay and lesbian sport among mainstream readers.

"Sporting and cultural events are often described in organisational terms. I chose a different approach in this work by looking at the social context and impact of the Games."

Dr Symons led the first Australian study on homophobia in sport, Come Out To Play, sponsored by VicHealth and endorsed by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission last year.

The study found that despite recent improvements, there is still widespread homophobia in club sport .The report called for awareness programs for sporting codes and clubs to promote an inclusive and welcoming culture for all participants, administrators and coaches.

The Gay Games: A History was published by Routledge in 2010. There are plans to bring out a soft-cover edition later this year.

Caroline Symons is available for interview: 0422 250 516

Media inquiries: Jim Buckell, External Communications Officer,

Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University

Ph: (03) 9919 4243; mobile: 0400 465 459; email: jim.buckell@vu.edu.au

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