Growing up, Mariah struggled to find acceptance as a queer person.

But when she joined a LGBTTQIA+ community badminton group, finding acceptance wasn’t an issue.

“Since day one, when I first attended one of their weekly games, I already felt part of the community,” Mariah says.

“No further discussion about my gender was needed.

“I was very, very thankful and happy about that.”

The Rainbow Games, a fully inclusive multisport tournament for queer people and allies, is being held in Tāmaki Makaurau from April 4-8.

The event will host competitions for 12 sports, from basketball to roller derby.

Event director Tom Leonard says the kaupapa of the tournament is to create opportunities for rainbow communities to feel empowered and fully included in sports and recreation.

“While most sports clubs have male and female divisions, we have an open category and a female-identifying category,” Tom says.

The open category is for all gender and identity expressions, while the female-identifying category is open to cisgender women, transgender women and non-binary people who were assigned female at birth (AFAB).

“Those categories allow for people to play as their authentic self without the fear of judgement.

“It’s about having fun and getting people to build healthier habits.”

Mariah is a 43-year-old trans woman who has been playing with the Auckland Feathers, an LGBTTQIA+ community badminton group based in Tāmaki Makaurau, for seven years. 

“I first started playing badminton when I was still in my home country in the Philippines,” says Mariah. 

“Every event that I join in, I make sure that I enjoy every minute of it. 

“It's really just about learning and realising I have improved from the last time I played.”

Mariah will be competing in badminton at the Rainbow Games. 

When being interviewed for this article, she requested we don’t use her photo and real name.

“Even in the office that I work at, I don’t think people know I am trans,” Mariah says.

Growing up, Mariah experienced bullying and verbal abuse for being part of the rainbow community. 

“I don't want to go through that same ordeal again.”

Most of the people in Mariah’s life who know she is trans are the people at Auckland Feathers.

“Auckland Feathers have been very supportive and are very welcoming.

“That's why I enjoy being part of the club, because I feel like I'm accepted and I’m safe with the club members.”

Mariah says the thing she is most looking forward to about the Rainbow Games is “winning”.

Registrations for the Rainbow Games have closed, but you can still be part of the event by being a spectator at one of the competitions, or attending the opening and closing ceremonies.

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