This Year's Olympics Will Have The Most Openly LGBT Athletes ... - ThinkProgress


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This is part of ThinkProgress’s #Rio2016 protection. To learn different articles concerning the 2016 Video games, click here.

With a continued state of emergency in Brazil, the Olympic Video games in Rio haven’t precisely been a public relations win for the nation or the Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC). However there's no less than one constructive story value highlighting: the report variety of LGBT athletes collaborating this summer time on the world stage.

The final three Summer time Olympics clearly reveal the progress made. In 2008, 12 LGBT athletes participated in Beijing. In London in 2012, that quantity rose to 22. Now, in Rio, there are 43. And that quantity is expected to grow even greater sooner or later.

“The sports activities world is way extra advanced on LGBTQ points than we give it credit score for,” stated Cyd Zeigler, a founding father of “Whereas there should be points in some entrance workplaces, the athletes and followers have been prepared, prepared and capable of settle for and welcome homosexual teammates and colleagues for a few years.”

Michelle Heyman, Brittney Griner, Angel McCoughtry, Megan Rapinoe, Caster Semenya, Tom Daley, Jillion Potter, and Robbie Manson, are just some of the athletes competing on the Video games who're publicly out and open about their sexual orientation.

“Being an out athlete on the Olympics is a vital alternative to reside my fact whereas competing on the highest degree in sport,” Heyman, a member of the Australian Ladies’s Nationwide Soccer Workforce, informed ThinkProgress. “Everybody has the suitable to be themselves they usually shouldn’t have to cover. We have to settle for, perceive, and rejoice that everybody and each athlete is totally different.”

Regardless of the overwhelming signal of progress in acceptance of LGBT athletes, many nonetheless hesitate to return out within the prime of their careers for worry of dropping sponsors. For Olympic athletes, sponsorships make of nearly all of their revenue.

Greg Louganis, an American Olympic diver who gained gold medals in each 1984 and 1988, was closeted when he competed in his first, second, third, and fourth Olympics. Solely after retiring from diving did he really feel snug sufficient to put in writing Breaking The Floor, a bestselling e-book by which he introduced to the world he was an HIV-positive homosexual man. The general concern of public acceptance nonetheless lingers to today. Gus Kenworthy, a 24-year-old American Olympic freestyle skier, got here out in October 2015, after he had already competed within the 2014 Winter Olympics. He informed ESPN The Magazine that he was afraid popping out would harm his picture and questioned if his sponsors would proceed to pay him.

However the tide seems to be altering. Kenworthy didn’t lose his sponsors. The truth is, Nike has backed him and different out LGBT athletes, together with Rapinoe and Griner, wholeheartedly. They're now a few of the most outspoken LGBT advocates within the sports activities world.

“As an out Lesbian, African-American lady, I'm proud to characterize our nation and the range that makes us so robust,” Griner informed ThinkProgress over e-mail about competing within the Olympics. “All youngsters, it doesn't matter what their background, faith or orientation can discover a position mannequin on Workforce USA and I hope that particularly at this level in historical past, that our numerous group striving for one widespread function will encourage a way of unity in everybody.”

With so many LGBT athletes collaborating within the Olympics this yr, visibility and security of the athletes is paramount.

Chris Mosier, government director of GO! Athletes and the primary transgender man to make the U.S. Nationwide Staff as a duathlete, is aware of firsthand how essential visibility is for LGBT athletes. All through 2015, Mosier advocated for trans rights with the IOC and ultimately received the committee to change its guidelines to permit transgender athletes to compete with out having to bear gender reassignment surgical procedure.

“Visibility is a strong device within the LGBTQ sports activities motion,” stated Mosier, who competed on the earth duathlon championship within the spring. “The extra individuals see examples of LGBTQ athletes competing and succeeding at a excessive degree, the extra others will probably be impressed to do the identical.”

Anna Aagenes, the vice chairman of program improvement and group relations of the You Can Play Challenge, agrees. “The Olympics is the most important international platform to debate sports activities and social change and Rio 2016 is not any exception,” she stated. “It’s extremely necessary that these LGBTQI athletes are seen and that they're visibly supported whereas competing on the highest degree of sports activities.”

With so many open and out LGBT athletes collaborating within the Olympics this yr, the athletes’ security can also be extremely essential. Many reporters can be highlighting their tales from the Satisfaction Home — a specified location through which LGBT people, relations, and pals, can collect, have fun, and work together freely in a welcoming setting. The primary Satisfaction Home was modeled after the Nationwide Olympic Home, and approved and built for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Regardless of its success, comparable plans for a Satisfaction Home in the course of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have been finally rejected by the Russian authorities.

“Delight Homes are an important advocacy and inclusion device,” stated Keph Senett, a coalition member of Delight Home Worldwide. “At no time, maybe, was this extra evident than in Sochi. The native group for that occasion was the Russian LGBT Sports activities Federation who requested for and have been denied permission to have a Delight Home through the [Olympics].”

The tense setting in Sochi is a startling distinction to Rio, which has inclusive insurance policies relating to the LGBT group. Earlier than the Sochi Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a regulation banning “the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” which detailed heavy penalties for anybody suspected of selling homosexuality. In the meantime in Brazil, same-sex marriage has been authorized since 2011, and the nation is house to the world’s largest satisfaction parade in São Paulo.

Nonetheless, violence against LGBT individuals is a critical concern. That’s the place Delight Home is available in, and why many reporters masking the Olympics need to assist showcase as many LGBT athletes as potential. Charley Walters, a broadcast journalist who will probably be masking the Video games for Bravo, E! Information, and The New York Occasions’ TimesTalk, needs to showcase Satisfaction Home as a celebration zone and spotlight the accomplishments of the athletes as an alternative of specializing in unfavourable aspect tales. Walters believes larger visibility of the athletes might result in as many as 50 or 60 LGBT athletes within the 2020 Olympics.

Larger visibility may be essential if a type of athletes receives a gold medal, stated Walters. One individual he's excited to speak to is British diver Tom Daley, who got here out after the 2012 Summer time Olympics in London.

“It will be an enormous deal if he gained gold,” stated Walters. “Daley can also be one of the sponsored athletes at these Video games, which is unimaginable when you consider it with regard to Greg Louganis. We’ve come a great distance.”

The general acceptance and the expansion within the variety of open LGBT athletes competing on the world stage over the previous ten years is plain. However will all of that translate to the skilled sports activities panorama right here in the USA?

Walters thinks it already has.

“It’s a bit of slower than different areas of the world, sure. However even when we don’t have a selected professional athlete who’s out now, it’s about wanting towards the longer term,” he stated. “I feel these Olympic video games present that we’re headed in the suitable course."

An earlier model of this piece mistakenly stated the Satisfaction Home was within the Olympic Village. This isn't the case.

Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a contract author based mostly in Buffalo, NY. You will discover her on Twitter at @darcangel21 or go to for more information.