Record Amount of Openly LGBTQ Athletes at Summer Olympics in Brazil This Year
Inspiring a Sense of unity
Hosted by Brazil this year, the 2016 summer Olympics are a clear indication of the progress that has been made in recent years. Arriving from across the globe, a record amount of openly LGBTQ athletes will be representing countries like Germany, Brazil, Sweden, Canada, USA, Australia, and many more at this summer’s games.
Almost doubling the 22 LGBTQ athletes that participated in the 2012 summer games, and more than tripling the 12 LGBTQ athletes that competed in 2008; the 43 openly LGBTQ athletes set to compete in this year’s summer Olympic games aren’t just breaking records, they’re inspiring a sense of unity and inclusiveness at an international level.
Anna Aagenes, the vice president of program development and community relations of the You Can Play Project, has said that, “The Olympics is the largest global platform to discuss sports and social change and Rio 2016 is no exception. It’s incredibly important that these LGBTQ athletes are visible and that they are visibly supported while competing at the highest level of sports.”
visibility is a powerful tool
Chris Mosier, the first transgender man to make the U.S. National Team as a duathlete and executive director of GO! Athletes, agrees with how important the visibility of LGBTQ athletes is. “Visibility is a powerful tool in the LGBTQ sports movement,” said Mosier. “The more people see examples of LGBTQ athletes competing and succeeding at a high level, the more others will be inspired to do the same.”
However, even though 43 is an impressive number of openly LGBTQ competitors; there may be a lot more LGBTQ athletes at this summer’s Olympic games than we realize. Many LGBTQ athletes are reluctant to come out during the height of their career, despite the undeniable progress that is being made. These LGBTQ athletes not only fear for their personal safety, they’re also afraid of losing their sponsorships which usually account for the majority of their incomes.
fear that coming out will damage careers
It wasn’t until retirement that Greg Louganis, a two-time American gold medalist for diving, felt comfortable enough to announce to the world that he was an HIV positive gay man through his book, Breaking the surface. 24-year-old American Olympic freestyle skier, Gus Kenworthy, didn’t come out until October of 2015; which was only after he had already competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Kenworthy told ESPN Magazine that he was afraid that coming out would damage his reputation, and didn’t know if his sponsors would continue to pay him.
nike got on board!
Fortunately, big name sport sponsors seem to be progressing along with the rest of the world. Not only did Kenworthy not lose his sponsorships; Nike stepped forward to back him as well as several other openly LGBTQ athletes in recent years.
Keeping the safety of the LGBTQ athletes in mind, a lot of reporters have said that they will be reporting directly from Pride House this year. The first Pride House was approved and built for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It’s modelled after the National Olympic House and it’s a place where LGBT individuals, along with their friends and family members, can unite and celebrate freely in an inclusive and safe environment.
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