Home With Pride
With the world saying sayonara to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the LGBTQI+ community is saying arigato to many LGBTQI+ Olympians. Some athletes will be bringing home more than medals of various colours, they will return with their heads held high aware of the personal impact they have had on many queer audiences.
There were two things I was particularly excited to see; the new sporting events and which Olympians would publicly come out on the main sporting stage. Keeping a close eye on Outsports, I noted that there were at least 183 openly LGBTQI+ athletes who took part in this year’s competition. Something as powerful as this made my heart swell, even as I sat in my sitting room. The likes of Kellie Harrington, Raven Saunders, Tom Daley and Quinn will be talked about in my house for months, even years to come for their bravery, openness and passion.
Many athletes have voiced honest opinions about their sexual orientations or gender identities over the years, or some coming out as recently as this year. Pleasant surprises came in the form of silently saying, “Oh, she’s like me” when any ‘queer coded’ athlete appeared on screen. 1500m runner Gabriela Debues-Stafford from Canada fit this bill perfectly. Her rainbow dyed hair was a hint for any LGBTQI+ person.
Thanks to the games being broadcast at all hours I was able to see Quinn in action as the first trans and non-binary soccer player to compete not only in the Olympics, but to also win an Olympic gold medal for Canada. Acts of solidarity also came from US shot put silver medallist Raven Saunders. I was touched to see the athlete show allyship to Black people, the LGBTQI+ community and people facing oppression by crossing her arms on the podium.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t always been this much openness and visibility at international sporting events, let alone the Olympics. Many intersex and transgender athletes face the brunt of this blade. Regulations targeting black athletes have been prominent for some time. I had the chance to watch Caster Semenya compete in the 2017 IAAF World Championships in Athletics, and I was in awe of her skill. No more than one year later there were plenty of regulations in place to prevent the long-distance runner from competing in her 400m and 800m events.
The nature of the invasive tests that many athletes like Caster must go through is traumatic and degrading. Athletes are also being held underneath microscopes for the world to analyse them while they are trying to find inner peace in their own bodies.
One must ask, how can officials scrutinise one athlete but not another? (Let’s not talk about Michael Phelps “natural gifts” in this blog).
There have been joyous moments I have taken away from the 32nd Olympic Games including Erica Sullivan’s elation to proudly talk about being gay and her success at winning a silver medal in swimming for the USA. I smiled wholeheartedly at Sullivan proudly stating, “as someone who likes women and who identifies as gay — it’s so cool,” and added, “It’s awesome.”
With this joyful feeling and awareness, we must remember that some athletes will be returning to countries where homosexuality is illegal. I took a deeper look at the 206 teams that qualified for these Games and what struck me most was that six of the countries who competed have national laws in which engaging in same-sex activity is punishable by death. It makes me wonder, how would a young, closeted, or questioning teenager feel if they were watching these games knowing that their country frowns upon the right for each person to be their authentic self!
In 2012 there were 23 publicly out Olympians and 56 in 2016 the Rio Summer Games. How many LGBTQI+ athletes will we see in Paris 2024?
If you are a manager, parent or athlete and would like to find out ways on how your words and actions can impact a young athlete check out our #PrideInSport video series here.