At least 182 publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and non-binary athletes were at the Tokyo Olympics, more than at any previous Games. The LGBTQ ‘team’ won 32 medals – 11 gold, 12 silver, and 9 bronze. Outsports, of Vox Media, noted that at least 30 different countries were represented by at least one publicly out player, including two trans-Olympians. At least 52 publicly out LGBTQ athletes – some in the same team event – won medals and collectively finished 7th, ahead of France, Germany, Italy, and Canada. With 36 out athletes, the United States had about a fifth of the LGBTQ Olympians. Outsports noted that Brazil (18), Canada (18), Netherlands (17), Britain (16), Australia (13) and New Zealand (10) were some of the other prominent countries in this list. The Indian Express looks at a few of the stars.
Quinn, the first trans-athlete to win a gold medal
Canadian women football team’s defender Quinn became the first trans-athlete to win a gold medal at the Olympics. Quinn, who goes by just one name and uses gender-neutral pronouns, was assigned female at birth but after years of soul-searching, realised their own gender identity did not match their sex.
Quinn prefers people use the pronoun “they” for non-binary transgender. They came out publicly on Instagram last September: “… I want to be visible to queer folks who don’t see people like them on their feed. I know it saved my life years ago. I want to challenge cis folks (if you don’t know what cis means, that’s probably you!!!) to be better allies. It’s a process, and I know it won’t be perfect, but if I can encourage you to start then it’s something. 1) put your pronouns in your bio; 2) follow/listen to other trans/nb voices; 3) practise using gender-neutral pronouns with friends/in a mirror; 4) vote; 5) start to catch yourself making assumptions about people in public/bathrooms/any space.” There are at least four other LGBTQ athletes in Quinn’s team: Kadeisha Buchanan, Erin McLeod, Kailen Sheridan, Stephanie Labbe and so is head coach Bev Preistman.
Laura Hubbard, trans-athlete weightlifter
Laura Hubbard, 43, the first trans-athlete weightlifter, was born a male and transitioned to a woman at the age of 35. She has been at the forefront of a raging debate on multiple themes: gender, moral, scientific, and human rights. “I thought perhaps if I tried something that was so masculine, perhaps that’s what I’d become,” she told Radio New Zealand in 2017. “What people don’t realise is I actually stopped lifting in 2001 when I was 23 because it just became too much to bear … just the pressure of trying to fit into a world that perhaps wasn’t really set up for people like myself”.
Amandine Buchard and Astride Guyart from France
Amandine Buchard won gold in mixed team Judo while Guyart took silver in fencing. Both spoke about their troubles in a documentary by Canal Plus called Faut qu’on parle (We have to talk).
“I got close to a girl, and we would see each other from time to time. For me it felt really strange, because at the time I was going out with a boy,” Buchard said. “I was very scared, I cried a lot and shut myself away. For years, I grew up (in an environment) where it was really badly thought of to be with a girl.”
Guyart talked about “hearing homophobic jokes for 10 years” and feeling pressured to laugh about it with others.
Venezualan Yulimar Rojas wins gold in triple jump
Rojas is an openly lesbian athlete who won gold in triple jump and comes from a country whose armed forces still criminalize same-sex relationships. “The attitude towards Yulimar has been of total denial,” Quiteria Franco, an LGTBQ activist, told Sports Illustrated. “People in Venezuela feel happy about her achievements while saying it is not necessary to mention her skin colour or her sexual orientation or even the fact that she is a woman.”
Four players from New Zealand Rugby Sevens win gold
The team that has at least four publicly out LGBTQ athletes in Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Ruby Tui and Portia Woodman won gold. Incidentally, Canadian rugby sevens also has four out athletes. “We want people to know that rugby is for everyone and there’s no boundaries to that and Pride is good because it aligns with that. Love is for everyone, rugby is for everyone,” Tui said last year.
Canadian rugby player Elissa Alarie told Outsports: “Growing up in a small French town in Quebec, I didn’t know a single LGBTQ person or athlete until I was older. I hope the increased visibility can give young people a sentiment of belonging and encourage communities to be inclusive and welcoming.”
Erica Sullivan, the American swimmer, wins silver
Openly lesbian, Sullivan’s Instagram and Twitter feeds inspire and humour LGBTQ community. Soon after she won the silver, she DMed (and later tweeted it) Australian actor Mia Healey, a bisexual, who plays a lesbian character in the show Wilds, that Sullivan loves. “Hi queen, I won a silver medal in Olympics literally, notice me please,” went Sullivan, and Healey replied, “Wow, oh my god. I feel so honoured!”
In a tweet from 2019, she wrote, “I watched the first Frozen movie on a date with my boyfriend at the time I watched Frozen 2 by myself in a theatre full of parents and kids, gay and single.”
Nesthy Petecio, the Filipino boxer, wins silver
Petecio sobbed at the medal podium after winning silver in featherweight boxing: “This fight is for the LGBTQ community,” she said. Her Filipino boxing team has another boxer who is publicly out, Irish Magno. Petecio grew up living in a tarpaulin-covered shelter which served as her home and according to the Philstar, Filipino real estate companies will be awarding her a condo and house worth P10 million ($201,000) and P2.5 million ($50,000) respectively. She was also given a P17 million ($342,000) incentive.
Kelli Harrington, the Irish boxer, takes gold
Harrington is openly lesbian and a part-time cleaner in a psychiatric hospital in the northern inner-city of Dublin. When she waltzed into the lightweight final, she echoed the lines from Lion King, ‘Like I said, Hakuna Matata, it means no worries!’ In her early teens, she feared she would end up in a prison but boxing proved to be her saviour.
Raven Saunders wins silver in shot put
Green and purple hair, a grinning Joker mask, and loads of pluck and humour, American shot putter Raven Saunders has been a viral sensation this Olympics. On her Twitter bio, #BlackGirlMagic and pride rainbows stand out. She had once contemplated suicide, admitted herself in a mental health institution, and has bounced back to win Olympic silver. Just days after she won silver, she lost her mother. “I was young, I was black and I was gay. Just moved to Mississippi,” Saunders told WMC Action News. “There was a lot of stigma and things like that around certain stuff. I really felt like there was no outlet for me.”
Tom Daley, the diver from Great Britain, wins gold
This is Daley’s second Olympics after coming out as a gay. He won the gold in synchronised diving. “I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion. When I was younger, I didn’t think I would ever achieve anything because of who I was … I can’t wait to go and see my husband and my son, to give them a big hug,” he said after winning.
Emma Twig, the rower, wins gold
After a heart-breaking loss in Rio, Twig announced her retirement before coming back to take gold in single sculls rowing in Tokyo. She is an openly lesbian and told an Outsports podcast about her marriage to her wife, “It’s a great example for anyone out there struggling with who they are”.
US basketball stars
Sue Bird, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart and Dianna Taurasi were the publicly out athletes from the team that won gold.
Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha take gold
Cunha won gold in the 10 km Marathon swimming competition. “This medal is dedicated to all those who fought for the defence of the rights of women and LGBT people,” said Cunha, who announced her engagement with a Brazilian water polo international in 2019.
“The power of sport, the visibility of the Olympic Games and the victories will help to relaunch a necessary national debate on minorities, women, gays, blacks in Brazil,” said sociologist Marcia Couto of the University of Sao Paulo.
Katarzyna Zillman wins silver in rowing
Moments after winning silver in the quad sculls race, Zillman thanked her girlfriend. Later, the Polish rower said, “I felt the need. Until now, however, my voice was not as loud as it is now. I know that in this way, I will help others. It was enough that I showed up in a T-shirt with the words ‘Sport against homophobia’ and I got a few messages from young girls practising rowing. One of them opened up to me, described her difficult home situation to me and confessed that I helped her a lot with my attitude. One such message is enough to completely forget about thousands of hate comments and disgusted faces.”
Jolanta Ogar from Poland wins silver in Sailing
Ogar came out as lesbian when she was 21. “One evening, I asked my mother for peace. I said, ‘I’m in love, but this person is a woman.’ Mama was scared, she got scared for her own child,” she told TVN24. She won silver in sailing at Tokyo. “There are a lot of people in Polish sport who are afraid to come out,” she said.
Alexandra Lacrabère, Amandine Leynaud, France, handball.
Kellie Harrington, Ireland, boxing – 57-60kg
Sue Bird, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart, Dianna Taurasi, USA, basketball
Quinn, Kadeisha Buchanan, Erin McLeod, Kailen Sheridan, Stephanie Labbe, Canada, football
Ana Marcela Cunha, Brazil, swimming – 10km
Yulimar Rojas, Venezuela, track and field – triple jump
Amandine Buchard, France, judo – mixed team
Kelly Brazier, Gayle Broughton, Ruby Tui, Portia Woodman, New Zealand, rugby sevens
Emma Twigg, New Zealand, rowing
Stefanie Dolson, USA, 3×3 basketball
Tom Daley, Great Britain, diving
Ana Carolina, Carol Gattaz, Brazil, volleyball
Ramsey Angela, the Netherlands, track – 4×400 relay
Magdalena Eriksson, Lina Hurtig, Hedvig Lindahl, Caroline Seger, Sweden, football
Jolanta Ogar, Poland, sailing
Nesthy Petecio, Philippines, boxing
Hannah Roberts, USA, BMX freestyle
Raven Saunders, USA, track and field – shot put
Astrid Guyart, France, fencing – women’s team foil
Erica Sullivan, USA, swimming
Katarzyna Zillmann, Poland, rowing
Amandine Buchard, France, judo – 52kg
Ally Carda, Amanda Chidester, Haylie McCleney, USA, softball
Tom Daley, Great Britain, diving – 10m platform
Susannah Townsend, Leah Wilkinson, Sarah Jones, Great Britain, field hockey
Megan Rapinoe, Tierna Davidson, Adrianna Franch, Kelley O’Hara, USA, football
Jasmin Grabowski, Germany, judo – mixed team
Raz Hershko, Israel, judo – mixed team
Lucilla Boari, Italy, archery
Sanne van Dijke, the Netherlands, judo
Carl Hester, Great Britain, equestrian – team dressage
Larissa Franklin, Joey Lye, Canada, softball
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