LGB Olympians Out and Proud at the Rio Olympics
August 31, 2016
Eyes from around the globe are on the Olympics every two years, and 2016 was no different. What was different, however, was the number of openly lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) participants at this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Outsports.com, a website focusing on LGBT athletes and issues, estimates 55 gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes took part, which is 32 more than the number of openly LGB participants in the London 2012 Summer Games. This is not to say that the number of LGB participants has risen; rather, this higher number likely reflects more people willing to be out so publicly. Such a dramatic increase reflects positively on acceptance of LGB people. Their visibility, too, is notable. For example, after playing a rugby game, Brazilian athlete Isadora Cerullo was proposed to by her girlfriend on the field. Cerullo said yes and then shared a kiss with her fiancée for all the world—gay and heterosexual—to find adorable.
Like I said, it isn’t as though LGBTQ people have not been participating in the Olympics already! But this seems to signify a cultural change. As some countries make strides toward acceptance and equality for all sexual orientations, participants may feel safer sharing who they are. For instance, the United States took a large step toward acceptance and equality just last year, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right to marry to same-sex couples. As visibility and acknowledgment of LGBTQ people increases, it can be safer and more comfortable for some people to come out.
Unfortunately, there are still those who are hateful and inconsiderate toward LGB people, and this was no different during the Rio Games. For instance, at an opening soccer match, fans yelled homophobic slurs directed toward members of the U.S. women’s soccer team. Perhaps the biggest waves were made by a journalist for The Daily Beast, who used the gay dating app Grindr to find gay athletes for a story on partying and hookups among Olympians. This careless, insensitive act had quite an impact on closeted Olympians who used the app, including some from countries where it is unsafe or unacceptable to be out. The published article, which some said made closeted athletes clearly identifiable, was taken down after people objected, and there was a lot of backlash toward the journalist and The Daily Beast.
While there is still certainly a long way to go toward full acceptance and equality of LGBTQ people, the number of out Olympians this year is something for the LGB community to celebrate! Let’s hope that as more people come out, identifying as LGBTQ can one day be so normalized that articles like this will no longer need to be written. Until then, we can recognize the Rio Olympics as being an awesome milestone for global LGB representation.