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There Are More Openly LGBTQ+ Olympians At Tokyo 2020 Than All Other Games Combined — Here Are The Athletes Making Sporting History

Published 1 year ago
By Forbes
Raven Saunders of Team United States makes an 'X' gesture during the medal ceremony for the Women's Shot Put on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

TOPLINE Tokyo 2020 has the highest number of openly LGBTQ+ competitors ever, counting more out athletes than all previous Summer and Winter Olympic Games combined and featuring the first openly transgender and nonbinary athletes to participate.

KEY FACTS

British diver Tom Daley won gold in the men’s synchronized 10 meter platform and said he felt “incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion” after not believing he could “achieve anything because of who” he was as a child.  

Skateboarder Alana Smith said they were “proud” of achieving their goal of being “a visual representation for humans like me” after being the first openly nonbinary person to represent Team USA.

The International Olympic Committee said it was investigating gay Team USA shot put silver medallist Raven Saunders after she raised her hands in a cross on the podium, a gesture she said was a “shout out” to Black people, the LGBTQ+ community and all people dealing with mental health.

Stefanie Dolson, who came out publicly in 2019, helped Team USA score gold in women’s 3×3 basketball and at least four of New Zealand’s gold-winning rugby sevens team are openly LGBTQ+. 

Engaged soccer and basketball stars Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, respectively, competed for Team USA in the Tokyo Games after they met during the Rio Olympics in 2016, a less complicated arrangement than American softball players Amanda Chidester and Anissa Urtez, who are one of the only engaged or married couples to compete against one another at the Games.  

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard also made Olympic history as the first openly transgender women to compete in the Games, thanking the International Weightlifting Federation for showing “that weightlifting is an activity that’s open to all of the people in the world.” 

BIG NUMBER

182. That’s at least how many openly LGBTQ+ athletes there are competing at the Tokyo 2020 Games, according to Outsports. In Rio, there were 56. In London, 23. 

KEY BACKGROUND

The vast majority of openly LGBTQ+ athletes are women, in line with broader trends among elite athletes. Openly LGBTQ+ women outnumber out men at the Games by about nine to one and represent a far greater diversity of sports. There are more than 40 openly LGBTQ+ competitors in women’s soccer alone, a sport with no out men. The international nature of the Games shines a light on the barriers LGBTQ+ people around the world face. Many countries participating criminalize homosexuality and being transgender—some with the death penalty or corporal punishment—and few permit same-sex marriage or allow people to legally change their gender. Beyond the law, many face discrimination, violence and prejudice for being who they are and for some athletes attending the Games can be a risk in itself. Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua, for example, is openly gay and represents a country where homosexuality can be punishable by a 10 year prison sentence. Other athletes—including Hubbard, Quinn, Smith and Daley—have been the subject of offensive and abusive slurs by pundits commenting on the Games around the world, as well as being misgendered on TV broadcasts and on official Olympicbiographics.

TANGENT

In 2016, The Daily Beast published an article that was accused of outing a number of gay athletes at the Rio Games. TikTok and Twitter users have reportedly done the same in Tokyo. The 2022 soccer World Cup is set to be held in Qatar, a nation that punishes homosexuality by up to three years in prison. While Qatari officials have insisted everyone is welcome, the decision for Qatar to host was criticized by rights groups and there were calls in 2010 for then-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter to resign after he joked that gay fans and players should just “refrain” from sex during the tournament.   

CRUCIAL QUOTE

After winning his third Olympic medal in as many Games—and his first gold—27-year old Briton Tom Daley recalled coming out in 2013. “I always felt like the one that was alone and different and didn’t fit,” he said. “There are more openly out athletes at these Olympic Games than any Olympic Games previously… I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything.”

Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States moves past Quinn #5 of Canada during a game between Canada and USWNT at Exploria Stadium on February 18, 2021 in Orlando City, Florida. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 26: Tom Daley of Team Great Britain poses with the gold medal during the medal presentation for the Men’s Synchronised 10m Platform Final on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 26: Alana Smith of Team United States reacts during the Women’s Street Prelims Heat 3 on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
-TOKYO,JAPAN August 2, 2021: New Zealands Laurel Hubbard, the first transgender Olympian, smiles to the small crowd after failing to advance in the womens 87kg weightlifting final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Dutch couple and equestrian competitors Hans Minderhoud and Edward Gal are competing together in the Tokyo 2020 Games PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES
LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 27: Amini Fonua of the Tonga Olympic swimming team carries his country’s flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

FURTHER READING

Here Are The First Openly Transgender And Nonbinary Olympians Making History In Tokyo (Forbes)

Laurel Hubbard Crashes Out Of Weightlifting As Quinn Makes Soccer Final — Here Are The First Openly Transgender And Nonbinary Olympians (Photos) (Forbes)

By Robert Hart, FORBES STAFF

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