VOTE: 55 Inspiring LGBT Athletes for Pride
BY Advocate.com Editors
June 21 2013 9:45 AM ET
French tennis champ Amélie Mauresmo was ranked number 1 in tennis in 2004 and was a silver medalist in the Olympic games that year in Athens. Her nation rallied behind her after Martina Hingis's infamous joke that Mauresmo was "half a man." Nonetheless, she was the first French woman to win a singles title at Wimbledon since Suzanne Lenglen in 1925, making her a two-time grand slam winner (Wimbledon and Australian Open). "I dreamt of this career, I dreamt of winning a Grand Slam title," she said upon announcing her retirement in 2009. "I lifted trophies in every city in the world and I lived 10 magical and unbelievable years."
Soccer player Anton Hysén, the son of one of Sweden's most legendary soccer players, came out in 2011, making him his country's first soccer pro to come out while still playing. A year later, he said his life has only gotten better since coming out.
German pole vaulter Balian Buschbaum traveled across Europe and around the world competing at the elite level from 1998 to 2003. Buschbaum even competed at the Olympic games in Sydney, placing sixth. In 2007 he announced his retirement from pole vaulting as a woman to undergo transition therapy to become a man.
In her two-decade-long career, Billie Jean King was ranked number 1 in the world; she won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, and 11 mixed doubles titles. She also won the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match against men’s champion Bobby Riggs in 1973. King was forced out of the closet in 1981 when her secretary and onetime partner Marilyn Barnett brought a palimony lawsuit against her. Since her coming out she has settled down with partner Ilana Kloss. Among her accomplishments, she and respected UCLA basketball coach John Wooden were named Sports Illustrated’s 1972 Sportsmen of the Year. King was the first woman to receive the publication’s honor. In 1990 Life magazine named her one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th century. And in 2009 she was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Billy Bean, only the second major league baseball player to come out, played for eight seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres. After the lefty outfielder retired, he penned Going the Other Way: Lessons From a Life in and out of Major League Baseball. Bean still holds the MLB record for four hits by a rookie in his first professional game
Brittney Griner is a three -ime All-American Baylor alum and was the first NCAA basketball player to score 2,000 points and block 500 shots in her career. In 2012 she lead her team to a 40-0 record and the women’s NCAA championship while being named the AP Player of the Year, Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, and the Best Female Athlete at the ESPY Awards. She was in a conversation to become the first female in the NBA but since decided to make her way to the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury. Since joining the WNBA, she has become just the third woman to successfully dunk a basketball during a game. In April of this year she came out publicly in an interview with Sports Illustrated, revealing that she’s very passionate about working with children in order to bring bullying to the forefront within the LGBT community. She spoke during the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in San Francisco about her coming-out story. "I sat on the stairs, she sat in her room. I was like, 'Mom, gotta tell you something!' I came out, she was like, 'I love you.' I was like, 'All right, well, gonna go play some video games.”
South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya smoked the competition at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. But then reports that Semenya's gender was suddenly in question put her even further into the spotlight. Semenya, 19 at the time, underwent several rounds of gender testing and international scrutiny over the course of nearly a year. Eventually, she was cleared to compete, and even won the silver medal in the 800-meter run at the 2011 World Championships after being revealed to be intersex. Still, it looks like Semenya has taken a hiatus from her competitive career.
Sixteen-year-old Cory Oskam is a hockey-loving teenage goalie who happens to be transgender. Oskam, who lives in Vancouver, renamed himself after one of his favorite players, Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks. He and his family continue to do advocacy work, educating others — especially children and his peers — about being transgender.
Dave Kopay made history in late 1975 as the first NFL player, and the first major team-sports athlete overall, to come out as gay — albeit after he had retired. Kopay spent nine seasons, 1964 through 1972, in the NFL as a running back for the Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and New Orleans Saints. After his coming-out interview in the Washington Star, he “got very, very few hate mails,” he told Outsports. “Mostly the mail that poured in was amazingly supportive and telling their own stories. There were hundreds of letters forwarded to me.” Kopay is still making history: This year he joined other active and retired athletes in a friend of the court brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down California’s Proposition 8.
Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad is known for her outrageous swim attempts, including circling Manhattan Island in seven hours and 57 minutes in 1979 for completing what was then the longest swim in history, a 102.5 miles from the Bahamas to Florida. She has since been named to the U.S. National Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. In November, Nyad will serve as the celebrity sports guest during the Olivia Travel eight-day Mexican Ixtapa trip. Recently, she has been best known for her four attempts to swim the Straits of Florida, from Cuba to the U.S. In 2012 she made it 41 miles before hypothermia, storms, and jellyfish stings forced her to abandon the effort.
Esera Tuaolo was the third former NFL player to officially come out. Three years after retiring in 1999, Tuaolo announced that he was gay on HBO's Real Sports. He has been a firm advocate for LGBT people and informative on what life is like being gay in sports, comparing it to the treatment of gay service members under "don't ask, don't tell."