VOTE: 55 Inspiring LGBT Athletes for Pride
BY Advocate.com Editors
June 21 2013 9:45 AM ET
Johnny Weir is a three-time U.S. national champion (2004-2006) in men’s figure skating and represented the U.S. twice at the Olympics, finishing fifth and sixth respectively. He hopes to compete in the 2014 Winter Games in Japan. Weir recently starred in his own TV series on Sundance and Logo, titled Be Good Johnny Weir. He also was a guest judge on Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Food Network’s Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off. Weir officially came out in January 2011, when he wrote in his memoir, Welcome to My World, “With people killing themselves and being scared into the closet, I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story.”
Out gymnast Josh Dixon started with the sport at age 7 because his sisters were involved, but he showed great promise. He excelled at Stanford, where he was a team champion in 2009 and 2010, as well as a floor exercise champ in 2010. Dixon missed his chance to make the Olympic team in 2012 but is now on the U.S. national team.
English soccer player Justin Fashanu came out in 1990, in the middle of his career. He was first black English soccer player to be valued at over 1 million pounds, when he transferred teams, and was one of the biggest stars in British soccer. However, after he came out, Fashanu was taunted on the field by fans, and he eventually left the sport. He came to the U.S. but was accused of sexually assaulting a teenager. Just weeks after returning to England in 1998, he hanged himself. Since then, the Justin Campaign was launched in his honor to stop bullying and homophobia in sports, specifically soccer.
Though he did not make the Olympic team in 2012, Keelin Godsey was the first openly transgender athlete to compete for a spot. He threw a personal best in the hammer throw, finishing fifth with a throw of 231 feet and three inches. Prior to that, Godsey came out in 2005 while attending Bates College, where he was a 16-time All-American honoree. Upon missing the Olympic team by two spots, Godsey said he had no regrets. “I’ve still done more than most people that are trans have,” he told The New York Times last year. “I’ve still competed at a level that most people haven’t. I don’t want to let not making a team be what brings that down.”
A junior guard for George Washington University’s women’s basketball team at the time, Kye Allums made history in 2010 when he became the first transgender man to play NCAA Division I college hoops. Allums played eight games during the 2010-2011 season, but following multiple game-related head injuries he opted to quit basketball his senior year. Since college, Allums has traveled to high schools throughout the country speaking to teens about coming out as trans.
Women's professional golf allows transgender women to compete in tournaments, and that's largely because of Lana Lawless. Lawless won the Long Drivers of America long-drive title in 2008 but was later ruled ineligible because she's transgender; the LPGA soon adopted a similar "female at birth" rule that made her unable to participate in its tournaments. She settled a lawsuit with the LPGA and the Long Drivers of America in 2011 to allow transgender women to compete, getting rid of the "female at birth" requirements.
Former power forward Latasha Byears played for four WNBA teams and was among the the top 10 rebounders by 2003. However, she was accused of involvement in the rape of another WNBA player and was cut by the Los Angeles Sparks shortly after. After the case was dismissed, she returned to the WNBA and then played overseas.
Major political donor, attorney, and philanthropist Laura Ricketts of LPAC is part of the family that owns the beloved Chicago Cubs. She happens to be the first openly lesbian owner of a major sports franchise. "Being a woman and being gay is really a unique position in our society," she said to Forbes. "I know in my experience of activism, oftentimes it makes a difference if something is woman-focused."
Before softball was eliminated as an Olympic sport, Lauren Lappin helped lead the Americans to a silver medal in Beijing in 2008. The catcher did it while already out — a rarity in Olympic sports. She was an alternate on the gold medal–winning 2004 team. And while playing for Stanford, she was a two-time All-American.
British-born Lianne Sanderson plays on the Boston Breakers soccer team with her partner, Joanna Lohman. After years of playing back in Europe, Sanderson hopped the pond to play for Women's Professional Soccer and the National Women's Soccer League. Sanderson and Lohman are helping underprivileged children in the U.S. and abroad through the JoLi Academy. “We’re so lucky that we have each other,” Sanderson told The Advocate earlier this year. “There’s times when we’re in India where we find it hard to just keep going. I might feel hungry, or tired, or run-down, but Joanna is just there for me, to remind me to keep going.”
Liz Carmouche, an Iraq War veteran, became the first out lesbian to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts circuit, when she took on Ronda Rousey in front of a packed house in Anaheim, Calif., in February. The two were the first women to battle for UFC. She lost the bantamweight (125-136 pounds) fight, but she's still 8-3 in the circuit. Her next fight is expected to be against rookie Jessica Andrade in July. Carmouche spent five years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a helicopter electrician before retiring from active duty and joining the UFC.