Out U.S. Delegate: Would People Care About Russia's Record Without Olympics?

Meet Caitlin Cahow, one of the three gay delegates who will represent the United States in Sochi, Russia.



At the Golden Globes

Nonetheless, not all athletes are willing to speak out against Russia's law, and only a handful of Olympians are going to Sochi as openly LGBT. None of them are American, but Cahow suspects there are multiple athletes headed for the games who are not straight.

"[T]hey won't speak openly, maybe because they're worried about perceptions [of them] in the media, or perceptions in the public eye," she says. "And that's the next hurdle for us, because it's so vital that we can feel like we are who we are. So the next hurdle is making it OK to say that publicly, and we're not there yet."

Cahow herself was not out to the world, outside of her friends, family, and teammates, until after she had to retire due to serious injuries. But she came out publicly a few months ago, vowing to give a voice to others who felt like they could not fully express themselves.  

"I'm hoping that by being out about who I am, and supporting other LGBT athletes and allies, that I'm encouraging others to be open and honest, and to share the gift of being open and honest with the world," Cahow says.  

Some have called for a boycott altogether, just as the United States and dozens of other countries did with the 1980 games in Moscow as a reaction to Russia's invasion of Afghanistan. The boycott derailed the dreams of many would-be Olympians, deterring them from ever competing at the biggest athletic competition in the world. Cahow says a boycott would be unfair to athletes who train endlessly for an Olympic moment.

With a teammate.

"I'm one of those people who train my entire life, and tirelessly work every day to represent my country on the world stage," she says. "I've never been prouder than when I got to wear my nation's colors in the Olympic games. It's the pinnacle of any athlete's career. I want all athletes to have that experience, and validation, and opportunity that I had, because was a life-changing experience for me. I'm a better person for having been an olympian."

As the Olympic hockey player-turned-law student boards a plane this week to represent the United States yet again, she says she's not worried about being dragged away to the Kremlin, or put in a cold, Russian jail cell for being out.

"I think generally I'm an optimistic person and I have faith in people that the spirit will extend to everyone," she says, "and that there will be peace, and inspiration, and excitement, and joy for two great weeks, and I hope that goes over as far into the future as possible."