In the four years since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, athletes on all levels, from high school to pro, have come out, creating more examples of diversity within the world of sports. But while the locker room doors have opened a little wider, the globally shared experience of the Olympic games still lacks a deep roster of openly LGBT athletes.
To be fair, it's not like we didn't try. Gymnast Josh Dixon, hammer thrower Keelin Godsey, and boxer Patricia Manuel all made noble attempts for trips to London. We also lost Stephany Lee, the no-holds-barred wrestler who qualified for the U.S. team but was later disqualified after traces of marijuana were found in her system. And as much as a stereotype it is, the number of lesbian and bisexual athletes like Vicki Galindo and Lauren Lappin could have been even higher if softball was not eliminated from the games.
Nonetheless, there are as many reasons cited to be closeted as a world-class athlete as there are closeted world-class athletes. Some countries might condemn gays and lesbians, let alone those who act as international representatives. And that's why British activist Peter Tatchell has called on Olympic organizers to ban countries that allow antigay discrimination.
"Why isn’t homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia being challenged by the Olympic authorities?" said Tatchell, the head of the Peter Tatchell Foundation. "It is wrong that in over 150 countries LGBT athletes are forced to hide their sexuality in order to get selected and compete."
But for what it's worth, we've identified a handful of athletes from the U.S. and around the world competing in London this summer. They will represent not only their respective national teams but also Team LGBT.
If you know we're missing any openly LGBT athletes competing in this year's Olympics, please let us know in the comments, so we can keep you updated on their progress throughout the games.
See the short list of this year's out Olympic athletes on the following pages.
UPDATE, 7/18: Fortunately, Outsports was able to dig up even more members of Team LGBT competing at this year's games: French triathletes Carole Péon and Jessica Harrison, who are also a couple; Edward Gal, a Dutch equestrian; German cyclist Judith Arndt; German fencer Imke Duplitzer; Australian beach volleyball player Natalie Cook; French handball player Alexandra Lacrabère; Swedish soccer player Jessica Landström; and Dutch field hockey player Maartje Paumen. We will update the list as we find more.
Seimone Augustus: Basketball, U.S.
WNBA champion and star Minnesota Lynx player Seimone Augustus came out publicly to The Advocate earlier this year. The motivation? Her engagement to her fiancée, LaTaya. Competing internationally, whether she's playing in Russia or on the Olympic court, is familiar to Augustus.
“Every country is out to beat Team USA,” she said earlier this year.
“If they beat us, it makes their year, it makes their life, it makes their career. I have Russian teammates that I played against in 2006, when they beat us in the World Championships, and they still talk about that now. So beating Team USA is everything to the other countries because we set such high standards for ourselves.”
Matthew Mitcham: Diving, Australia
“I remember the things that I was thinking on the platform before the dive, and I remember what happened as soon as I hit the water,” Matthew Mitcham recalled
a few months after taking home the gold in the 10-meter platform dive in 2008. “The dive itself is a bit vague. It felt good, although I wasn’t exactly sure. I did wait underneath the water a bit, thinking, I wonder…I wonder…I wonder… Then I popped my head out and the crowd was going wild. I looked over at Chava and he looked excited. It was the most far-out experience. It just completely took me over and I just lost it. And I think everybody loved that I lost it.”
Ever since Matthew Mitcham's adorable reaction to winning his gold medal win in Beijing, he's been busy. He's won several competitions around the world, he was named an ambassador to the 2014 Gay Games, and he has an endorsement deal with Australian telecommunications provider Telstra and swimwear line Funky Trunks. It'll be fascinating to watch a wiser, more experienced Mitcham make another attempt at the gold medal.
Megan Rapinoe: Soccer, U.S.
Midfielder Meghan Rapinoe will break from her spot on the Seattle Sounders to play for the U.S. national team. No doubt this is a win for Nike, with which Rapinoe has a lucrative endorsement deal. On her decision to discuss her sexual orientation openly, Rapinoe told Out
, "I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out. I feel everyone is really craving [for] people to come out. People want — they need — to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A."
Pia Sundhage: Soccer, U.S. (coach)
Pia Sundhage would surely tell you the Olympic games are just as significant for coaches as they are for athletes. The Scandanavian coach said that she has had no problem as the "openly gay head coach in the USA team," and that her partner Marie "and I have had a wonderful reception." According to SheWired
, Sundhage scored 71 goals in 146 caps for Sweden in a 22-year national team career that began in 1975 at age 15, but the U.S. job was her first as a coach.
Marilyn Agliotti: Field Hockey, Netherlands
Marilyn Agliotti also took some gold home from Beijing. As a member of the Netherlands' national field hockey team, Agliotti is no stranger to success. Wearing signature bright orange, the Dutch team has excelled in field hockey since 2008, winning the European Championships in 2009 and 2010, and a silver medal at the world championships. Agliotti told Heroes
magazine that more needs to be done to promote acceptance of lesbian players. "In my opinion," she said, "the hockey world is at peace with lesbian players, as long as they remain in the background." She also encourages her colleagues in the field hockey world to "become your own hero. Be proud of yourself and the things you do."