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The Silent Pain of a Lesbian Competing in the Olympics

Casey Legler Excerpt

Behind every great athlete is a sea of insecurities. Casey Legler gorgeously illustrates hers in the new memoir, Godspeed

In her memoir, Godspeed, out Olympic swimmer Casey Legler looks back on the isolation and alienation she felt being queer in a sea of straight female world-class athletes. Read an exclusive excerpt below.

I wake like rock and I'm in my own bed, in my suite, in the Olympic Village. The sheets are cold, frozen almost, and it smells like American air conditioner -- I'll never get used to how sad it smells. I look up and I stare like dead at the ceiling.

This. This is it.

The cool white sheet and yellow ember of the dorm room we're staying in. Straight to the ceiling -- white. I crawl out of bed and hang my head out the window, the edges wedging into my elbows, and cover my head with a sheet so my roommates won't smell what I'm smoking and below me, every ten feet, a paramilitary officer glances up and sees the white flag surely blowing in the wind, because underneath it every exhale is a cloud like being in one.

I walk outside, hurt and sore, staccato, slowly, I can't even feel it, in uniform for the official French Olympic Team photograph -- long linen skirt and red jacket cropped and a white straw sun hat over my shaved head.

All the other girls are beautiful like papillons and field poppies because a breeze is blowing and their hair is like Martine a la Montagne and their skirts like the shepherdesses in the hills. We sit on the green grass and pose and I am fat cheeked and all wrong.

My head is hurting by the time we get to the dining hall that is outer space, a gargantuan white cockroach landed in Georgia with banners floating upside down from the steel ceiling beams of its cavernous bowels.

I have coffee on a long metal table inside while across from me I watch the gymnasts shark the dessert table like some tantric slow dance, every one a nibble here and there, never picking up a thing, and they circle like pods the food they aren't supposed to eat and circle like swan songs on little feet, pitter patter under the white bright neon and colored country flags hanging above us, and I wonder what's going to happen to them because it's the first time the basketball players aren't in the village to fuck them because they're famous and have fans and it's too hard or something -- assholes.

I sip my coffee, elbows on the table, and then a wrestler comes over under the neon and takes one of the gymnasts away because they all want to be loved and will fuck dick like little babies, little ones, 'cause they're just barely teenagers. And I understand that now some have moved up the food chain and I sip my coffee again and swallow and my head feels better when I do.

Excerpted from Godspeed: A Memoir by Casey Legler Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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