At 20, Team USA figure skater Amber Glenn was facing familiar questions for athletes: How much longer will I be in this sport, and what will my career be remembered for?
It was a driving factor behind the five-time U.S. Senior Nationals competitor and 2014 Junior Nationals champion’s decision to come out as bisexual/pansexual in December 2019.
“I got to the point where I was like, ‘I need to make a change, and one of those changes is I need to be my true, honest self,’” Glenn says. “If I’m going to leave any impact on this sport, I want to at least give hope to the next generation of skaters and give people a female skater that they can relate to or look up to before my career is over.”
Figure skating has become more accepting of LGBTQ+ athletes over the years, but the number of out women can be counted on one hand, and even fewer are still competing.
Japan’s Fumie Suguri announced she was bisexual in November 2014, before retiring; Team USA ice dancer Karina Manta came out as bi in 2018 but left the sport the following April.
As only the third woman to come out in her sport, Glenn considered the potential impact on her performance. In a sport that favors dainty, graceful ice princesses, there was a risk that judges might look down on her more powerful style. “There’s stereotypes with your sexuality, especially in females,” she explained. “Being more masculine or tough, or ‘Are you the man in the relationship?’”
But being true to herself helped Glenn have the best season of her career so far. She landed her first triple Axel a few months after coming out, and she won the silver medal at the 2021 U.S. Championships.
“I just felt so much more free, and I had this weight lifted off my shoulders,” she says. “It was something I never really thought I was hiding, but I felt like people were seeing me for who I am, and how my training mates and friends and family see me.”
Glenn’s decision undoubtedly made it easier for other queer women in the sport, like Canadian ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver, who came out this June. Glenn says queer skaters often reach out to each other for advice.
“There’s absolutely a group chat we all have — we call it the Book Club,” she says.
“I was really lucky to have [nonbinary skater] Timothy LeDuc at my side,” she says. “I knew that they would understand and help me the most they could, even before I publicly came out. Having that support at my own rink every day was hugely impactful for me, and I try my absolute best to be the same to fellow athletes.”