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Top 5 Gay Sports Moments of the Year

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Being a guy's girl (and sometimes, um, a girl's girl ... ) I tend to be one of the go-to editors for all things sports here at The Advocate. Frankly, I'm such a feminist/lover of sports, I've been known to tear up after watching Title IX documentaries or a massive win at the Olympics (I'm looking at you, Matthew Mitcham). Fortunately, I love sports, and so do my many friends with baseball addictions and/or significant others who can't stand the sight of a beer helmet. They know I work here, so they like to forward me videos and articles chronicling last night's ass grab at the pitcher's mound or the latest news on gender-ambiguous athletes.

With all of that, there were a lot of interesting, chatter-inducing sports stories that popped up on Advocate.com this year. Here's a handful of my favorites, with a few extras because I couldn't help myself.

Lesbian Named Part Owner of Cubs
Baseball fans dream of ditching the bleacher seats for box seats behind home plate, but Laura Ricketts and her three brothers did even better -- the siblings are now owners of the storied Chicago Cubs. Ricketts, the first openly gay owner of a Major League Baseball team, and her family paid $845 million in the deal, finalized October 27.

Two European Athletes Come Out
Two blokes from across the pond came out this year, which is a pretty big deal considering how rugby and hurling are sort of like the football and baseball of Europe. Though 35-year-old Gareth Thomas (pictured) retired from the international rugby circuit, he decided to come out to the world while playing on the Welsh team, the Cardiff Blues. He stresses, however, that he doesn't want to be known as a gay rugby player, just a player that happened to be gay.

And then Donal Og, an Irish hurler, revealed his sexual orientation in his autobiography, Come What May. The Times of London says Og's coming-out made him Europe's first openly gay elite sportsman.

Remembering Mike Penner
In writing about Mike Penner's death for the upcoming February issue, I learned that very few people in the Los Angeles Times newsroom who worked with Penner were willing to talk about their colleague. From the moment Penner announced he was transitioning to become female sports writer Christine Daniels (pictured) in 2007, it felt as though a milestone had been passed, a pioneer was being made. But when Daniels quietly went back to being known as Penner about a year later, a red flag shot up. Sadly, in November, Penner was found dead, an apparent suicide. We may never know exactly what was going through his mind over the course of those few months or even his lifetime, but we do know that his journey must not have been an easy one.

Amelie Mauresmo Retires
Mauresmo was probably one of the most prominent openly gay professional athletes in the world. Despite taunts from fellow players over the years, the French pro represented her country in the 2004 Olympics, bringing home a silver medal. In 2006 she beat the competition to win two grand slam titles -- the Australian Open and Wimbledon. She announced her retirement -- at the age of 30 -- during a touching press conference December 3.

The Caster Semenya Saga
The story of the teenage track star from South Africa who dazzled the world with her 800-meter win at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Berlin was fascinating. The moment the gold medal hung from her neck, Semenya was the target of hormone testing, makeovers to prove her femininity, and jokes for late-night comedians. She was even linked to a scandal within South Africa's governing body on sports, revealing a cover-up of information. While the nation of South Africa reeled from possibly losing a beacon of athletic hope, the IAAF performed round after round of tests on her. Semenya was later cleared of allegations that she was not a woman, but one cannot help but see the issues of race and gender coming into play, especially when it comes to international attitudes on sports.

A few other notables...

- Australia's golden boy, Olympic medalist, and Advocate cover subject Matthew Mitcham, wowed the world with his come-from-behind win in Bejing, but it took months for him to score an endorsement deal. Telstra, the telecom giant for Down Under, named Mitcham the company's ambassador.

-For many people, coming out to Dad isn't easy. But when he's is the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, you would think it's even more difficult. Nonetheless, Brendan Burke's (pictured) story of acceptance and love by his hockey-loving family is captured sweetly by ESPN columnist John Buccigross

-Johnny Weir performs "Poker Face": Honestly, after this performance, is there even a question as to whether he's on our team or not? Whatever, watch the video below.

-Billie Jean King honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom: I've known King as an icon of feminism and sports ever since I learned she defeated that wretched Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes, about a decade before I was even born. Glad to know the president does too.

-Glee football team does "Single Ladies": How many times did this get forwarded to you the day after it aired? Yeah, I thought so. Watch the video below ... again ...

-Levi Johnston's nude hockey poses: What former high school athlete doesn't dream of their glory days being portrayed in a national magazine? Even if it's Playgirl, good for Levi for sticking it to his baby-mama's mama.

-ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue: A bunch of hot, naked, male and female athletes (including out soccer player and Olympian Natasha Kai), gorgeously photographed? Who cares if it caused a little controversy -- WIN!

-Stephon Marbury's breakdowns: I liked Stephon the most when he was teamed up with my favorite NBA team, the New Jersey Nets (yes, I love disappointment). But this video of Marbury trying really hard to remind us he's NOT gay, and then another of him bawling for several very uncomfortable minutes was certainly notable. There's also video of him eating Vaseline. Maybe that's why he's not playing this season.

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