Tag Archives: LGBT Athletes

Why Are Queer Female Athletes Years Ahead Of Gay Men When It Comes To Acceptance?

In the wake of another Olympic Games, we can all look back and ask: Weren’t these Olympics gayer than usual?

Well, in a way, they really were! With 50 LGBTQ athletes competing this year, there has been a considerable increase in out athletes participating when comparing with the London Olympics, where only 23 athletes identified as LGBTQ. Of course this staggering increase can be seen as a rise in acceptance as more athletes come out each year.

But, as always, there are two sides to every coin.

The disparity between queer male and female athletes is still visibly high. As UpWorthy mentioned, of the 12 athletes on the US Women’s Basketball Olympic Team, 4 identify as gay.

How about the Men’s Team or even the NBA? 2? Maybe 1? You guessed it, 0 players identify as gay or bisexual. This disparity has little to do with the number of LGBTQ players, but instead with acceptance.

The difference between coming out while playing for the WNBA or the NBA is as night and day; seen even regularly amongst the female athletes. Why is that?

As a lesbian, I have always loved the stereotype “Lesbians are good at sports.”

Not that I am nor most of my queer female friends are, but the fact that there are female all-star athletes such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova (should I include Dana Fairbanks?) sets a precedent that gave rise to such a stereotype. And most of us who have done any sport at a competitive level have come across a couple other queer athletes.

Although I am not saying in any way that coming out as a female athlete is easy, this normalization of LGBTQ women in sports has paved the way to acceptance and the freedom to come out.

But what about the other queer athletes?

How can it be expected for a bisexual or gay man to come out while playing for the NBA if there are no other queer players in the league? On the bright side, after North Carolina passed the known “anti-LGBTQ” law, the league ended up not having its All-Star game in Charlotte as a way not only to protest the law but also for protection of both the athletes and the fans.

The way I see it, it’s just a matter of time before male athletes start to come out, and once the first one does so, an avalanche of players, managers and coaches coming out will soon follow.

We have discussed the Ls, the Gs and the Bs. How about transgender athletes?

Only this year has the Olympic committee lifted its ban on transgender athletes without gender reassignment surgery! There’s still, however, disparity between trans-men and trans-women competing, with the IOC announcing that “Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction,” but for those transitioning from male to female “[t]he declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.” with regular mandatory testing of serum testosterone levels. Although there are still some barriers to overcome, this has already been an enormous step forward in inclusion of transgender athletes in the Olympics.

What can we take from all this? Naturally, as more and more athletes come out, the more acceptance there is not only from fans but also from team mates and possibly sponsors.

As coming out is somewhat normalized in women’s sports, we can clearly see a higher level of acceptance. So let’s keep it that way and keep moving forward! The way towards acceptance is visibility which can definitely be achieved by coming out. Whenever a big athlete comes out there’s usually some sort of backlash whether from fans, sponsors or even team mates. But (and I hate to use this expression) it gets better!

Especially when that Olympic medal finally proves we are just as good (or even better) than the straight athletes.

US Olympic Basketball Star, Elena Delle Donne, Reveals She Is Gay

Elena Delle Donne – the current WNBA MVP and one of the world’s biggest basketball stars – has come out publicly this week.

The Chicago Sky player, who is leading the US women’s quest for gold in Rio, told Vogue magazine that she is engaged to her longtime partner Amanda Clifton, and confirmed the news to reporters in Brazil.

Elena divides her time between traveling with her team, the Chicago Sky, and her family’s home in the rolling green landscape of Wilmington, Delaware. She and her fiancee, Amanda Clifton, keep apartments in both Chicago and Wilmington.”

That’s it. Simple and sweet. Delle Donne, 26, has voiced support for lesbian players in basketball such as Brittney Griner, but this is her first public declaration.

Delle Donne acknowledged the article in during a talk with reporters on Wednesday.

It was just one of those articles where they came into my home, spent a couple days with me, and [fiancee] Amanda [Clifton] is a huge part of my life,” Delle Donne said. “So to leave her out wouldn’t have made any sense. It’s not a coming out article or anything. I’ve been with her for a very long time now, and people who are close to me know that, and that’s that.”


The article said Delle Donne and Clifton were engaged on 2 June.


As the future keeps moving on, I don’t plan on having our relationship out in the public and all this media on it,but obviously there’s excitement right now because people see it for the first time.

I decided I’m not at all going to hide anything.”

In the WNBA world, Delle Donne is a star. She is the second pick in the 2013 WNBA draft behind Griner and last season’s league MVP yet I imagine most people will yawn at the news.


Out female athletes have never gotten the same amount of attention as a man, for various sociological reasons.

Regardless, it’s awesome that Delle Donne went public about her relationship and she will be an inspiration to other athletes considering whether it’s possible to be in a same-sex relationship and a high-profile player.


Tennis Ace Martina Navratilova Predicts An ‘Avalanche’ Of Gay Athletes: “Any Revolution Starts With A Small Step”


Tennis superstar Martina Navratilova recently wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated. In it she says the “watershed” moment for gay people in sport has been reached – and she’s hoping for an avalanche.

Martina Navratilova

Navratilova writes

We’ve come a long way. In the 1980s I knew an NHL coach who was convinced there were no gay hockey players. Ever. Certainly not on his teams. Why? “This is a macho sport,” he said. Remember Reggie White? In the ’90s, the Packers star appeared in a newspaper advertising campaign to persuade gays and lesbians that they could “cease” their homosexuality. The NFL responded with … a lot of silence.

On her own coming out, she adds

When I came out, in 1981, I didn’t have much public support and I know I lost endorsements. But I never had to worry about losing my job. In tennis, there are no bosses, no general managers and no coaches who can keep players from competing. So I was safe in that regard. For team sports athletes, this is not the case.

A homophobic coach at any level — high school, college or pros — could keep a player from playing. Remember Rene Portland, the women’s basketball coach at Penn State? She proudly boasted she would not allow a lesbian on her team. In the past, that kind of homophobia would have had support from the front office. Why come out when — apart from dealing with all the other complications — it could kill your sports career!”

Martina Navratilova

But the game is changing, more and more stars are choosing to come out, from rugby’s Gareth Thomas to football’s Casey Stoney, support from straight and gay allies is helping to pave the way for sporting to be more inclusive.

But the times changed. Boy, did they ever change.

Martina Navratilova Proposes

As Navratilova encourages:

Any revolution starts with a small step. As I see it, this one started with Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and his R-rated (but darn smart and funny) editorial on Deadspin last year. That was a catalyst because it then became clear: Straight players were standing in support of gays in general — and their gay teammates, whoever they might be.

Those gay athletes might have been deeply closeted, but there was unspoken acknowledgement: We know you exist. Kluwe wasn’t shunned or ridiculed for his stance. The tables turned. It was the homophobes who were left standing in the cold, scorned and criticized by fans and the media. How is that for a turnaround in, relatively speaking, a very short time?

noh8 Martina Navratilova

She also highlights basketball star Jason Collins for his coming out and how he has paved the way for future generations in sport.

Navratilova wrote

He is the proverbial game-changer. One of the last bastions of homophobia has been challenged. Collins’ action will save lives. This is no exaggeration: Fully one third of suicides among teenagers occur because of their sexuality.”

In 2013, the Brooklyn Nets player was the first active male athlete to come out. Since retiring, Collins has dedicated much of his time to campaigning on LGBT issues in sport.

Now that Collins has led this watershed moment, I think — and hope — there will be an avalanche. Come out, come out wherever and whoever you are. It is beautiful out here and I guarantee you this: You will never, ever want to go back. You will only wonder why it took so long.”

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Gay Ski Legend Anja Paerson Says IOC Needs to Do More for LGBT Athletes

Although athletes are taught to respect one another, the world of sport has not always been the most welcoming for LGBT people. While women’s sports appear to be more tolerant than men’s (there’s a significant amount of out female athletes and less than a dozen openly gay male ones) across the board there are issues.

And this is obviously a massive problem. Not only can a hostile community inhibit athletes from being at the top of their game (the mental stress of staying closeted is surely enormous on the world’s sporting stages) but it fosters the viewpoint that being L, G, B or T is anything but ok.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has recently made strides to eradicate LGBT intolerance, having recently amended the Olympic Charter to be more inclusive. However, out gay ski legend Anja Paerson (who had amassed an Olympic gold and seven world championship titles before she retired in 2012) says that the IOC isn’t doing enough.

Speaking to CNN’s Alpine Edge, Paerson explained that one example of the IOC’s failing is with the Sochi Winter Olympics that took place in Russia earlier in the year. Back in 2013, Russia passed a series of anti-LGBT laws that not only made coming out illegal but it made supporting LGBT rights a criminal offense too.

Paerson says:

“The Olympic Committee had a huge responsibility in Sochi and they didn’t stand up for human rights. They were hiding from the difficult questions. I think at that point they made a lot of wrong choices.

I think a lot of athletes were very uncomfortable [about going to the games]. I even figured if I should go or not. But I made a choice to go. And I stood for being a gay person and I had my family there, I had my son and my wife. I didn’t feel like Russia should choose the way I live.”

Many have argued that the games should have never taken place due to the country’s intolerance and were not satisfied by the IOC’s assurances that LGBT athletes or attendees wouldn’t be affect by these laws.

Paerson also added that “Hopefully [the IOC] have learned from Sochi Olympics and will get better in the future” before also calling on her own sport to freshen up their views and create an accepting culture for LGBT athletes too.

International Olympic Committee Moves to Protect LGBT Athletes

The world of sport is going through a revolutionary period at the moment. In basketball, we saw Jason Collins become the very first gay NBA player whilst the WNBA’s #1 draft pick Brittney Griner came out and became the first openly gay athlete to be sponsored by Nike. The US Women’s National Team in football had three star players come out (including striker Abby Wambach who married her partner last year) and Michael Sam looked set to be the first gay NFL player before the promising young star was cut from his team.

But for all of these coming outs there are still many places where athletes risk being persecuted for this same honesty. Take Russia for example, where its LGBT propaganda laws prevent people from ‘promoting’ LGBT identities or ‘lifestyles’.

As the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia came under fire for the discriminatory laws, with some asking for a boycott of the event. It also raised concerns that out LGB athletes would be persecuted under the law too but now the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made moves so that this won’t happen in future.

Earlier this week, the IOC voted unanimously to add ‘sexual orientation’ to the list of things that Olympic athletes cannot be discriminated against. The following text has now been added to the 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism:

“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

According to a new 40-page initiative by the IOC, called Agenda 2020, the group is working to “promote the Olympic values” and “strengthen sport in society”. Sadly though, the new ruling is still exclusionary to trans athletes or those who are gender non-conforming.

Athlete Ally, an organisation that is also working to make sports a more inclusive place, noted that this is progress but work still needs to be done. It’s a sort of two step forwards, one step back situation, although it’s unsurprising given that the IOC discriminated against South African athlete Caster Semenya because she’s intersex.

You can read the full Agenda 2020 document at the source link.

Source: International Olympic Committee

Billie Jean King Talks About Tennis and The Progress of Gay Athletes

Billie Jean King is currently attending event surround the U.S. Open, but had some time to praise a new crop of openly gay athletes.

King, who was outed in 1981, said progress comes “one by one” and “you just keep chipping away.” She said openly gay athletes, including Brooklyn Nets player Jason Collins, Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner and Michael Sam, have recently paved the way for equality.

She also went on to say the more gay athletes we have, the more issue of being gay in sport will decrease.

“One of the biggest things that would help is if one of the quarterbacks who is straight, or all collectively say, `This is a non-issue. Let’s get on with it. As long as they do their job, we don’t care’… 

The Bradys, the Lucks, the Romos, Payton Manning, Eli Manning, if all those guys would just say – `This is so ridiculous, as long as the guy can play, we don’t care what color, what sexual orientation.’

If the media stops talking about it, it will be helpful. The reason we cover it, it’s an exception. That’s the way the world works, the way the news works.”

Billie Jean King

As one of the first inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, King believes less scrutiny on LGBTI players from the press would help.

‘If the media stops talking about it, it will be helpful. The reason we cover it, it’s an exception. That’s the way the world works, the way the news works.’

Billie Jean King

Watch Brittney Griner’s in ESPN Short Film Documentary

Lesbian athlete, Brittney Griner is the subject of a new short film by ESPN. The documentary shows her journey to China to play basketball during the Phoenix Mercury’s off-season.

This short film is an extension of ESPN’s feature-length, Emmy-nominated, ‘Nine for IX’ series that premiered last summer. The ‘Nine for IX’ series focused on captivating stories of women in sports told through the lens of female filmmakers. The first film, Venus Vs., premiered on July 2, 2013.

Brittney Griner, who came out last year, traveled to China for her inaugural season with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls. Traveling overseas to play basketball during the off-season is a rite of passage for many WNBA players, and this film chronicles not only Griner’s journey, but also her transformation form ‘a celebrated kid with unlimited potential to a self-reliant adult with a deep inner capacity to make her championship dreams a reality’