Come out and compete.
Come out and play is one of the messages coming out of this years Olympics. With the first full week of the 2020 Summer Olympics in the books, a record number of out LGBTQ athletes taking to fields, courts and tracks in Tokyo. And the number keeps growing.
With many of us following other grim numbers around the world in another surge of the pandemic, we are also watching the number of out athletes in the Olympics go up as more come out during the games. 178 with room for more to join this week. With all those out athletes, we are also not counting the queer medals with a chance of that number increasing as well.
Come out and win
Our friends at Outsports are tracking “Team LGBTQ” and clearly we are in Tokyo, we’re queer, and we’re medaling. Out athletes have already won 3 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze, placing the queer nation places 11th in the medal count just ahead of Canada.
In an Olympic first, the U.S. Women’s 3×3 Basketball team brought home the first-ever gold medal. The more pickup-style version of the sport made its debut as an Olympic event this year, and Team USA became its first champion with an 18-15 win over Russia. Out center Stefanie Dolson, who plays for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, led scorers in the gold medal game and reveled in the moment. “It’s special to be the first of anything but basketball runs deep in USA blood, so this is very special,” Dolson said.
Come Out Fighting
Other out LGBTQ medalists used their moment of sports glory to come out and add to calls for international LGBTQ equality. Polish rower Katarzyna Zillman grabbed the mic and came out publicly by thanking her girlfriend after capturing a silver medal in the quadruple sculls. She said afterward that she “felt the need” to come out to lend her voice against growing homophobic attitudes in her home country.
Italian archer Lucilla Boari came out publicly shortly after capturing Italy’s first individual archery medal when her girlfriend, Dutch archer Sanne de Laat, congratulated her via videoconference during a live Italian media broadcast. Boari acknowledged their relationship after de Laat fawned over the bronze medalist’s accomplishment. “I’m super proud of you. I can’t wait until you’re here so I can give you the biggest hug there is. I love you,” de Laat said.
Come Out All American
American swimmer Erica Sullivan also used the post-medal glow to speak to queer identities and their cultural intersections. “I’m multicultural. I’m queer. I’m a lot of minorities. That’s what America is,” said the 1,500-meter freestyle silver medalist. “That’s what America is. To me, America is not about being a majority. It’s about having your own start. The American Dream is coming to a country to establish what you want to do with your life.”
Other notable LGBTQ medalists were New Zealand rower Emma Twigg, who finally captured her first Olympic gold in single sculls at her fourth Olympic games, and Dutch judoka Sanne van Dijke, bronze medalist in the 70kg category of Judo.
Looking to the next week, memorable and historic moments lie on the horizon. Most notable among them is the Olympic debut of New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, the first trans woman to compete on the Olympic stage. Hubbard has remained incredibly private in the leadup to her debut on Monday as her participation remains a hot topic among supporters and detractors alike.
Hubbard broke her silence for the first time in a written statement to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “The Olympic Games are a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values. I commend the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible,” read Hubbard’s statement. New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) officials offered further support to Hubbard, helping to stave off the wave of transphobic online comments from reaching her as she prepares to compete.
“Our view is that we’ve got a culture of manaaki (inclusion) and it’s our role to support all eligible athletes on our team,” NZOC spokesperson Ashley Abbott told AFP. “In terms of social media, we won’t be engaging in any kind of negative debate.”
Other notable events on the docket include Monday’s Women’s Soccer semifinals, where all four teams (USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden) feature LGBTQ athletes, including Canada’s Quinn, the first trans nonbinary athlete ever to compete at the Olympics.
Saturday will see Team USA’s Hannah Roberts and Perris Benegas attempt to bring home medals in Women’s BMX Freestyle. Out boxer Nesthy Petecio will attempt to capture the Philippines’ first Olympic boxing gold medal when she steps into the ring on Tuesday. U.S. freestyle wrestler Kayla Miracle will make history on Tuesday when she becomes the first out LGBTQ athlete to compete in Olympic wrestling. Team USA Women’s Basketball also continues its gold medal push.
Come Out, Olympics, Gay Athletes: Previously on Towleroad
Photo courtesy of Team USA