Global Visibility LGBTQ+ Olympians Are Out and Proud — and They Won Big in Tokyo

Even though the Tokyo Olympic games were postponed for a year due to the pandemic, they were well worth the wait to see so many LGBTQ+ athletes compete on the world’s greatest stage.

This was the first time the games saw not just one out transgender or non-binary athlete compete but four: weightlifter Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand, Quinn from the Canadian women’s soccer team, skateboarder Alana Smith and BMX alternate Chelsea Wolf, both from the United States. The International Olympics Committee first allowed trans athletes to compete alongside other Olympians of their correct gender in 2003 — and this year, Quinn broke barriers not only by participating but as part of the gold-medal winning Canadian women’s soccer team.

We’re using Outsports’ definition of being out, which means the athlete has either stated they are LGBTQ+ in a media interview or has clearly indicated they are a part of the LGBTQ+ community on at least one of their public social media profiles. There were nearly two dozen Olympians whom readers have suggested be added to the ranks of Team LGBTQ+ but did not meet the criteria of being publicly out, according to Outsports.

Photo 1 of Laurel Hubbard by: Seth Wenig / AP Images, and Photo 2 of Raven Saunders by: Martin Meissner / AP Images.

BY THE NUMBERS

While we still have a way to go in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports, these games were history makers. Let’s take a look:

182 total out Olympians
32 countries
30 sports
7th Place

Team LGBTQ+ would have come in 7th place overall if they were a country — higher than any country that currently criminalizes homosexuality.

6 Six countries selected out LGBTQ+ athletes to be their flag bearers
20% About 20% of Team USA was part of the LGBTQ+ community
32% of out LGBTQ Olympians won a medal in Tokyo

(about half placed within the top 5 for their events)

  • Sarah Jones and Leah Wilkinson, a couple on Great Britain’s field hockey team, won bronze
  • Another couple, Jolanta Ogar and Agnieszka Skrzypulec, took silver for Poland in women’s two-person dinghy
  • Italian Archer Lucilla Boari came out during a live interview after receiving a video call from her girlfriend congratulating her for winning a bronze medal
  • Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela’s track team not only won a gold medal but also broke the 26-year-old world record for the triple jump
  • Polish rower Katarzyna Zillmann came out after winning silver in the women’s quad sculls
  • Fiancées Anissa Urtez and Amanda Chidester faced off against each other on the Softball field

In their own words…

Tom Daley (Great Britain’s dive team) by: ddp images / AP Images.

“To be able to see out LGBT people performing at the Olympic Games, I hope it can give young kids hope.”


Filipino boxer Nesthy Petecio by: Themba Hadebe / AP Images.

“This fight is also for the LGBTQ community.”


New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard by: Seth Wenig / AP Images.

“All I ever wanted to be was myself.”


Erica Sullivan (U.S. swim team) by: Matthias Schrader / AP Images.

“I feel like I am the epitome of the American person. I am multi-cultural, I am queer, I am a lot of minorities in that sense. And that’s what America is.”


American Skateboarder Alana Smith by: Ben Curtis / AP Images.

“For the first time in my entire life, I’m proud of the person I’ve worked to become.”

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Out LGBTQ Paralympians

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Photo 1 of Tuany Priscila by: Takehiko Suzuki / AP Images, Photo 2 of Mareike Miller and Bo Kramer by: Marcus Brandt / AP Images.

At the Paralympics, there were 36 athletes on Team LGBTQ+, almost triple the number from the 2016 Rio Paralympics. They took home 25 medals: 10 gold, 11 silver and 4 bronze, which ranked them 15th overall. They represented a total of 10 countries and 14 sports, resulting in a spectacular showcase of how talented LGBTQ+ athletes are when given a chance to freely be who they are.

There were three non-binary Paralympians: Laura Goodkind of USA’s rowing team, Robyn Lambird of Australia’s track & field team and Maz Strong of Australia’s seated shot put team. Robyn Lambird won a bronze medal, becoming the first-ever openly out non-binary Paralympian to win a medal.

“Kids can’t be what they can’t see, you know, and it can be really scary," said Lambird, reflecting on their importance in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. "If you don’t have anyone else to look up to, you can feel so alone. So I think it’s really important for those people that are claiming to be diverse, that they include disability, that they include gender-diverse people, because our society is so rich and diverse.”

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There were a number of notable and record-breaking achievements by Team LGBTQ+ at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, including Sir Lee Pearson of Great Britain's Equestrian team (para dressage event) who took home three gold medals, bringing his lifetime Paralympic gold medal count to 14 — the 14th highest personal gold medal count ever. Also, Team Britain’s Crystal Lane-Wright (cycling) took home three silver medals.

The Olympics and Paralympics are about the world coming together, and that includes our openly LGBTQ+ athletes. Because of these athletes who have put a spotlight on LGBTQ+ visibility, millions of LGBTQ+ kids were able to see what's possible.

BY THE NUMBERS

There were a number of notable and record-breaking achievements by Team LGBTQ+ at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, including:

25 medals total

10 gold, 11 silver and 4 Bronze

53% of out Paralympians took home medals
2 multi-medal LGBTQ+ 2020 Paralympians

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