Meet Black Athletes Paving the Way for LGBTQ Equality

by Ashland Johnson

As part of our observance of Black History Month, HRC celebrates some of the sports stars who have become society’s role models.

As part of our observance of Black History Month, HRC celebrates some of the sports stars who have become society’s role models, exhibiting the discipline, courage and determination that motivates us in our own lives.

Their unapologetic commitment to being out and proud gives much-needed visibility to Black voices in our LGBTQ communities.

HRC is proud to honor these pioneering Black athletes fighting for equality both inside and outside the sports arena.

  • Jason Collins is a retired NBA player, who competed professionally for 13 seasons. He publicly came out as gay in 2013, becoming the first openly gay athlete to play in any of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues. Since then, Collins has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ equality, serving as an inspiration for other LGBTQ athletes and trailblazers who have come after him. In 2013, Collins was included in the first class of inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. Collins has been a longtime partner of HRC, from speaking at HRC dinners to joining the organization for a roundtable discussion of the impact of North Carolina’s infamous HB2.   
  • Josh Dixon is a former U.S. National Team gymnast. Dixon has said that a main reason he publicly came out was to set an example for LGBTQ youth and help them realize that it is alright to be unapologetically yourself. Dixon has also addressed his own experiences with bullying, hoping to lead by example in sharing vulnerability. “I want to continuing using my platform for good. I must be at peace with myself and lead by example with an open mind along the way,” Dixon said in an interview with We Are the Real Deal. In 2016, HRC honored Dixon with the HRC Visibility Award at its HRC Mile High Gala in Colorado. Josh recently took over the HRC Twitter to share his story with HRC.
  • Fallon Fox became the first openly transgender athlete in mixed martial arts history in 2013. Despite experiencing considerable backlash when she came out, Fox persisted both with her athletic career and with her advocacy for transgender rights. Fox has also participated in numerous of LGBTQ Pride walks and expressed her gratitude for the support that the LGBTQ community has given her. In 2014, Fox was one of fifteen LGBTQ athletes inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.
  • Layshia Clarendon, a “biracial, black, gay, female, genderqueer and Christian” WBNA basketball player for the Atlanta Dream, has proven to be a formidable force both on and off the court. Embracing the intersections of her identity, Clarendon is a vocal proponent for LGBTQ equality and regularly uses her platform to advocate for change. In August, Clarendon co-authored a powerful op-ed condemning proposed anti-transgender legislation in Texas. Additionally, Clarendon co-founded Br{ache the Silence, an organization dedicated to advancing “LGBTQ inclusion and equality in sports through solution-oriented strategies.”
  • John Amaechi, who shared his coming out story in a video for HRC, is the first former NBA player to publicly come out as gay. Amaechi has been an outspoken critic of homophobia in sports, and works to promote an inclusive and open environment for LGBTQ basketball players across the U.S. Amaechi was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, the same year as Fallon Fox. Recently, Amaechi has been in touch with Premier League footballers in the UK who are fearful of coming out, helping them feel comfortable and confident with who they are.
  • Kye Allums became the first openly transgender NCAA Division I college athlete in 2010. Since his incredible basketball career, Allums has become a vibrant advocate for transgender rights and is a supporter of HRC. Allums also founded Project I Am Enough, which encourages other LGBTQ individuals to come forward and talk about their life experiences. In 2015, Allums was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.
  • Wade Davis II, a former NFL cornerback, came out as openly gay in 2012, nine years after his professional football career ended. Since then, he has worked to advance inclusion both within the NFL and more broadly, across all sports. He has become a staff member at the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York, an organization that serves LGBTQ youth. He has also become a leading advocate for gender equity and inclusion on the playing field and in the workplace. Davis works with organizations such as the You Can Play Project, which is “dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”
  • Seimone Augustus is well-known for her basketball career, playing for the Minnesota Lynx, as well as competing on the U.S. women’s basketball team in the past three consecutive Olympic Games. After coming out in 2012, Augustus has become a strong advocate for marriage equality and LGBTQ rights in sports. She openly shares her story of realizing her sexuality at a young age in the hopes that LGBTQ youth can feel more comfortable with their own identities.  
Photos via: Wikimedia Commons, Twitter