One Equal World

Out Athletes

Posted on: August 11, 2016

A photo of an athletic man standing on the beach. He is wearing a blue tanktop and a rainbow wristband with Olympic medals around his neck.

Never before in the history of the Olympics has there been as many openly gay/lesbian athletes as this year’s 2016 Rio Olympics.
Image: lazyllama /


Athletics is not an easy to field to be out in, especially in the high-visibility, high-scrutiny world of the Olympics. This is a year when the Olympics is a braver place than most, with at least 42 visibly out LGBT competitors on the board.

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, married women from Great Britain, are competing together in field hockey. This is Helen’s third Olympics and Kate’s fourth, and they’ve been married for three years. Susannah Townsend, also on the same team, has been out as a lesbian since before the 2008 Olympics.

In Rugby, Isadora Cerullo from the Brazil team was proposed to by her girlfriend on the pitch. Jillian Potter, from the U.S. team, cheered her on with her own wife at her side.

Maartje Paumen from the Netherlands, again in Field Hockey, has been out since 2009. She’s also one of the top Olympic scorers in her sport, with 14 goals in both the Beijing and London Olympics.

Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel of the Dutch national team, took home the gold metal and came out as a lesbian during the 2012 Olympics in London.

The list goes on and on. 32 women and 9 men from 14 countries are presenting the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities on the fields, the water, and on horseback. Some of them are newly out, some have never been in the closet at all.

And perhaps most groundbreaking of all is Caster Semenya, a runner from South Africa. She is a strong hopeful to win the gold at the 800 meter run. Perhaps she does not fit the definition of out, as she does not use the word intersex to describe herself, but the controversy around her qualifies this woman for inclusion. Just two years ago, she would not have been allowed to compete due to the arbitrary rules about naturally occurring testosterone in female athletes. But this season, those rules are in limbo pending arbitration, and so she will run.


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