Publicly out LGBTQ+ Olympic athletes set important example, highlight increasing acceptance worldwide

Nobunari Oda (pictured left), Patrick Chan ( pictured center) and Adam Rippon (pictured right) at the 2010 Skate Canada International. Rippon has been a continual role model for the LGBTQ+ community in athletics. Since Rippon has paved the way, an increasingly accepting sentiment has been demonstrated during the 2018 Winter Olympics. (David Carmichael/creative commons)

The Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang have been incredibly noteworthy––especially because of the positive actions set by LGBTQ+ athletes and the community. 

Gay and lesbian athletes have previously been underrepresented in the Olympics. Therefore, it is important to recognize these individuals’ accomplishments, considering it is a stride toward global acceptance. 

This year, there are 15 Olympians who are publicly open about their LGBTQ+ identity. The last Winter Olympic Games in 2014 had only seven publicly out LGBTQ+ athletes, all of whom were women. It wasn’t until the 2018 games that there were openly gay male athletes, as reported by SN Nation’s Outsports. 

Such low numbers are disappointing; however, they show that acceptance is growing as more individuals feel more comfortable being open about their sexuality. This will cause monumental changes in how all individuals view their sexuality, considering these athletes are popular public figures across the world.

Adam Rippon was the first openly gay man from the United States to medal in the Winter Olympics, earning a bronze medal in his free skate performance. Additionally, Canadian figure skater Eric Radford “became the first openly gay Winter Olympics champion after winning the gold with partner Meagan Duhamel,” in the pairs free skate performance, CNN reports. 

Those participating in the Olympic Games are the epitome of role models for young athletes. Publicly out LGBTQ+ Olympic athletes are both athletic mentors and influencers of a larger social acceptance toward gay athletes. 

Director of Public Education and Research at Human Rights Campaign Ashland Johnson was overjoyed by Rippon’s success. After winning bronze for his performance, Johnson stated, “Adam’s visibility as a proud LGBTQ American continues to be a driving force for equality,” as reported by NBC. 

Rippon and Radford’s achievements truly encourage individuals of the LGBTQ+ community, because they lead the way for athletes in similar situations. An athlete should not have to conceal their sexual orientation because this exemplifies the diversity at the Olympics. 

It is historical seeing openly gay and lesbian Olympic athletes excelling in their sports. These athletes are not only representing their countries, but also the entire LGBTQ+ community. Their accomplishments demonstrate that sexual orientation does not affect level of success.

NBC faced criticism for the lack of representation of LGBTQ+ athletes. The commercial broadcast company recognizes Olympic athlete’s gender and ethnicity; however, they did not identify LGBTQ+ athletes, according to SB Nation’s Outsports. It is critical for broadcasting channels to highlight those athletes because it normalizes various sexual orientations. 

Additionally, the Olympic Village has a designated safe space, the Pride House, for LGBTQ+ athletes, thanks to the Canadian Olympic Committee, as reported by CNN. The Pride House’s mission is to promote equality and diversity at the Olympic Games. 

It should be noted that although the Pride House shows progress toward social acceptance, specifically at the Olympics, it also divides those who identify as something other than straight. 

Tremendous progress toward equality has been prominent, especially at this year’s Winter Olympics; however, more reform still needs to be made. 

Athletes who publicly speak about their sexual orientation continue to inspire all who identify with them. As the world’s largest sports competition, it is revolutionary for preeminent athletes to be able to speak openly about their sexual orientation without fear of being reprimanded.

The Olympics exhibits cultural inclusivity, which is why it is vital for countries participating to show acceptance of LGBTQ+ athletes. Every athlete’s milestones will hearten those who identify with them.