These LGBT Athletes Made History at the Rio Olympics

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These LGBT Athletes Made History at the Rio Olympics

The Olympics hold themselves up to be not only the epitome of sport, but also a unifying cultural event that exemplifies the best the world has to offer in human spirit. As described in the Olympic Charter, “Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

After the launch of the Principle 6 campaign leading up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the IOC declared sexual orientation is protected as part of their Principle 6 charter statement: Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

Furthermore, post-Sochi, the IOC has added a new anti-discrimination clause to their contract for prospective host cities going forward.

Which brings us to Rio and the record number of out LGBTQ athletes competing in the Olympic games. Outsports is currently reporting at least 53 publicly out lesbian, gay or bisexual athletes at the Rio Olympics. Though no transgender athletes are competing this year, the IOC has loosened their guidelines so more trans athletes can compete in the future.

Out of 11,547 athletes (according to, 53 make up less than half of one percent of all competitors. Naturally, we are to assume there are other LGB athletes competing at the games that have not publicly come out, which would make that number higher.

Still, the historic number of out athletes makes the Rio Olympics the gayest ever. Well maybe not ever. Ancient Greece was pretty gay too. (side note: can someone please make some ‘Make the Olympics Gay Again’ hats and shirts?)

The hyper-masculinity of professional sports has created barriers for coming out at any level of sport and forces many LGBTQI athletes, in particular male athletes, to keep their sexual orientation private. Only 11 of the 53 out athletes are male.

However, as more and more LGBTQI athletes become visible in their respective communities and sports, we can continue to talk openly about the negative stereotypes associated with sexuality and sports and put an end to them.

Many LGBTQI athletes may also prefer to remain private due to laws that criminalize homosexuality in their home countries. Although these laws and discrimination are mostly seeded in religious views, international pressure from media and organizations like the IOC can help to improve these conditions.

While there is still a lot of work to do in this area, sports have proven to be something of an agent of change. Just recently the NBA decided to move the 2017 NBA All-Star game that was set for Charlotte, North Carolina, after pressure to rescind North Carolina’s transphobic HB2 law failed. Although the law is still intact, this is a step in the right direction and the NBA should be applauded for taking action.

For those athletes that have already taken steps to be out and vocal about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer, whatever the case may be, we celebrate your many accomplishments during the Rio games.


Six LGB athletes have already medaled and that number could go much higher with several events yet to compete and finals still to be played.

Rafaela Silva – Brazil – Judo (Lightweight)


Rafaela Silva has the distinction of winning the first gold medal for her host country Brazil.

Tom Daley – Great Britain – Diving

Tom added a 2016 bronze medal for men’s synchronized 10m platform diving to go with his London 2012 bronze. He also competes in the men’s individual 10m platform on Friday and Saturday.

His fiancé, Dustin Lance Black posted a photo with Tom to Instagram afterwards.

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So happy for you. So proud. #TeamGB #TeamDaley #Diving #Rio2016 ??????

A photo posted by Dustin Lance Black (@dlanceblack) on

Rachele Bruni – Italy – Swimming


Rachel won a silver medal for the women's marathon swimming 10k.

Carl Hester & Spencer Wilton – Great Britain – Equestrian


Carl and Spencer, members of the Great Britain Equestrian Dressage Team won a silver medal in the team event.

Jen Kish – Canada – Rugby


Canada's Jen Kish won a bronze medal with her rugby sevens team. This is the first time rugby has been an Olympic sport since 1924.

Notable mention:

Larissa Franca Maestrini – Brazil – Beach Volleyball


Larissa just missed out on a bronze medal after losing to Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross in an intense match.

Several athletes will still be competing for gold, silver and bronze in the coming days. Make sure you cheer them on!

USA Women's Basketball – Seimone Augustus, Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner, Angel McCoughtry


The four women will compete with their team to bring home a record eighth consecutive gold medal in women's basketball. The final is on Saturday, Aug. 20 @ 2:30 p.m. ET.

Nicola Adams – Great Britain – Boxing (Fly weight)


Nicola will compete in the gold medal match Saturday, Aug. 20.

Great Britain Women's Field Hockey – Helen Richardson-Walsh, Kate Richardson-Walsh, and Susannah Townsend


Kate (team captain) and Helen Richardson-Walsh have made history as the first same-sex married couple to compete together. They play in the gold-medal match versus the Netherlands on Friday, Aug. 19

Netherlands Women's Field Hockey – Maartje Paumen, and Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel


Maartie and Carlien will go against Great Britain for gold in the final Friday, Aug. 19. The Dutch team is coached by Alyson Annan-Thate who is also out.

Sweden Women's Soccer Team – Nilla Fischer, Hedvig Lindahl, Lisa Dahlkvist, and Carolina Seger


The Swedish team, coached by Pia Sundhage who is out (formerly USA's women's team coach), has already knocked out defending champion USA and host country Brazil this tournament. They play for gold in the final versus Germany on Friday, Aug. 19.

Stephanie Labbé – Canada – Women's Soccer


Canadian goalkeeper, Stephanie Labbé has two shut-outs this tournament. She'll play in the bronze-medal match with her team Friday, Aug. 19.

Alexandra Lacrabére – France – Handball

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Did you know there's a handball magazine called Hand Action? Well, there is and they interviewed Alexandra about being out. Her French team will compete in the handball final on Saturday, Aug. 20.

Caster Semenya – South Africa – Track

Caster qualified for the women's 800-meter track finals on Saturday and is favorite to win gold.

Anne Buijs – Netherlands – Volleyball


Anne and her Dutch team will take on the USA for bronze on Saturday, Aug. 20.

Martina Strutz – Germany – Pole Vault


Catch Martina in the pole vault finals on Friday, Aug. 19.

Sunette Viljoen – South Africa – Javelin Throw


Watch Sunette throw a javelin really far in the finals, also on Friday.


Isadora Cerullo – Brazil – Rugby

Isadora's Brazilian rugby team may have placed 9th but she made headlines when her girlfriend Marjorie Enya proposed to her after the final rugby match.

Tom Bosworth – Great Britain – Racewalking

After placing 6th in the 20k racewalk, Tom proposed to his boyfriend Harry Dineley on the sandy beach of Rio and then tweeted about it…


Danell Leyva – USA – Gymnast

Gymnast Danell Leyva is a shining example of what it means to be an LGBTQ ally. Earlier this year he posted a series of videos pledging his support to the LGBTQ community on Instagram. Oh, he also won silver medals in men's gymnastic events parallel bar and horizontal bar.

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Chris Mosier – USA – Duathlete

This year, Nike featured trans athlete Chris Mosier in an ad campaign “Unlimited Courage,” which aired during the Olympics. Though Chris competed in the World Championships for the USA this year, his sport, the duathlon (running and cycling) is not an Olympic sport. Nonetheless, his achievements should be celebrated.

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