If you’re a millennial like me, or older, you didn’t have many public LGBTQ+ role models when you were growing up—especially when it came to sports. I remember the anxiety I felt as a closeted gay man joining MMA in high school, and the difference it made when I stumbled across the profile of Orlando Cruz, a gay Puerto Rican Olympic boxer. It was an empowering moment for me.
Today, LGBTQ+ youth are witnessing a transformational epoch in the history of sexual and gender minority representation in sports across the globe. In 2020, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first trans woman to compete in the Summer Olympics. Out LGBTQ+ athletes at the Winter Olympics brought their inspirational sportsmanship to the world stage. With 36 out athletes having competed in these past Winter Olympics, and another 186 in last year’s Summer Games, we’re reminded that our community is successful and talented beyond the stereotypical fields of art and music—perhaps even more so, because of the resilience we’ve had to show to overcome some of the ingrained homophobia among sports fans.
The growing number of out athletes pushes the normalization of LGBTQ+ sportsmanship. Numerous research studies provide insight into the anxiety LGBTQ+ youth experience when considering joining a sports team. Navigating these traditionally heteronormative spaces can have debilitating mental health effects. Unfortunately, what doesn’t kill you may make you stronger, but it also leaves you exhausted and traumatized.
The successes of Laurel Hubbard, Orlando Cruz, Brittany Bowe, Gus Kenworthy, and so many more LGBTQ+ athletes help to highlight and gradually diminish such systemic experiences of discrimination and bigotry.
At the Leonard-Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation, we’re committed to supporting partners that uphold life-affirming services for ALL LGBTQ+ people, including our aspiring athletes. In this way, we strive to break down barriers for marginalized LGBTQ+ youth so they may embrace their identities while achieving their full potential in whatever sport they choose to play.
Social Media Director