The London Olympic Games begin in a little over a week so, of course, speculation begins about the number of openly LGBT athletes will be competing. This Advocate articleidentifies a handful of openly lesbian and gay athletes who will be competing and I am sure this number will increase as we get closer to the opening ceremonies. This number has topped out around 13-14 openly LGBT athletes in past Olympics and I hope that number will increase in London. Though the number of openly LGBT athletes is a small percentage of the thousands of athletes who will competing in London, it is safe to assume that there are many other LGBT athletes who will competing from the closet.
Apparently, a heterosexual married couple who are on the Australian shooting team believe that there are huge numbers of same-sex couples who will rooming together in the Olympic village. They claim that they are being discriminated against because, as heterosexuals, they are not allowed to room together in the athletes’ village and are making a big deal out of it. Please. Is this really how they want to spend their time preparing for their competition? Is this how they are making their mark on the London games?
Like the Vancouver Olympics there will be a Pride House in London open to all athletes and other visitors. Pride House is not sponsored by the Olympics, but by a local group as was true in Vancouver. Nonetheless it does provide some LGBT visibility at an international sporting event.
Why does it matter if athletes come out publicly or if there is a Pride House at the Olympics? It’s about visibility and role models. It’s about athletes not needing to spend energy hiding and keeping secrets and using that energy to focus on the competition. It’s about being honest with teammates and true to yourself. It’s about sending a message to young LGBT athletes that the world is changing and their future in sports looks better and better.
Oh, and that Aussie couple? Instead of crabbing about sleeping arrangements, they should count the many other privileges they have as married heterosexuals and stick to trying to shoot straight.