Compete Network Feature Stories

Bob Paris – #LGBTSportsHistory

Happy LGBTQ+ History Month! Every October is celebrated as LGBTQ+ History Month to recognize and educate about people, places and events that have had an impact on the LGBTQ+ Community. All month we are going to honor some influential athletes, companies, organizations and sports figures who have made a contribution toward LGBTQ+ History.

Bob Paris (12/14/1959) is a retired professional body builder and Mr. Olympia competitor who was the first male professional athlete to come out as homosexual while still active within his sport.

Born and raised in Indiana, Paris was a very active kid with an interest in both athletic and artistic interests. Winning many national and scholastic awards in writing, drawing and painting he would expand that passion into theatre and drama throughout high school.

During school Paris was involved in various sports including Track and Field, Golf and Football. His sophomore year of high school Paris found an old weight machine in the gym and found himself becoming more interested in weightlifting. Seeing substantial progress, eventually he lost interest in the other sports and decided to focus solely on weightlifting. It was then Paris decided he wanted to pursue bodybuilding.

After high school Paris pursued college at Indiana State University and eventually transferred to Indiana University but ultimately decided to pursue his goals and dreams of becoming a body builder and actor. In the early 1980s Paris moved to Southern California where he initially struggled, living out of his car he had no friends or connections. However Paris stuck with it and continued to pursue his goals, 2 years after moving Paris won his first bodybuilding competitions, Mr. Los Angeles and Mr. Southern California.

Using his unique talent and passion for the arts, Paris had applied this approach to Body Building which led him to a very successful career as an athlete and a model. Always a natural bodybuilder, Paris advocated for drug testing for athletes and took a strong stance against Performance Enhancing Substances.

Throughout the 1980s Bob Paris had racked up quite a few regional, national and international titles. He appeared on numeruous magazine covers and competed at Mr. Olympia. Ultimately he won the National Physique Committee National Championships and the IFBB Official World Championships.

in 1989 Bob Paris decided to come out as gay in the July issue of the Ironman magazine and later on the same year appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss his coming out and marriage to his long time boyfriend at the time. When questioned why he chose to come out instead of stay in the closet Paris explained…

“You fall in love” and that it doesn’t feel right to hide it.”

As a result Paris’ bodybuilding career took a hit, he lost approximately 80% of his sponsorship and endorsement deals as well as bookings. He retired from professional body building in 1991.

Ever since coming out Paris has been a strong advocate and activist for the LGBT community, he had received numerous death threats after coming out. Paris and his husband Rod Jackson became activists for gay rights and symbols for gay marriage. 7 years after they were married, Paris and Jackson had split. Paris was worried that the end of his marriage would reflect badly on the gay community and undo all that they had accomplished to them. Ultimately they decided it was the right thing for their relationship.

9 years after coming out, in 1998 Bob Paris made his debut on Broadway in the musical Jubilee opposite of Bea ArthurSandy DuncanMichael JeterPhilip BoscoAlice Ripley and Tyne Daley. Since then he has continued acting in various roles on stage and television as well enjoyed success as an author

Bob Paris currently lives in Vancouver, BC with his spouse, the two have been together since 1996 and were legally married in 2003 when BC officially legalized same sex marriage.

Follow us on social media (FacebookTwitterInstagram) and the hashtag #LGBTSportsHistory to learn more and keep up to date! We will also be linking all of our articles here, check it out!

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