By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
Currently standing at 14th in the medal count, the 34 out LGBTQIA+ athletes competing at the Tokyo Paralympics are showing the world how it’s done. Just like their colleagues at the Olympics earlier this summer, the athletes at the Paralympics represent the largest openly LGBTQIA+ representation at any Paralympic games, ever. This is a historical event that shows the power of being able to live openly and authentically in an athletic environment, where one’s gender identity/sexual orientation and athletic identity are no longer mutually exclusive.
Thus, it is no surprise that in addition to seeing more out LGBTQIA+ athletes competing on the world stage they are also making it to the podium. When athletes can train and compete in an environment where they don’t have to deal with the burden, pressure, and stress of hiding their gender identity/sexual orientation but instead are accepted and embraced by their sporting communities; then these athletes can channel their focus into their sport and show what they’re capable of.
The Paralympics, just like the Gay Games, exist to show the world that people who are different are just as, if not more capable than anybody else. The entire history of both events has influenced public perceptions on what being an “athlete” truly means, with no shortage of inspirational stories to come from it. This year’s Paralympics are taking that even a step further as we are seeing openly LGBTQIA+ Paralympians, at one of the highest echelons of competitive sports, win.
With six gold medals, six silver medals and two bronze medals as of September 1st, some highlights include equestrian/para dressage athlete and openly gay male Lee Pearson winning three golds at this Paralympics, making it 12 Paralympic golds overall; former Olympian cyclist and openly lesbian athlete, Kate O’Brien winning her first Paralympics medal with a silver; track and field athlete Robin Lambird taking home a bronze medal, becoming the first ever publicly out non-binary medalist in Paralympic history.
The best part is, we still have five more days of exciting Paralympics action to watch, so we can’t wait to see what comes next for Team LGTBQIA+, because it’s going to be awesome.
Photo by Uli Gasper www.uligasper.de