The 2016 Summer Olympics have ended, and with fall athletics starting up again at Keene State College, I feel it’s important to note that records were also set outside of the competitions. Rio 2016 had more openly LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) athletes compete than in any other Olympics. According to www.outsports.com, this Olympics had a record 40 plus out LGBT athletes compete. Rio 2016 was progressive in comparison to the 23 out LGBT athletes that competed at the 2012 Olympics. However, there is still work to be done in order to further instill acceptance and understanding in others.
Rio 2016 brought the LGBT community to light in a number of ways. I feel a few are worth rehashing to highlight the tremendous strides that athletes have made in hope of bringing a greater understanding to those unfamiliar with this community.
There’s a first for everything and according to an article published on www.independent.co.uk, written by Alexandra Sims, “A Brazilian player became the first athlete to accept a marriage proposal at the games.” Brazilian athlete Isadora Cerullo accepted the proposal after her girlfriend Marjorie Enya gave a speech before the entire crowd. As if it’s not important enough to note that Cerullo was the first athlete to accept a proposal at the games, it’s also the first lesbian athlete marriage acceptance at the games.
Many of the Olympic LGBT athletes took home medals. One of these athletes was Italy’s long distance swimmer Rachele Bruni. According to www.advocate.com, Bruni won a silver medal for long distance swimming in a 10k marathon, after which she dedicated the medal to her girlfriend, Diletta Faina.
I think openly dedicating the medal to her partner brought to light that all humans love the same, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or race. I feel as though instances in sports where LGBT athletes are featured so positively really help reinforce that we’re all the same. The Summer Olympics in Rio can be seen as a progressive step for the LGBT community, but even with a widespread acceptance of others, there were still instances of discrimination that took place.
According to www.outsports.com, “LGBT women’s soccer players from the United States, Canada and Australia had to endure anti-gay chants from fans in their opening matches in Rio.” As if performing at one’s highest level isn’t difficult enough, it’s made even more challenging when fans chant slurs like “bicha” at players. Bicha is Brazilian Portuguese slang for gay. www.outsports.com also mentions how it’s odd for this term to be directed toward female athletes because bicha is a term aimed at men. Regardless, no athlete should be shamed and put down for their sexual orientation at any level whether Olympic, college or junior league.
Another instance of discrimination toward LGBT athletes at this past Olympic Games was when heterosexualand married author Nico Hines from the Daily Beast published a controversial article. According to an article published on www.washingtonpost.com, written by Steven Petrow, Hines started off using apps such as Tinder and Grindr to discover which athletes were playing the mating game. For those who aren’t familiar with these apps, Tinder is the swipe right or swipe left dating app based off whether one finds someone attractive or not for heterosexual people. Grindr operates under the same attractive or not concept, only it’s geared toward gay and bisexual men. According to the article, Hines got a better response while using Grindr and then geared his article toward gay athletes. As if catfishing these athletes isn’t bad enough, in the article Petrow said, “The problem is his story included physical descriptions of the men he’d met, along with their sports and their countries of origin — making it easy to identify them.” In essence, Hines called them out in his article, which has now been taken down.
In my opinion, what Hines did was invasive and unacceptable, especially because some athletes come from countries where homophobia is all too common. These athletes made it to Rio because of their talent and determination, not their sexual orientation, so it shouldn’t even be mentioned, as it isn’t relevant.
With much progress having been made among the LGBT community at this year’s summer Olympics, I look forward to the day when all athletes are referred to as just that – athletes.
Adam Urquhart can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.