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Record number of LGBT athletes in Rio Olympics

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Kate and Helen Walsh - LGBT athletes

Record number of LGBT athletes in Rio Olympics

Kate and Helen Walsh - LGBT athletes
This year’s Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil features a record number of publicly out LGBT athletes at 43.

This is higher than the previous three Summer Olympics, according to an estimate by Outsports magazine: 12 in Beijing (2008), 22 in London (2012), and double that to 43 in Rio.

LGBT athletes accepted at the Olympics

The Olympics brings together athletes from various countries with vastly different attitudes and laws for LGBT people.

In recent years, the event has drawn an increasing number of queer athletes who are comfortably discussing their sexuality in public.

“The sports world is far more evolved on LGBTQ issues than we give it credit for,” said Cyd Zeigler, a founder of Outsports.com.

“While there may still be issues in some front offices, the athletes and fans have been ready, willing and able to accept and welcome gay teammates and colleagues for many years,” Zeigler said.

LGBT athletes includes married lesbian couple

Adding to the record-breaking number of open and out LGBT athletes is the first same-sex married couple that will be competing in the games.

Kate Richardson-Walsh and Helen Richardson-Walsh will represent the Great Britain in field hockey this year.

The long-time teammates made history in London in 2012 when they won their country’s first Olympic hockey medal in two decades.

In Rio, they’re gunning for gold. But even before their first match, they’ve already made their mark as history’s first ever same-sex couple to compete in the Olympics.

“We’re a couple, we love each other, and we happen to be playing in the same team,” said Kate in an interview with BBC.

“I think because our teammates and our friends and family have been so supportive and understanding of that we also don’t see anything strange or different,” she added.

Raising visibility of LGBT athletes at the Games

With so many LGBT athletes participating in the Olympics this year, visibility of the athletes is paramount.

Chris Mosier, executive director of GO! Athletes and the first transgender man to make the US National Team as a duathlete, knows firsthand how important visibility is for LGBT athletes.

Mosier advocated for trans rights all throughout 2015 with the IOC, eventually getting the committee to change its guidelines to allow transgender athletes to compete without having to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

“Visibility is a powerful tool in the LGBTQ sports movement,” Mosier said.

“The more people competing and succeeding at a high level, the more others will be inspired to do the same,” he added.

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