Team LGBTQ+ Is Bigger than Ever in Tokyo

LISTICLE | 09/22/2022
Antonia Wille

The Olympic Games are not only a competition for the best sporting performances - they are also a picture of society. In past competitions, they have become a reflection of growing openness and tolerance - LGBTQ+ gained more visibility through the Olympics. Diversity is now lived and breathed. In 2012 in London, there were still 23 openly LGBTQ athletes. Four years later in Rio, there were more than 50. In Tokyo, there are said to be 166, reports queer magazine Outsports. Lesbian soccer players make up the largest percentage, with 40 of them in Tokyo. This means that of the LGBTQ supportive athletes, there are eight times as many women as men. But despite these records, much still needs to change. Here's why with our 7 most diverse male and female athletes.


Found Happiness in the Distance: Shiho Shimoyamada

Shiho Shimoyamada had to move away to live her sexuality openly. The Japanese Olympic-team soccer player came out of the closet during her time in the German women's Bundesliga. "I was so happy that I could talk about my partner without having to lie," she told Nikkei Asia. She would not have been able to be so open in Japan, where she worried about scaring away fans and sponsors with her outing. Now Shimoyamada also sees her appearance as an opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community. Because indirectly, she can now bring attention to diversity and LGBTQ+ issues. "If I let this opportunity pass, it wouldn't happen again," she told the Japan Times. She received support for this from Catholic Emsland. "Respect! Shimo dares," SV Meppen wrote in a post. Who wondered: She had played for Meppen in the 2nd Women's Bundesliga.


Too Much Testosterone for the Olympics: Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya is unfortunately not in Tokyo. The South African has already won Olympic gold twice in the 800 metres. But because of her intersex predisposition, she is no longer allowed to compete in distances between 400 meters and one mile, according to a ruling by the International Court of Arbitration for Sport. A lawsuit alleging discrimination, derogatory treatment and disregard for her private life is already before the European Court of Human Rights, but a decision is still pending.
Semenya would only have been allowed to compete if she had lowered her testosterone levels through medication. However, she refuses to do that. Her attempt to qualify for the 5000 metres failed. She had always said that she wanted to run "naturally, the way I was born" - a proud attitude, but Tokyo 2021 will take place without the lesbian runner.


With Rage to Olympia: Chelsea Wolfe

CHELSEA WOLFE might have caused the biggest scandal of all time at the Olympics if political and sporting history had gone a little differently. BMX cyclist Wolfe is a transgender athlete; champion for trans rights and one of the strongest women at the Tokyo Olympics. In March 2020, she briefly made her anger at US President Donald Trump public in a scandalous post. "My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium," she wrote in a Facebook post at the time. Wolfe was responding to the actions of then US President Donald Trump, who did much to make it harder for underage trans athletes to compete in regular competitions. Trump has since become political history, much to Wolfe's delight. But the 28-year-old is also just an alternate. She can only win a gold medal if one of the two starters on the US BMX team drops out.


The Queer Bmx Team: Hannah Roberts and Perris Bernegas

Hannah Roberts is one of two starters narrowly ahead of Wolfe on the U.S. team. The 19-year-old is also part of the LGBTQ+ community - she is a lesbian, married her partner Kelsey Miller this year. Roberts has a great chance to win the gold medal. She won the world championship at 17 and did it again this year. Since Perris Bernegas, the third member of the U.S. BMX team, is also a lesbian, the U.S. BMX riders are the queerest team in Olympic history. Bennegas came out of the closet this year.


The First Transgender at the Olympics: Laurel Hubbard

Laurel Hubbard is the first trans woman to compete in the Olympics, unless Chelsea Wolfe gets a spot. The weightlifter, who competes for New Zealand, is 43 years old and rather at the end of her career - but can now consider herself to be at her peak. She had already won two silver medals in weightlifting at the World Championships in 2017. This was the first time a transgender athlete had finished on the podium at a world championship. Hubbard is considered reserved and media-shy. But before her start in Tokyo, she had big words. "The last 18 months have shown us all that strength lies in working together in community and collaboration for a common goal." She said she would "wear the silver fern - that is, the symbol of New Zealand - with pride".


Long Kept a Secret: Markus Thormeyer

The swimmer Markus Thormeyer has already participated in the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. At the time, the Canadian swimming star carried his homosexuality around as a burden - it wasn't until last year that he outed himself in a public post. Thormeyer poignantly described his fears and worries with himself. In 2015, before Rio, he had a good year, he said. He swam super competitively, graduated high school and realized he had what it took to compete in the Olympics. "I was willing to put everything on the line - but something was holding me back. It was the secret I was keeping inside - that I was gay." He had kept his homosexuality quiet, he said, because he was afraid of not being accepted. But then, he said, he gathered his courage and talked about it. A weight lifted off Thormeyer, and in 2018 he won a medal at the Commonwealth Games. In Tokyo, he is now competing as an openly homosexual swimmer.


The Homosexual Trainer: Cheryl Reeve

Cheryl Reeve, like Allyson Felix and many other female athletes, is considered a true fighter away from the Olympics. Reeve is one of the few coaches in professional sports who is openly homosexual. A member of the U.S. women's basketball coaching staff, the 54-year-old announced her marriage to Carley Knox - the vice president of her club, the Minnesota Lynx - in 2017. Reeve's wife put the word out four years ago that the couple wanted to prove that there are a lot of successful athletes that support LGBTQ. Reeve's resume is truly impressive proof of that. Reeve won four titles with her club in the US Women's Basketball League WNBA.

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Antonia Wille
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