Tokyo Paralympic Games could see record numbers of LGBTQ athletes

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That’s more than double the number of athletes who publicly identified as LGBTQ at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, according to SB Nation’s Outsports blog, which did a similar tally of LGBTQ participants for the Summer Olympics.

Former Paralympians helped the blog compile the list of LGBTQ athletes competing this month in Tokyo. This year’s contestants include Asya Miller, US gold medalist in goalball, a sport for athletes with visual impairments; hired wheelchair basketball players Laurie Williams and Robyn Love of Team Great Britain; and Edênia Garcia, a Brazilian swimmer with four gold medals.

The Paralympics and the Olympics saw an improvement in the number of LGBTQ athletes this year, according to Outsports. The Tokyo Summer Olympics saw at least 168 LGBTQ athletes, according to the blog’s tally. A number of those athletes – like British diver Tom Daley, Canadian football star Quinn and Brittney Griner of the US women’s basketball team – have won gold medals.

But researchers studying LGBTQ representation in sports previously told CNN that the number of LGBTQ Olympians should have been higher. Less than 2% of the 11,000 Olympians who competed this year identified as LGBTQ, according to the Outsports tally. This lack of representation may be due to a sports culture that still does not welcome queer and trans athletes, said Katie Schweighofer, an assistant faculty member at Dicksinson College who studies inclusion in sport.

Athletes face the stigma of disability and sexuality in sport

Paralympians who identify as LGBTQ still face negative attitudes toward queer and trans people. In a blog post for the International Paralympic Committee, Brazilian swimmer Garcia said she “needs to protect herself from a repertoire of jokes” during training.

“Being a lesbian and a person with a disability is a double challenge because you carry the stigma of being invisible,” Garcia said in the blog.

But competing in front of an international audience can also inspire change. Lee Pearson, dressage champion and the British team’s first gay Paralympic gold medalist, was elected his team’s flag bearer in Rio in 2016. The honor moved him, he told the BBC in February.
Great Britain's para-equestrian dressage athlete Lee Pearson with his late horse, Gentleman.
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“It wasn’t about me, it was the message we sent to other countries,” he said. “I hope this sent a message to other nations where sexual diversity is oppressed and still not accepted and where sometimes you can even be put to death.”

Williams and Love of Team Great Britain have been teammates since 2015 and got engaged in 2020. Competing in the Paralympics together “did [their] strong relationship, ”Love wrote in an Instagram post in July.
Williams and Love will compete in women’s wheelchair basketball starting Wednesday. In an interview last year, Love said she hoped to inspire young people to go out not by doing “extreme things” but by being herself – although winning a gold probably wouldn’t hurt. no more.



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