Matthew’s Place
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Matthew’s Place

LGBTQ+ Sports Personalities

by Judy Bokao

The world of sports has played a major role in our world development and economy immeasurably. In the LGBTQ+ community, when presented with the opportunity, sports has been a great pillar in improving their lives. For many, coming out has inspired a lot of individuals to share their story and the LGBTQ+ sports family has grown over the years. A few stood out to help the community through their sports careers and continue their activism through different platforms.

Last week, I discussed how we need more inclusion in sports for the queer community. This week, here are some stand-out players who have come out and are working to make our world are more inclusive place.

Orlando Cruz,

a professional boxer from Puerto Rico, became the first openly gay man in boxing. During an interview by ESPN, he said that he wanted kids who suffer from bullying to know they can be whoever they want to be in life and who and whom you love should not impediment to achieve anything in life. In 2016, he dedicated a match to the victims of gay nightclub shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, as many of the victims were Puerto Rican.

Billy Bean

was one of the first to publicly come out as gay in major league baseball. He played for the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, but in 1995, he left the game as he could not continue living with the secret. In 1999, he came out as gay. Now, he is an ambassador for inclusion at the MLB, which allows him to speak to each league team about the importance of inclusion and acceptance.

Adam Rippon

was the first openly gay American male figure to win a medal at the winter Olympics. He publicly denounced Vice President Mike Pence as the leader of the diverse US delegation to South Korea due to his anti-LGBTQ+ positions. In Adam’s sports career, he has continued to voice political opinions around LGBTQ+ rights. Even after retiring, Adams continues his activism by leading GLAAD’s youth engagement campaign. Rippon was recognized with the HRC visibility award for his LGBTQ+ advocacy, as well as the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s Making a Difference award.

Gareth Thomas,

a rugby star, is one of the first known out athletes when he publicly acknowledged his sexuality in 2009. He has support from rugby players across the globe. He is a part of the Rainbow Laces campaign that the Charity Stonewall UK began in 2013. He continues to inspire “coming out.”

Mark Foster

is an inspiration to many through his story of coming out. In 2017, the former Olympic swimmer revealed he was gay, saying that it is never too late to come out of the closet. Despite living an openly gay life to friends and family, he’d hid his identity as a sportsman. He continues to inspire supporting the Terence Higgins Trust, Stonewall, and Ben Cohen’s stand up to bullying campaigns.

Nicola Adams OBE

is a great Britain’s most successful female boxer of all time, winning her country’s first ever female boxing medal as an openly LGBTQ+ person. Adams is openly bisexual and was named the most influential LGBTQ+ person in Britain by The Independent in 2012. She hopes to do more for the LGBTQ+ community and she is an inspiration to many LGBTQ+ youth.

Tadd Fujikawa,

the youngest player to ever compete in the US Open, is also the first male professional golfer to publicly come out as gay. He says that he was inspired to tell his story on World Suicide Prevention Day because of how many queer youth take their own lives. He uses his social media to change lives and empower people to do their best.

Zack Leader,

British gravity bike champion came out publicly as gay via Instagram on January 1, 2018. He was worried that coming out would prevent him from getting sponsors. By coming out, he hopes to motivate others and provide LGBTQ+ sports players some necessary representation.

Kye Allums

is a former college basketball player for the George Washington University women’s team. In 2010, he came out as a trans man, becoming the first openly transgender NCAA Division College athlete. Allums is a transgender advocate, public speaker, artist and mentor to LGBTQ+ youth.

The list does not end there. We have seen, heard and felt the difference these individuals are making each day. It is in good will that they continue their advocacy and activism towards creating an acceptable and inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community. This kind of representation in sports helps improve their self esteem and live their lives openly without the fear of discrimination, stigmatization, name calling, verbal abuse, physical harassment, with the hopes of getting rid of homophobia and suicides. It is my hope that every individual takes up the responsibility from a personal level to help facilitate this journey. Be that hope to a single individual every single day.

About the Author:

Judy Bokao is 20 years old and was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.

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