When the Olympics start this weekend in Rio de Janeiro, there will be a record 41 publicly out gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes. Included in this total are a record 11 gay male athletes. But none of these men is an American.
This continues a trend. The first American Olympian who was publicly out while competing was equestrian Robert Dover, who competed in six Olympics. He was joined in 2004 by fellow equestrian Guenter Seidel. Diver Patrick Jeffrey was openly gay as a diver in the 1996 Olympics. But that's it. American Olympians — such as diver Greg Louganis and freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, to name two — have come out after the Games. And there are others who are out to some people in their sport, but not the general public via a story in the media or, more recently, through their own social media.
Outsports knows of one American male Olympian in Rio, but he is not yet out. I believe that to truly effect change, an LGBT athlete needs to come out publicly. For some, it's not possible but too many are content to be out within their small circle and not take the final step to make a difference.
Why the lack of American men is a bit of a puzzle I address here:
Here are the 11 publicly out male Olympians competing in Rio:
Tom Bosworth (Great Britain, race walk)
Tom Daley (Great Britain, diving)
Amini Fonua * (Tonga, swimming)
Edward Gal (Netherlands, equestrian)
Carl Hester (Great Britain, equestrian)
Ari-Pekka Liukkonen (Finland, swimming)
Robbie Manson (New Zealand, rowing)
Hans Peter Minderhoud (Netherlands, equestrian)
Ian Matos (Brazil, diving)
Jeffrey Wammes (Netherlands, gymnastics)
Spencer Wilton (Great Britain, equestrian).
*Note: Since this story was written, I discovered that swimmer Amini Fonua will compete for Tonga. You can read his story here.
In addition, there are 30 publicly out female athletes and two intersex athletes. There are no openly transgender Olympians. You can check out our list of the publicly out athletes here.