It was the kiss seen round the world.
When openly gay skier Gus Kenworthy kissed his boyfriend Matt Wilkas live during NBC’s coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics, it was a memorable moment in LGBT sports history.
The kiss was natural, with Kenworthy and Wilkas surrounded by friends. It was something we’ve seen thousands of times with opposite-sex partners of athletes, with its normalcy being radical for it being two men.
It was only 10 years earlier than NBC refused to acknowledge Australian diver Matthew Mitcham being openly gay at the Beijing Olympics as he won a gold medal, ignoring his boyfriend cheering him on in the stands. And it was in 2016 when an NBC Olympic announcer called the wife of a Brazilian women’s beach volleyball player her “husband.”
For me, the Kenworthy-Wilkas kiss was the iconic LGBT sports moment of 2018. We highlighted our athletes and heroes of the year, all worthy winners. But for a single moment, nothing beat the few-seconds kiss.
Our tweet of the moment went viral, with more than 900,000 impressions, showing the power the kiss had.
In discussing the spontaneous moment later, Kenworthy was aware of its significance.
“It’s something I was too scared to do for myself,” Kenworthy said. “To be able to do that, to give him a kiss, to have that affection broadcast to the world, is incredible.
“The only way to really change perceptions, to break down barriers, break down homophobia, is through representation. That’s definitely not something I had as a kid. I never saw a gay athlete kissing their boyfriend at the Olympics. I think if I had, it would’ve made it easier for me.”
Maybe one day, such scenes will be commonplace as we can only hope. But I guarantee that there were young LGBT athletes dealing with their struggles who were given a jolt of hope by seeing something as natural as two men kissing.