In retrospect, my initial exposure to an LGBTQ athlete was through one of the first video games I’d ever played.
When I was a kid, one of the things I looked forward to most about visiting my grandparents’ house was a chance to play The Computer. Technologically speaking, The Computer was a PC that was maybe a year or two more technologically advanced than HAL 9000.
It was programmed for MS-DOS, a windows precursor that was designed to make it impossible for six year old me to run any game before giving up and typing “C:\DOS>YOUSUCK!!!!”
All programs were installed on floppy disks inserted into a drive, which emitted a sound that, if you heard it from a present day computer, would prompt you to google the phrase “Is Clippy having a seizure?”
One of my favorite games on The Computer was called Microsoft Decathlon. Because when you think “110 meter hurdles” and “pole vault,” the first name that pops into your mind is Bill Gates.
Microsoft Decathlon was hilariously 1980s. The soundtrack was what the Olympic Fanfare would sound like if it were played on a MIDI keyboard by Yoko Ono. All of the track events appeared to be the end result of a demented experiment where world class sprinters were transmogrified into half of a “divided by” sign.
But to a kid in 1985 looking for something...anything...to do for a day in Indiana, it ruled.
The weird thing about this game, though, was that at the end of every event, my score was compared to that of a computer player representing the United States. This player started out in first place with what appeared to be an impossible lead. And it just kept climbing and climbing with each successive event.
From the shot put going forward, it was clear that this athlete was going to win the gold medal going away and that the best I could hope for was silver. It felt unfair—as if the computer had created a track and field cyborg decathlete who was the perfect competitor for every event. This person couldn’t possibly exist in real life.
As some of you might have guessed, this player with the insane high score was Caitlyn Jenner. And Microsoft Decathlon was using the real life record-setting scores she accumulated during the 1976 Olympic Games as a measuring stick.
Of course, this video game was released several decades before Caitlyn Jenner would be comfortable enough to come out and share her true self with the world. But thanks to the game, when she publicly announced her transition, I knew exactly why she was considered a significant figure in the world of sports and why this was such a monumentally big deal.
There are very few facts about my life that give me greater pride than this: I know who Caitlyn Jenner is thanks to Microsoft Decathlon and not Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
And looking back on it 35 years later, realizing that one of the first athletes I ever learned about was part of the LGBTQ community was pretty cool, too.