clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

There are 564 known LGBTQ athletes who have competed in the Olympic Games

42% of known LGBTQ Summer Olympians have won a medal. Historian Tony Scupham-Bilton shares the names.

Greg Louganis
Greg Louganis is one of the most iconic American Olympians of all time, having won five Olympic medals, four of them gold. It’s not more simply because of Jimmy Carter’s forced Olympic boycott in 1980.

There have been at least 564 LGBTQ athletes to compete in the Olympic Games, according to a new analysis by gay Olympic historian Tony Scupham-Bilton. You can see the lists of Summer Olympians and Winter Olympians on his blog, The Queerstory Files.

Only last autumn, Scupham-Bilton’s list had just eclipsed 400. In less than 12 months, it grew by over 40% due to his intense research and tons of out athletes qualifying for the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

“What is certain is that the list will never be complete,” Scupham-Bilton wrote for Outsports. “There will always be athletes who come out as members of the LGBTQ community, but there will also be others whose sexuality will have gone with them to their graves.”

Even since Scupham-Bilton put the finishing touches on his list a few days ago we discovered an out field hockey player from Argentina, Sofi Maccari. She’ll be included on the next iteration of his list.

All told, 475 of them have competed in the Summer Olympics, and 91 of them have competed in the Winter Olympics.

So why does that combined total equal more than the total number of athletes? Because two of them have competed in both the Summer and Winter Games: Canada’s Georgia Simmerling (cycling, apline skiing and ski cross) and the United States’ Christine Witty (cycling and speed skating). Simmerling is the only LGBTQ athlete who has competed in three distinct Olympic events.

LGBTQ athletes have also experienced a lot of success. In the Summer Olympics alone, exactly 200 known LGBTQ athletes have won at least one medal. That’s 42% of all the people on the list who have competed in a Summer Olympics. That’s a staggering number.

It’s a bit hard to break down the list by gender, as some athletes (equestrian, mixed relays) compete in non-gendered events. Also, it’s hard to know, particularly until recently, if someone would identify as gender-neutral or non-binary. With that said, from what we know, broken down by gender the athletes who are women outnumber the athletes who are men by about a 3-to-1 margin, with a couple of the athletes — Quinn and Alana Smith — being out as non-binary.

The earliest known LGBTQ Olympian? Leif Rovsing, a tennis player from Denmark who competed in the 1912 Stockholm Summer Games. According to Scupham-Bilton, Rovsing was a “pioneer for LGBT inclusion in sport from the 1920s.” However, Scupham-Bilton says in his most recent blog post that he is researching two names from the 1908 London Summer Games.

Competing in seven Olympic Games, Brazil’s soccer player Formiga has competed in the most Olympics, followed by dressage riders Robert Dover (USA) and Carl Hester (Great Britian), both of whom have competed in six Summer Games.

The LGBTQ athletes with the most medals? It’s Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust, with Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe leading amongst the Summer Olympians.

Be sure to head over to The Queerstory Files for more about LGBTQ history from Tony Scupham-Bilton, as well as his latest lists of Summer and Winter Olympians. He’s also reachable on Facebook.