Pride remains heavy on the mind in the days after the 2020 Summer Paralympics torch was extinguished.
So many athletes competed in a fashion that embodied the word, but pride holds special significance for the record number of out LGBTQ competitors and medalists. That rise in visibility is amazing to see, but it holds special significance for the nonbinary athletes who planted their flag firmly in international sports’ terrain.
Among the 36 out LGBTQ athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics were a trio representing nonbinary/gender-neutral identities, the most ever featured at the world’s top stage for disabled athletes. Just the appearance of American rower Laura Goodkind, Australian wheelchair sprinter Robyn Lambird and Aussie seated shot putter Maz Strong basking in that symbolic flame stood as a statement to all audiences.
Gender-diverse people aren’t exempt from athletic excellence, among other societal constructs.
But simply beaming their respective truths to the world wasn’t all that was in the cards, not when podiums were squarely in their sights. Laura Goodkind barely missed their event final. Strong and Lambird captured the first-ever medals for out gender-diverse Paralympians.
Along with Quinn’s gold medal at the Summer Olympics, gender diverse audiences now have three medals to celebrate from this summer. The number may seem small, but the meaning behind it is so very large. What the Paralympics flame further illuminated to the world is what the community knew far earlier than anyone arrived in Tokyo: Nonbinary athletes belong. Nonbinary people belong.
Even as most of the sports world continues to lag behind, holding tightly to a societal idea that boils the idea of gender to an either-or delineation, those who live, breathe and compete outside of the binary are more than happy to splash some purple and gold onto the canvas.
Those accomplishments further cemented what started with Alana Smith and Quinn during the 2020 Summer Olympics: Those who exist beyond the gender binary are here to shake the foundation with a grin unparalleled.
And that is a flame that cannot be extinguished.