My top moments from the gay(est), bi(est), lesbian(est), trans(est), queer(est) and nonbinary(est) Olympics ever.
Come out, come out, wherever you are
There were a record 182 out LGBTQ athletes in Tokyo, more than a three-fold increase from the 56 in Rio five years earlier. Athletes came from every continent, except Antarctica, in 34 sports.
The list became an Olympics talking point for the media, and developed a life of its own.
Our original list had 121 names and it grew by 50% by the time the Games ended. Outsports heard from dozens of readers suggesting names and we heard from from Olympians in Tokyo who wanted to be on the list. “Hi there!” wrote one Olympian. “You can definitely add me. Thank you for doing this. It’s amazing to see the representation.”
I realize it’s not all good news — the 182 athletes is less than 2% of total participants, meaning there are still a ton of closeted Olympians. Out men are still woefully underrepresented and the list is almost exclusively comprised of athletes from the First World. In the end, though, the sheer increase of out athletes made it something to celebrate and not decry.
Athletes out on social media
Virtually every athlete has an Instagram account and many Olympians use their social media (including TikTok) to live public out lives. That trend helped fuel the rise of the number of out athletes on our list.
Women almost exclusively make up this phenomenon of being out on social media without a media fuss, a testament to the fact that LGBTQ women in sports have an easier time being out in their sports sphere.
A rare male example of an Olympian being out on social media without attendant media attention is Dutch sprinter Ramsey Angela. His Instagram is flooded with adorable videos and photos of him and his boyfriend being totally into each other. We were thrilled on the last day of track and field to see Angela win the silver medal as part of the Dutch 4x400 relay team.
Take that, France, Germany and Italy
If the 182 out Olympians were there own country, Team LGBTQ would have finished seventh in the medal standings, ahead of the Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany (sucks to be them). This is based on gold medals, which is what the IOC and world — save for the U.S. — use as the standard. Team LGBTQ took 11 golds and 32 medals overall, with medals won by 56 athletes.
Tom Daley’s gold and bronze
The only out Olympian to win multiple medals in Tokyo was British diver Tom Daley, who took the gold medal in the 10-meter synchronized event and a bronze in the 10-meter individual. What was more important was Daley using his platform to speak up for LGBTQ people.
“There are more out LGBT athletes at this Olympic Games than any Olympic Games previously, “ Daley said. “I came out in 2013, December 2013 ... when I was younger I was always the one who felt alone, alone and different, there was something about me that was never going to be as good as society wanted to be and I hope that any young LGBT person out there see that no matter how alone you feel right now, that you are not alone and you can achieve anything. There is a whole lot of your chosen family out here ready to support you
“I feel incredibly proud to say I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion. I feel very empowered by that. When I was younger I thought I was never going to be anything or achieve anything because of who I was. To be an Olympic champion now shows that you can achieve anything.”
Quoth the Raven
A breakout star was silver medal shot putter and self-described “flaming gay,” Raven Saunders of the U.S. She’s strong, confident, brash, fun and has her heart in the right place. She wore a Joker and a Hulk face mask while competing, twerked after throwing, then spoke up candidly about her struggles with mental illness and in support of her LGBTQ brothers and sisters. She sadly lost her mom just days after winning the medal, which added a somber cast to her Games.
On the medal stand, she formed her arms in an X to signify “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.” That caused the IOC to begin an investigation, because it’s a messed up organization with its priorities all screwed up. If they try and strip the medal from Saunders, they’ll be messing with the wrong woman and millions will have her back.
Triple-jumper Yulimar Rojas took a flying leap in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium and not only won the gold medal, but broke the world record set in 1995. The Venezuelan added the gold medal to the silver she won in Rio in 2016. It was the only world record set by an out Olympian in Tokyo and shows we were ahead of our time when we named her Outsports 2020 Female Athlete of the Year. I’m also jealous of her abs.
History for trans and nonbinary athletes
Tokyo saw the first participation by open transgender and nonbinary athletes. New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard (who is trans) handled the intense media scrutiny with a big smile and grace, saying how excited she was to be there. She showed tons more class than any of her detractors.
Quinn (who is trans nonbinary) had a Games to remember when they helped Canada win its first gold medal in women’s soccer. Quinn always remembered they represented more than themself, as they said on the “Trans Sporter Room” podcast last year:
“It’s a place for me to trailblaze as a trans athlete,” Quinn said. “I want to use my platform. One of the reasons I came out was to use my platform and I’m hoping with my voice can help uplift other trans voices in our community.”
In addition, trans BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe was a reserve on the U.S. team.
Best non-LGBTQ moment
My favorite moment of the Games was when Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi decided to share the gold medal when they remained tied after finishing the required nine jumps.
The best friends decided that sharing was the ultimate Olympic value and the display of joy and camaraderie represented sports at its best. “Sharing with a friend is beautiful,” Tamberi said.