At least 35 LGBTQ athletes will compete at Beijing Olympics, a Winter Games record

Echoing China’s “zero tolerance” approach to the pandemic, the Beijing 2022 Olympics will likely be remembered for their unprecedented safety measures. However, this year’s Winter Games will also go down in history for the record number of openly LGBTQ participants.

According to the LGBTQ sports website, at least 35 of this year’s Olympic athletes are openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, more than double the number of queer participants at the 2018 winter competition in PyeongChang, South Korea outdoor sports.

“This number reflects where we at OutSports believe the sport is today: sport in Western society is largely accepting of LGBTQ people, and these athletes at the most important moment of their entire careers agree,” said Outsports founder and longtime LGBTQ -Proponent Cyd Zeigler.

This year’s LGBTQ Olympians will compete in nine sports, with the majority competing in ice hockey and figure skating. The queer competitors are coming to China’s capital from 14 countries, including western superpowers such as the USA and France as well as the former Soviet Republic of Armenia. And with 10 openly LGBTQ athletes, Team Canada has already scooped the gold for the strongest competitors at the Games.

But while the number of openly LGBTQ athletes at this year’s Winter Olympics has doubled since 2018, the number falls well short of the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo, which had more than 180 from athletesan Olympic record.

Zeigler conceded that the total of those games may not be as “striking” as last year’s, claiming that the summer and winter games are difficult to compare, especially as summer usually plays a role 11,000 Competitors while the winter is over 3,000.

Olympic figure skating will make its own LGBTQ history at this year’s competition, hosting the first non-binary person to compete at the Winter Games: American figure skater Timothy LeDuc.

But in one Interview last month on NBCLX podcast”My new favorite Olympiad‘ Leduc – who uses gender-neutral pronouns – revealed that overcoming barriers as an LGBTQ athlete comes with its own set of challenges.

“They’re going to be the people who wouldn’t get it or would put me back in the box very quickly, you know, they look at me, they see I have a beard, or they maybe look at my physical attributes and say, “You are a boy; act like a boy What are you doing?’” they said.

Before LeDuc, the first openly non-binary and transgender Olympians attended the Tokyo Games last year.

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard competed in the women’s 192+ kg super heavyweight category, BMX freestyler Chelsea Wolfe traveled to Tokyo as a substitute for Team USA, and non-binary American skateboarder Alana Smith competed in the women’s street . And Canadian soccer player Quinn became the first openly trans and non-binary athlete to win an Olympic medal — a gold medal — after Team Canada beat Sweden in the women’s final last August.

But while Team USA will earn an Olympic first place with the addition of LeDuc, it will also lose some star power.

In 2018, freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy and figure skater Adam Rippon made history as the first openly gay men to represent the United States at the Winter Games. And since attending the games, the two have become queer superstars and perform at their best music videos and television shows (including “Dancing With the Stars”), as well as on magazine covers and the red carpet at the Oscars.

But at this year’s Winter Games, Kenworthy will represent Britain – where he was born – and Rippon will be on the sidelines. coaching US figure skater Mariah Bell.

Reflecting on his experience four years ago, Rippon – who is also the first openly gay athlete from the United States to win a medal at the Winter Games – said that open competition on the world stage was a “great honor” and ” Responsibility” is connected to the entire LGBTQ community.

“One thing that athletes have here is this amazing opportunity to share things about themselves that people from anywhere in the country or anywhere in the world can relate to at times, and it can be life-changing,” Rippon told NBC News .

“You know, a queer athlete can compete in the Olympics, and for people watching in a country where being queer is a criminal offense by law, that can help move things forward — hopefully in that person’s mind and hopefully how.” the social complex of the world – to see that there can be queer people, and here they are on the world stage and succeeding at what they do at the highest level,” he added.

And with this year’s Games taking place in China, there are some advocates – like Joanna Hoffman, the communications director for the LGBTQ Athletic Advocacy Group athlete ally – argue that open competition will be “more important” than ever.

“It’s not that surprising that there aren’t any openly LGBTQ+ athletes representing China at the Games,” Hoffman said.

“We want to make sure athletes who speak up are not arrested or harmed,” she added.

Homosexuality has been legal in China since 1997, but in recent years the country has worked to restrict LGBTQ activism and voice.

After 11 years of operation, Shanghai Pride canceled its annual LGBTQ celebration in 2020, saying – without explanation – that it would no longer hold the event. Similarly, a Chinese LGBTQ advocacy group, which has led many of the country’s legal cases to expand LGBTQ rights, announced in November that it would be ceasing work “indefinitely,” without giving a reason.

Ahead of the Beijing Games, Human rights groups have condemned the jailing or sentencing of five high-profile human rights activists in recent weeks and warned against censorship of competing athletes. And last week, gay dating app Grindr was removed from several Chinese app stores after the country’s cyberspace regulator vowed to ensure a “healthy, festive and auspicious online environment” for the Lunar New Year, which began this week .

While visiting teams were warned by Beijing Olympic officials, “responsibleIn her words, Rippon countered that now is the time to “put pressure” on the country’s human rights abuses, including when it comes to China’s LGBTQ community.

“If I had to put myself in the shoes of the athletes that are out here in China, I would probably be just as loud and obnoxious as I usually am,” Rippon said. “I find so much joy in being myself that I don’t feel like if I traveled anywhere I would want to compromise that.”

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