News Brief: 48 Out LGBTI Olympians... But Representing Only 14 Nations

by Aaron Shepard
in News
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News Brief Out LGBTI Olympians

News Brief Out LGBTI Olympians

News Brief:  48 Out LGBTI Olympians... But Representing Only 14 Nations

There are a record-breaking number of out LGBTI athletes competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics – at least 48, according to the most recent count by The Advocate.

This may seem like a small number compared to the 11,000 participants, but it is a significant jump from the 2012 London Olympics (23) and the 2008 Beijing Olympics (10).  A breakdown of this year’s total, however, reveals significant disparities in both gender and country of orgin, which are indicative of an uneven pace in the global march of LGBTI rights.

News Brief Out LGBTI Olympians

In total, 14 of 206 nations have out athletes participating in the 2015 competition.  The United States and the United Kingdom, with eight athletes each, tied for the greatest LGBTI representation at the Summer Games.  The additional 12 nations are:  the Netherlands (7), Brazil (6), Sweden (4), Canada (3), France (2), Germany (2), New Zealand (2), South Africa (2), Australia (1), Finland (1), India (1), and Tonga (1).

These numbers generally correspond with each nation’s legal and societal acceptance of LGBTI people.  For example, the majority of countries on this list have marriage equality or some form of civil unions.  The absences, however, are also telling.  The New York Times devoted an article to the complete absence of out Chinese athletes.  Indeed, if it weren’t for Dutee Chand, an Indian woman who was almost banned from competing due to her high levels of testosterone, the entire continent of Asia would not have been represented.

As for gender, women (37) made up the vast majority of the list.  There are only 11 men (none from the United States), which suggests homophobia may exert gender pressure on male athletes both on the playing field and in their countries of origin.  The sport also matters, though.  Women’s soccer (9), field hockey (5), rugby (4), and basketball (4) have the largest number of out athletes.  There is a glaring absence of out male athletes in team sports; they tend to be represented in more isolated pursuits like equestrian (4) and diving (2).

The increased number of out Olympians is a reason to celebrate, as it is indicative of progress for LGBTI rights.  This progress, however, is isolated to only a handful of nations.  There are still 74 countries where same-sex relationships are illegal, and 12 nations can sentence a gay person to death.