We are a little more than halfway through the 2018 Winter Olympics. While the competitions have been nail-biters, we at Responsible Linen are in awe of something a little more ground-breaking. These games include the largest number of openly LGBTQ competitors in an Olympics — and they’re making history every day. Just a few highlights so far:
Canadian Eric Radford is the first out athlete to win gold.
Americans Gus Kenworthy and Adam Rippon have made headlines globally for breaking barriers unapologetically and for using their moments in the spotlight to address LGBTQ issues – even when it means going up against the U.S. vice president.
Emilia Andersson Ramboldt, the only openly LGBT hockey player, helped Sweden’s ice hockey team advance to the quarterfinals.
Ireen Wüst, speedskating superstar from the Netherlands, is now the most decorated LGBTQ Winter Olympian of all time — and she still has more events to go.
And there are more athletes and more stories than we have space to share on this blog. For just a primer, check out this list of the out athletes competing this winter.
But, as always, there are those who respond to these stories by denigrating their significance. “Who cares?” they ask. “What difference does it make if an athlete is gay or straight, out or closeted?”
Friends, it makes ALL the difference.
In a world where LGBTQ youth are shamed and pressured to conform, the achievements of out athletes on the worlds biggest stage is a beacon of hope. These athletes are walking, talking examples that someone like them can be both out and successful. Authenticity does not have to come at the expense of a life’s dream. As Chris Schleicher explained in Slate, “Merely knowing that queer people exist and that queer people can be excellent will make that child’s journey through life a little less scary.”
These Olympians are quick to point out that they were only able to achieve personal excellence in their sports when they came out. "It's like the pressure got to me [before] and I couldn't handle it. Being in the closet was something ever-present on my mind, always distracting," Kenworth shared. Or, as Rippon explained, “When I came out was when I was able to breathe.”
How many athletic superstars have we missed out on because social pressure held them down and prevented them from excelling? What might the world records be if those competitors had been freed from the need to conform?
We are excited to be living in a time when the rainbow flags and LGBTQ identities at the Olympics are shared on international television, broadcast directly into the homes of youths aspiring to follow in their footsteps. Somewhere, a child is watching and learning that there IS a place for them. That is an Olympic dream we all can applaud.
Watching these courageous athletes has only increased our passion to support human rights and social responsibility throughout the world. We are so grateful you’ve joined us for the journey.