Tokyo Olympics to Set New Record Number of LGBTQ Athletes

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday July 13, 2021

Laurel Hubbard
Laurel Hubbard  (Source:AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein,File)

The upcoming 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will set a whole new world record... for the number of out LGBTQ athletes in competition, that is.

TIME magazine reports that 121 openly LGBTQ athletes are set to compete in this year's Games, making it "the most inclusive in history, according to a new report compiled by news outlet Outsports."

"That's a significant increase from the 56 out LGBTQ athletes Outsports counted at the 2016 Rio Games, and the 23 out Olympians in the 2012 Summer Games," TIME went on to note.

Among the out contenders vying for the gold across a variety of athletics are New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard, a weight lifter who is the first out trans person to compete in the Olympics.

A number of other prominent out athletes will also be competing, among them include American soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Brazilian volleyball player Douglas Souza, Venezuela's triple jump champ Yulimar Rojas, French handball player Alexandra Lacrabère, and British race walker Tom Bosworth.

Additionally, skateboarder Poppy Starr Olsen will be competing for Australia. As TIME recounted, Olsen said she considers herself "lucky that I'm a skateboarder, because there are a lot of queer skateboarders."

"The number of publicly out LGBTQ athletes in Tokyo is greater than the number athletes who have participated in all of the previous Summer Olympic Games combined while publicly out," the LGBTQ athletics news source Outsports notes.

The 121 out athletes will represent 25 nations, and 30 of those competitors will be representing the United States — the largest number of Olympic athletes from any country. Britain follows behind with 13 openly LGBTQ athletes.

Outsports acknowledged that the true number is likely higher.

"The massive increase in the number of out athletes reflects the growing acceptance of LGBTQ people in sports and society," the site added, noting that the "rise of social media, especially Instagram, has given athletes a forum where they can live their lives openly and identify directly with their followers."

Equality advocates in Japan cited the Olympics as a reason for that country to move forward with changes to protect Japanese LGBTQ individuals.

Japanese lawmakers did consider a proposal for a law that would have offered protections to LGBTQ people, but, as TIME noted, "fierce backlash from some conservative politicians" derailed that bill.

Japan has no openly LGBTQ athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympics.

Still, the world of sports itself is likely to become more accepting thanks to the high visibility of so many talented LGBTQ athletes. Joanna Hoffman of Athlete Ally told TIME, "Every out and proud athlete is a beacon for others who haven't yet come out, or who are unsure if they can be their full self and play the sport they love."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.