More Openly Gay Olympians Than Ever, but No Chinese Among Them

Beijing — Peng Yanhui is celebrating the fact that a record number of openly gay athletes are taking part in the Olympics, while ruing that none are from China.

Fifty-two competitors and coaches who are openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex are participating in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, according to figures from Outsports, a website for gay and lesbian sports news.

Though the number is still only a small fraction of the around 11,000 athletes in competition around Rio, it is higher than before. There were just 10 in Beijing’s own Games in 2008 and 23 in London’s in 2012, said Mr. Peng, a spokesman for LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a group that focuses on the legal rights of sexual minorities.

To mark the record, his organization published an article about the athletes on its WeChat site and queried whether China had any.

Underneath photographs of athletes, including the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand, whose naturally high levels of testosterone nearly barred her from competing in the Olympics as a woman; Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, field hockey players from Britain who are married; and the Dutch equestrian Edward Gal, who is gay, the article asked: “So, are any Chinese athletes out of the closet?”

Then it answered its own question: “As you thought, there really aren’t any!”

One person on the list, the basketball player Brittney Griner, used to play for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, a Chinese team, the article noted — but she is from the United States.

The absence of Chinese athletes “shows that the environment isn’t here for sexual minorities to come out yet,” Mr. Peng said in a telephone interview.

That is despite the increasing individuality of Chinese athletes, long known for poker-faced determination and loyalty to a stringent, state-run sports system.

“We aren’t saying that athletes have to come out,” Mr. Peng said. “It’s their choice. But in an adverse environment, they don’t dare.”

Most of the athletes at the Olympics who are publicly out are female, and 11 are male, Outsports said.

Mr. Peng’s cautious attitude toward athletes and coming out reflected that of other advocates, who have criticized the website The Daily Beast for an article about the Games in which the reporter created an account on Grindr, the gay dating app, to scout for Olympians. The article has since been removed, with the website apologizing after widespread condemnation that some details made the athletes easily identifiable. Some come from countries where homosexuality is not accepted.

This is what one openly gay athlete, Amini Fonua from Tonga, had to say about it:

As an out gay athlete from a country that is still very homophobic, @thedailybeast ought to be ashamed #deplorable

— Amini Fonua (@AminiFonua) Aug. 11, 2016

by Didi Kirsten Tatlow
Source – The New York Times