Gay influence at London Olympics is quietly strong

It’s not easy being gay anywhere. In sports competition it’s harder than most places. At the Olympics, it’s gotta be tougher than nails.

That is, to be an “out’’ gay or lesbian.

According to various reports, which are necessarily without a certain level of fact-checking, there are 21 openly gay athletes out of more than 14,000 athletes competing in the London Games. Or 23. That’s according to gay columnist Ivan Massow, who writes for the London Evening Standard.

Massow makes a point of noting that the actual number is certainly far, far higher, that it’s incedible that only four of the fewer than two dozen “out” athletes are men.

“Many of my gay friends have been keen gymnasts and the more I looked into it, the less likely it seemed that a mere 0.16 percent of Olympic athletes are gay,’’ Massow wrote. “Could it even be higher than the statistical average of six to eight percent?’’

Who knows? Because it’s not pleasant for a jock to come out. Say what we will about tolerance, it’s a different matter when the person who makes the confession, who gets the tweets, the slurs, the stares, the demotion, is actually moving through the real world. Gay Belgian archer Ivan Denis told Massow: “There are so many other people who are gay, but they’re way too afraid to come out.’’

A few proud outies: Australian diver and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitcham, American soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Dutch field hockey player Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, American doubles tennis player Lisa Raymond, Australian beach volleyball player Natalie Cook and South African archer Karen Hultzer.

Hultzer, 46, is open and amusing. As she told “OutSports’’ in a recent interview: “I am an archer, middle aged and a lesbian. I am also cranky before my first cup of coffee. None of these aspects define who I am, they are simply part of me…. I look forward to the day when this is a non-issue and as relevant as my eye color or favorite sushi.’’

An out male star in a team sport in the Olympics—that will be an issue to see. And it will be a brave man who first ascends the step.

by Rick Telander
Source – Chicago Sun Times