Once again LGBTQ+ athletes are making history in Tokyo. Following on the  heels of the Summer Olympic Games where at least 185 out LGBTQ+  athletes competed; the highest number ever, the Paralympic Games is  boasting a record 31 out athletes. This makes the combined Tokyo Olympic  and Paralympic Games by far the most inclusive ever held. 

According to Outsports, 10 countries have out LGBTQ+ athletes  participating in the Tokyo Paralympics, in 12 sports. Team USA leads the way  with nine out athletes followed by Great Britain (nine), Canada (three), and  Australia, Germany and Brazil with two each.  

In comparison, only 12 out athletes competed at the Paralympic Summer  Games in Rio De Janeiro in 2016. 

As in Tokyo, the list is heavily dominated by female athletes with one out  man and three who identify as non-binary or neutral. 

Two Out Australian Athletes At Paralympic Games

Australia is represented by two out nonbinary athletes, Robyn Lambird and  Maria Strong. 

Lambird, 24, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when they were nine years old.  Lambird began competing in Para-athletics in 2016 and is competing in the  Games in Wheelchair Racing.


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A post shared by Robyn Lambird (@robynlambird)

“Queer, disabled and thriving. I’m here to show the youngsters what’s  possible. I’m here to witness my community in all its beauty. I’m here to  remind the non-disabled that the battle is ongoing and that ableism still  exists in every structure. I’m here to speak up, to be inspired, to take up  space, to change the narrative,” Lambird said in an Instagram post.

Maria “Maz” Strong, 50, who has cerebral palsy, is competing in Women’s  Seated Shot Put. Strong, who began competing in shot put in 2017 when they were 46, made their international debut competing for Australia at the  World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai in 2019. 

 Crystal Lane-Wright Takes Silver for Great Britain  

Crystal Lane-Wright of Team Great Britain is the first out athlete to win a  medal in these Paralympic Games, taking silver in the women’s C5 3000m  individual pursuit on 25 August, the first day of competition.


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A post shared by Crystal Lane-Wright (@lane2985)

It is Lane Wright’s second silver medal in the event in consecutive Games.

 LGBTQ+ Athletes Going for Gold at Games  

The sole out man is Para-dressage rider Lee Pearson, competing for Great  Britain. Pearson is a storied veteran of the Games, having previously won 14  Paralympic medals, including 11 gold, since his first Games in Sydney in  2000. Pearson was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire  in 2009 for his service to equestrianism and disabled sport. 


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A post shared by Sir Lee Pearson CBE (@sirleepearson)

The athlete tally at the 2020 Paralympics also includes one LGBTQ+ couple,  Robyn Love and Laurie Williams, who are part of the women’s Wheelchair Basketball team representing Great Britain. In an Instagram post, Love  wrote, “I can’t imagine what my GB journey would have been like if Laurie  and I weren’t together…I don’t think I would have progressed so quickly  without her pushing me so hard.” 

Love is also an ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organisation which works to  “dismantle the system of oppression in sport that isolate, exclude and  endanger LGBTQ+ people.”

In an Instagram post Athlete Ally said, “LGBTQ+  athletes have always been a part of global sport history, but never before at  this scale. Sending love to the trailblazing 170+ out LGBTQ+ Olympians and  Paralympians at this year’s Games showing the world that athletes can be  their authentic selves and reach their highest dreams.” 


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A post shared by Athlete Ally (@athleteally)

 Out Paralympians Inspire Others To Reach Goals  

In a press release GLAAD said, “The growing visibility and acceptance of out  athletes offers a unique opportunity for global audiences to see LGBTQ  people as individuals on the world stage. LGBTQ athletes have the same  basic human need to belong and – with an elite athlete’s drive to achieve – to  represent their respective countries with pride, support and dignity.” 

Monique Matthews competing for Team USA in Sitting Volleyball, said in a  GLAAD IGTV Hangout, “Most people see us an inspiration because we are  disabled, so they usually look past if you are LGBTQ…but we want them to  see the whole us. Which is why I‘m happy that so many [athletes] are out this  year compared to last Paralympics. Hopefully it just continues to grow, and  they know that they have support and there are people there for them.”   


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A post shared by GLAAD (@glaad)

Fighting Stigma Through Sport  

Rich Ferraro, the Chief Communication Officer at GLAAD, said, “The  Paralympics by nature are a celebration of inclusion and equality, and the historic number of out LGBTQ athletes participating this year is something to  celebrate. LGBTQ people are more likely to live with disabilities and to face  systemic discrimination on both fronts; the visibility brought by the Paralympics and its talented athletes helps fight that stigma. Every athlete,  regardless of ability, gender, race, or sexual orientation, deserves a chance  to participate in sports and to represent their communities with pride.” 

A 2019 research study by the Movement Advancement project and the  Center for American Progress found an estimated 5 million LGBTQ+ people  live with one or more disabilities.  

Lauren Appelbaum, Vice-President of Entertainment, News Media and  Communications at RespectAbility, said in a statement, “There is a large  intersection between the LGBTQ+ community and the disability community,  and the increased representation at this year’s Paralympic Games reflects  that. We hope that even more out athletes participate in the future, as it is  critical for all disabled people to have positive role models for success.” 

LGBTQ+ athletes not only had greater visibility than ever before at the  Summer Olympic Games but also ranked highly in final medal standings,  winning 32 medals. This placed ‘Team LGBTQ’ (a moniker coined by  Outsports), in 11th place behind France and before Canada, with a final tally  of 11 gold, 12 silver and 9 bronze medals. 

The Paralympic Games, the largest sporting event in the world for people  with disabilities, were first held in 1960 in Rome, with 400 athletes from 23  countries competing. Today, the Games are held every 4 years in the same  cities and using the same facilities as the Olympic Games. The 2020 Games  will host 3500 athletes from 134 nations in 540 events across 22 sports.


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