I’m old enough to remember when one of the greatest divers of all time, San Diegan Greg Louganis, hit his head at the 1988 Olympic games. It would be years until he came out publicly as gay and HIV+. The fear, shame, and stigma placed on LGBTQI and HIV+ people at the time kept many in the closet. A stark contrast to the games today, and yet we know how much further we have to go.
This year at the Olympics, there are an estimated 182 out LGBTQI athletes; many of them are using their platforms to speak openly about what it means to be an out and proud athlete and are being supported by their friends, fellow athletes, families, and the nations they represent. For all this progress, the International Olympic Committee as well as the systems and countries that bring athletes to the games have much work to do when it comes to trans and intersex inclusion.
LGBTQI exclusion from athletic spaces starts at a young age as misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic environments cultivate bullying and harassment that forces aspiring LGBTQI athletes into the closet or out of sports entirely. The upswell of anti-trans legislation this year, much of it targeting trans youth athletes, is a harsh reminder of the hurdles we have yet to overcome.
Over the decades, our community responded to these toxic athletic environments by creating our own LGBTQI adult and youth recreational sports leagues. There are 19 different sport groups in San Diego that you can participate in. (If we’re missing one, let us know.) It’s also why we’ve created days like OUT at the Park with the Padres as well as Pride on Ice with the Gulls. We also have a new year-round partnership with San Diego Loyal who will host a Loud & Proud section at all of their home games this season. We’ll also be supporting the efforts to send a strong San Diego contingent to the Hong Kong Gay Games in 2022 (depending on the state of the pandemic).
In 1988 I couldn’t have imagined seeing the out LGBTQI visibility we have now. We owe this progress to the hard work and determination of brave athletes, coaches, parents, fans, and friends. Their success and ability to thrive are a vital part of how our movement will remain not only Resilient but strong.
Fernando Zweifach López
San Diego Pride