Thousands of people come out as LGBTQ every year. However, when a public figure comes out it raises public awareness and generates support for the larger LGBTQ community. Their prominence and public persona have the ability to impact thousands of others who may be struggling with the decision to share this personal aspect of their lives.
Coming out is a matter of personal validation but it can be risky. Take for instance the ultra-macho world of male contact sports. Coming out as a gay male athlete in a contact sport can directly impact one's livelihood. On the other hand, coming out as a gay female contact sport athlete can serve to reinforce misconceptions and stereotypes of the female athlete.
Either way, when a contact sport athlete comes out he or she raises awareness. Here is a list of 10 contact sports athletes, with their thoughts on coming out:
1. Orlando Cruz, The first openly gay professional boxer:
"I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican. I have always been and always will be a proud gay man. I don'’t want to hide any of my identities."
2. Seimone Augustus, Olympic Gold Medalist and WNBA basketball champion:
"For the most part, to be honest, everyone thinks that the WNBA is one big lesbo-party anyway. It's just hard to deal with at times because that's all people talk about, not really the quality of basketball in this league and how we've grown."
3. Jessica Aguilar, Bisexual mixed martial arts fighter:
“It's always been something I had to be very conservative about, and it's something I've had to get more comfortable talking about."
4. Wade Davis, Gay activist and former football player for the Titans, Redskins, and Seahawks:
"There was no way that my family, at least, in my mind, would accept me. And also that my football family would accept me. The perception of being gay meant that you were less masculine."
5. Lori Lindsey, Olympic Gold medalist, Soccer:
"She appreciates the impact of that demographic to the success of women's soccer and thinks marketing towards lesbians would be a positive thing for the sport."
6. Jason Ball, Australian football player:
“I was fine coming out to my school friends and my family but I was terrified coming out to my football team. I didn't know any footballers who were gay, so I could only assume the worst, and it scared me."
7. Karen Hultzer, Olympic archer from South Africa:
“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."
8. Megan Rapinoe, U.S. soccer player and Olympic Gold Medalist:
"I'm a pretty open book, so not being out publicly felt inauthentic. It's less about people having to know about your sexuality than standing up for what's right and fighting for equality. There are not many athletes who are out. And I think it's something that's important. It felt important to me."
9. Josh Dixon, Gymnast:
"Being gay was something that I hadn't figured out or experienced before. I think it was something that I didn't want to take on. I realized I have an obligation, a responsibility to say, 'It’s OK to be gay in our sport.'"
10. Ji Wallace, Gymnast, Olympic silver Medalist, announced he is HIV positive:
"Being seen does have value. A voice does have value."