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 Topic: Twenty GLBTQ Sports Figures

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Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Posts: 33
Interests: Queer History and Biography
Physical Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Posted: 18 Apr 2003, 12:49 pm    Post subject: Twenty GLBTQ Sports Figures Reply with quote

OK, here's my next column for the May 2003 Swerve: Winnipeg's Monthly Queer Newsmagazine. You guys on get first peek (notice the shameless plug for this site at the bottom...of course, what actually gets printed may be entirely different; Swerve does reserve the right to edit to fit, according to how much ad space was sold that month :-)

So, just to get some more conversation going, who would go on YOUR list of significant or interesting queer sports figures, and why?


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Rainbow Lives: Twenty GLBTQ Sports Figures

In last month's Rainbow Lives column ' Fifteen Queer Women Who Left Their Mark on the World', the entry for Susan B. Anthony incorrectly stated that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (known as the 'Anthony Amendment'), was ratified in 1914. The Anthony Amendment was ratified in 1920.

This month, we look at 20 queer people from the sports world:

Camilla Andersen, Danish handball player who won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics; Andersen and her partner Mia Hundvin of Norway (who are legally registered partners in Denmark) made Olympic history by becoming the first spouses to compete against each other as Norway beat Denmark 19-17 in the opening round of the handball competition.

Chris Bergland, American triathlete who entered his first triathlon in 1994, and has since gone on to become one of the best long-distance triathletes in the world: "Bergland has developed the mindset to not only perform well in Ironman competitions (he's completed 11 Ironmans, including four appearances in Hawaii), but to twice win the triple Ironman-length ultra competition (7.2 mile swim, 336 mile bike, and 78.6 mile run) put on by Odyssey Adventures, breaking the record in 2000 with a 38hr-46min effort. One month after this record-that's right, one month-Bergland finished the Hawaii Ironman in 10:41:38."
(quote source: Murphy, T.J. 'Time Travel', Nov 21st 2001; online at

Mark Bingham (1970-2001), American public relations executive and rugby player (he helped the University of California win the 1991 and '93 national collegiate rugby championships); a brawny and fearless 6-foot-5 and 220-lb. man who once wrestled a gun from a mugger's hand late at night on a San Francisco street; it is believed that he was one of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who fought against their terrorist hijackers on Sept. 11th, 2001, forcing the plane down in a rural Pennsylvania field instead of into its unknown intended target; named "Person of the Year" for 2001 by the Advocate.

Robert Dover (1956- ), American dressage rider who has won more dressage honors than any other American competitor; the first U.S. dressage rider to compete in five Olympic Games, he was elected team captain by the U.S. Equestrian Team for the Sydney Olympic games; won a bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, his third consecutive bronze medal of the past three Olympic games; he was also awarded the 1994 U.S. Olympic Committee Male Equestrian Athlete of the Year; he said: "I can tell you that gays take part in the majority of sports."

Nancy Drolet, Canadian athlete, six-time world champion hockey player and Olympic silver medallist; she scored overtime game-winning goals in the 1997 and 2000 world championships and led Team Canada in scoring in 2001; she is captain of the Vancouver Griffins of the National Women’s Hockey League

Wade Earp, American country-western dance teacher and rodeo cowboy, a distant relative of Wyatt Earp; on the gay rodeo circuit he competes in traditional men's events such as chute-dogging, calf-roping and steer-riding, as well as flag-racing, pole-bending and barrel-racing: "In our world, we don't draw boundaries about what men or women can do." (quote: Gay, W. 'Gay rodeo tears down fences for competitors', Star-Telegram (Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas), March 27, 2003)

Justin Fashanu (1961-1998), Nigerian-born British soccer player who played in the England Youth and Under 21 team and made his professional debut at Norwich City in 1979, transferring to Nottingham Forest in 1981; he was the first professional British soccer player to come out (1990) and the first athlete in a team sport to come out during his athletic career (rather than after retirement); he committed suicide in 1998 at the age of 36, his body found hanging in an abandoned garage in East London.

David Kopay (1943-), American football player and the first major-league American athlete to come out (1975); during his ten-year career, he played for the San Francisco Forty-Niners, the Detroit Lions, the Washington Redskins, the New Orleans Saints, and the Green Bay Packers; after leaving the world of football he became a linoleum salesman for his family-owned business: "Of course I didn't have to talk about my sexual preference in public. Of course taking on any label is self-limiting and wrong. But that's not the point. Because of my homosexuality I can't get a job as a coach. Unless certain attitudes change there's no way for me to function in this society doing what I want to do. If some of us don't take on the oppressive labels and publicly prove them wrong, we'll stay trapped by the stereotypes for the rest of our lives." (quote: Rutledge, Leigh Unnatural Quotations.)

Mark Leduc (1962-), Canadian; Olympic silver medal-winning boxer at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics; came out in 1994 in the TV documentary For the Love of the Game; Grand Marshall of Toronto Pride '99 (with Savoy Howe); after turning professional, he became the Canadian superlightweight champion; now working as a sports program administrator and volunteer with AIDS organizations in Toronto; he said: "Don't let other people's ideas or perceptions cripple your potential...So many people cripple themselves with fear of being gay. They pass up goals and opportunities because they're so afraid. Fear is your best friend. Fight and learn from it." (quote source: Ford, Michael Thomas. Outspoken: Role Models from the Lesbian and Gay Community)

Mariah Burton Nelson, American professional speaker (Past President of the National Speakers Association, Washington, D.C.), swimmer, golfer and basketball player (team captain at Stanford University for three years, she has also played professionally in Europe and in the first U.S. women's pro league, the WBL); author of five books, among them We Are All Athletes: Bringing Courage, Confidence, and Peak Performance into Our Everyday Lives (2002); The Unburdened Heart: Five Keys to Forgiveness and Freedom (2000); and Embracing Victory: Life Lessons in Competition and Compassion (1998).

Diana Nyad, American long-distance swimmer, author, motivational speaker, and radio and TV commentator (Senior Correspondent for Fox Sports News); she swam 102.5 miles nonstop over two days from Florida to the Bahamas in 1979, setting a world record that still stands; inducted into the National Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 1986

Brian Orser (1961-), eight-time Canadian figure skating champion (1981-1988), World champion (1987), two-time Olympic silver medallist (1984 and 1988), winner of an Emmy for the HBO movie Carmen on Ice (1990) and Officer of the Order of Canada

Dave Pallone (1952-), American; former major league baseball umpire; now a motivational speaker and author (Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball); recently profiled in the August 2000 issue of the magazine Catholic Digest: "One of the things that I stress is being honest about who you are...Being a Catholic, I was always taught that...and so I urge people to be honest about who they are...Life is so hard to live, and it's hard enough to live the one life we get. It's very difficult to live two, and that's what you end up doing when you're in the closet. You end up living two lives." (quote: Ott, Christopher. 'No Longer Behind the Mask', Catholic Digest, August 2000, pp. 88-96)

Ian Roberts (1966-), Australian professional rugby player who came out in 1991; at one point he was the highest-paid rugby league player in the world; he said: "I take offense at the old locker room argument which assumes a man cannot, in any circumstances, control his urges. Any self-respecting human being can respect the rights and ways of another human being. The idea, then, that gays can convert, or want, heterosexual guys, is ludicrous. We want to play the game, not the field." (quote source: Buzinski, J. Outsports List Of Gay & Lesbian Athletes,

Mark Tewksbury (1968-), Canadian swimmer and inspirational speaker; winner of a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in the 100-metre backstroke, as well as gold, silver, and bronze medals in Commonwealth Games competitions, seven medals in Pan Pacific competitions, and 21 National Championship titles; voted Swimmer of the Year in 1987, 1991, 1992, and 1993 by Swimming Canada; in 1999 he stepped down from his posts within the Olympic Movement in protest against the Salt Lake City bribery scandal; international spokesperson for the Children's Miracle Network (1995-1999) and spokesperson for AIDS Walk Canada.

Bill Tilden (1893-1953), American tennis player, regarded by many as the greatest player of all time; voted the most outstanding athlete of the first half of the twentieth century by the National Sports Writers Association; he won his first major title at Wimbledon in 1920, the first American to ever do so, at age 27, and won again the following year; winner of six consecutive Grand Slam singles titles: " It wasn’t until Tilden’s athletic skills began to fade in the 1930s that his homosexuality became known in the tennis world. In this less-tolerant era he was slowly ostracized and excluded from major tennis tournaments…He died in 1953, at age 60, according to his biographer Frank Deford, 'in his cramped walk-up room near Hollywood and Vine, where he lived out his tragedy, a penniless ex-con, scorned, forgotten, alone.'" (quote: Buzinski, J. Outsports List Of Gay & Lesbian Athletes,

Esera Tuaolo (1968- ), Samoan-American football player who from the NFL in 2000; voted the best defensive lineman in the Pac-10 in 1989 at Oregon State and drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1991, he played defensive tackle for five teams in his nine years (Green Bay, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, and Carolina Panthers); he said: "And I have the No. 95 Falcons uniform that I wore in the Super Bowl. I keep it in a box, safely put away, as I move on with whatever God has in store for me next. From now on, that uniform is the only part of me that stays in a closet."
(source: Tuaolo, E. 'Free and Clear', ESPN The Magazine, October 30, 2002, available online at ; or November 11 print issue of ESPN The Magazine)

Dr. Thomas Waddell (1937-1987), American former U.S. army paratrooper, doctor of internal medicine and specialist in infectious diseases; he and his partner Charles Deaton were the first gay men to be featured in the "Couples" section of People magazine (1976); an Olympic decathlete, he placed sixth in the Olympic decathlon (1968); gay activist and founder of the Gay Games: "If through Gay Games...we can characterize our own culture as one of tolerance and understanding, then we have a vehicle through which we can begin to teach others." (quote: Rutledge, Leigh. Unnatural Quotations.)

Stella Walsh (Stanislawa Walaslewicz, 1911-1981), Polish-American Olympic sprinter inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975; she set 11 world records and won two Olympic medals (100 metres gold in 1932, 100 metres silver in 1936). Accidentally killed by a stray bullet at a Cleveland shopping center in 1981, an autopsy surprised everyone by showing that Walsh had male genitals and both male and female chromosomes - a condition known as mosaicism.

"Babe" (Mildred Ella) Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956), American athlete and Olympic gold medallist (she won two track and field golds at the 1932 Olympics), she excelled in baseball, basketball, swimming, track and field, golf, even billiards; when once asked if there was anything she didn't play, she replied, “Yeah, dolls.”; Zaharias was chosen Female Athlete of Year 6 times from 1932-54 and named Female Athlete of the Half-Century by the Associated Press; co-founder of the LPGA in 1949; she was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983.

For more details on these athletes and many other LGBTQ people around the world and throughout history, see the Rainbow Lives website at . If you 're interested in the gay side of the world of sports, take a look at the excellent Web site set up by Jim Buzinski, (which features a comprehensive list of all known out LGBTQ athletes, at Also, there's a new, free GLBTQ encyclopedia online at , be sure to check it out.
Ryan Schultz, Reference Librarian
University of Manitoba Libraries
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
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