Record Number of Out LGBTQ Athletes at Tokyo Paralympics

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games – The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony
A record number of LGBTQ athletes are competing at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

More than two dozen LGBTQ athletes are competing at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, which is a record-high number of queer participants at the games.

At the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics — a major international sporting event for people with disabilities — multiple LGBTQ athletes are also at the forefront of the competition, which kicked off in Japan on August 24 and will run until September 5. Outsports reports that out of more than 4,400 athletes at this year’s competition, at least 31 are out. The total number of out queer sports players in this year’s competition is more than twice the number of LGBTQ players at the 2017 Rio Summer Paralympics in Brazil.

The United States and the United Kingdom are both tied for the most out paralympians, with nine, but out athletes in this year’s competition also hail from Australia, Canada, Germany, and Brazil. This year’s LGBTQ competitors include US gold medalist Asya Miller, who plays goalball, a sport designed for athletes with visual disabilities; wheelchair basketball player Kaitlyn Eaton of the US; cyclist Katie-George Dunlevy of Ireland, who is blind; Paralympic swimmer Edênia Garcia of Brazil; and non-binary track and field runner Robyn Lambird of Australia who has cerebral palsy.

LGBTQ athletes who have disabilities often face adversity and encounter ableism and homophobia. In a blog post last year, Garcia recalled the discrimination she has faced on both sides.

“Being a lesbian and a person with a disability is a double challenge, as you carry the stigma of being invisible,” she said. “Many people think that a woman with a disability doesn’t have an active sexual life, let alone that this woman may have many sexual orientations. Therefore, she’s only seen as a limited body — which is not true!”

She added, “Taking this reality to Para sport makes this even more challenging. There’s no way no deny that sport is still a predominantly male environment, so I had to shield myself from a repertoire of jokes and hints. Today, I have rebuked any kind of nonsensical comment. I use information to fight ignorance.”

Similarly, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which came to a close earlier this month, saw more out LGBTQ athletes than ever, with nearly 200 out LGBTQ members bringing home a total of 32 medals — including 11 gold medals.

The Paralympic Games started on August 24 and will continue until September 5.

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