Paving the way. LGBTQ+ athletes have been breaking down barriers and challenging prejudices for decades, but it wasn’t always easy.Tennis player and LGBTQ+ rights advocate Billie Jean King won the famous “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs in 1973, more than 40 years before same-sex marriage became legal throughout the United States.
During a 2007 interview with The Sunday Times, King said she once feared that acknowledging her sexuality could hurt her career.“I wanted to tell the truth but my parents were homophobic and I was in the closet,” the Women’s Tennis Association founder revealed. “As well as that, I had people tell me that if I talked about what I was going through, it would be the end of the women’s tour.
I couldn’t get a closet deep enough.”In addition to prejudices regarding sexual orientation, gender identity discrimination has also been prevalent throughout sports history.
During the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, transgender and intersex athletes competed for the first time in the Games’ history. In November of that same year, the International Olympic Committee got rid of policies that had previously required transgender and intersex athletes to undergo “medically unnecessary” procedures, including hormone level modifications.“This Framework recognizes both the need to ensure that everyone, irrespective of their gender identity or sex variations, can practice sport in a safe, harassment-free environment that recognizes and respects their needs and identities,” a document released by the IOC read at the time.LGBTQ+ athletes, including sprinter Chris Mosier, the first openly transgender athlete to compete on a U.S.