As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have felt a profound sense of pride watching LGBTQ+ athletes represent the USA in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. In the last winter games, there were 15 out LGBTQ+ athletes competing, which was a record for any winter games. This time around, there are at least 36 publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and non-binary athletes competing.
Making it to the Olympics is remarkable in and of itself, but when the games are held in a country where same-sex marriage is illegal and LGBTQ+ rights advocates are discriminated against, harassed and silenced, just showing up as yourself is an act of true bravery. Below are the out members of the various USA Olympic teams. I’ve been absolutely giddy watching them,and I hope you have been, too!
After not qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Jason Brown is back and better than ever, much to the delight of his devoted fans. This won’t be his first Olympic showing, though. He also won a bronze medal in figure skating at the 2014 games. Jason finished in sixth place overall this year after two performances – a hauntingly beautiful free skate and a short program that was the absolute epitome of elegance and grace. Jason came out publicly during pride month in 2021. On Twitter he said, “I’ve grown up surrounded by beautiful, creative, strong, proud, successful, and supportive LGBTQ+ role models. Whether it be family members, coaches, skaters, teachers, friends, or others I’ve had the privilege of crossing paths with, my perception of what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ was far from one dimensional.” I think I speak for most when I say, you’re our role model, too, Jason!
Timothy LeDuc, another Team USA figure skater, has made history by becoming the first publicly out non-binary athlete to compete in any Winter Olympics. Timothy and his skating partner, Ashley Cain-Gribble, are newcomers to the Olympics, but they’ve won two previous U.S. Championships – one last month and one in 2019. Together, they have enjoyed pushing the boundaries of the traditional cis-gender narrative in pairs figure skating routines.
In an interview with CNN, Timothy expanded on their non-traditional dynamic by saying, “Ashley and I are just different in that way; we’ve never done a romantic story and we’ve neverbeen a romantic pair. We’ve always been about equality and showing two amazing athletes coming together to create something beautiful.” When they take the ice together in Beijing, their historic performance will no doubt be a thing of beauty on many levels.
Beijing is not Alex Carpenter’s first rodeo. In 2014 she brought home a silver medal for Team USA in women’s ice hockey, and she has 5 world championships under her belt. She didn’t make the 2018 U.S. Olympics team, but easily made the cut for this year’s games in Beijing. where the U.S. team is the current defending gold medalist. In their first round match in Beijing, Alex’s two goals helped to propel her team to a decisive win over Finland.
It’s been an exciting time for Alex. In addition to the Olympic games, she and her fiancée Steph Klein (assistant equipment manager for the Toronto Marlies) announced their engagement on January 8th and posted photos on Instagram where Alex showed off her ring and shared a sweet kiss with Steph to celebrate the special moment, which took place in Blaine, Minnesota. We’re suckers for a good love story and wish them all the luck and happiness in the world!
In case you don’t know what skeleton is, it’s basically extreme sledding. Athletes hurl themselves at close to 90 mph headfirst down a steep icy slope on top of a sled that’s called a skeleton. Andrew Blaser is the first openly gay man to ever compete in Olympic skeleton, and he’s the only man that qualified for the U.S. skeleton team this year. He initially wanted to be a bobsledder, but his 6’4” frame was better suited for the sled.
In case you missed it, Andrew raced with a glorious rainbow saddle on his sled, which was a ballsy move for the Beijing games. It’s part of Andrew’s m.o., though, as he’s been known to wear fingernail polish, jewelry and a snakeskin racing suit. In an interview with Outsports in 2021, he explained, “… I think it’s kind of funny and it’s a little bit of shock value, just making people turn their head and kind of catch them off guard…” We absolutely love it!
This is the third Olympics for Brittany Bowe, a long-track speed skater from Ocala, Florida that made her Olympic debut at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. In addition to the bronze medal she won at the 2018 Olympics, Brittany’s also taken home 11 medals from the Inline Speed Skating World Championships as well as a gold medal in roller skating at the 2007 Pan American Games. She was also a point guard for the Florida Atlantic Owls basketball team. Wow!
In addition to her medals, Brittany will be remembered forever for making the world ugly-cry when she gave up her spot this year in the 500m Olympic event to her long-time friend Erin Jackson who failed to qualify. They’ve known each other since they were kids, and Brittany simply said of the gesture, “Erin has a shot to bring home a medal – hopefully a gold medal – and it’s my honor to give her that opportunity. She’s earned it and she deserves it.”
Unfortunately, Amber Glenn’s 2022 Olympic hopes were upended by a COVID-19 diagnosis in January, but we have a feeling that we’ll be seeing more of her at future winter games. An alternate for Team USA in figure skating, Amber identifies as both bisexual and pansexual and she has opened up the conversation about these identifiers to people who might not fully understand the terms.
Amber explained what it means to be pansexual in a recent interview with The Guardian. “‘Bisexual’ is the go-to term that everyone understands and is comfortable with,” she explained. “But someone can be born a female and identify as a male or the other way around. I’m attracted to the person [first]; not what’s underneath their clothes. Pansexuals are gender-blind.” With young Olympians like Amber, we know that the LGTBQ+ community will be well-represented in the Olympics for years to come.