The Raider Review

LGBTQ+ Representation in the 2018 Winter Olympics

Bessie Huang, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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The 2018 Olympic Winter Games, hosted in PyeongChang, South Korea, featured an array of milestones for the LGBTQ+ community.

Canadian figure skater Eric Radford became the first openly gay competitor in the Winter Olympics to win a gold medal. He shared a picture on Twitter with fellow athlete Adam Rippon, who is also openly gay, including the hashtag “#outandproud.”

“This is amazing! I literally feel like I might explode with pride,” Radford wrote in another Tweet after the Games.

Rippon, an American figure skater who voluntarily came out in 2015 in a magazine interview, is the first U.S. competitor to qualify for the Winter Olympics who came out before its commencement. Rippon said to TIME that he is “a little surprised that it’s 2018 and I’m the first. In this day and age, I think it’s so important to be visible and stand up for what you believe in and let the young kids know that it’s OK to be yourself.”

Junior Kenya Fox, who is part of the LGBTQ+ Sexuality and Gender Alliance Club at ERHS, was similarly surprised. “I feel like us as millennials and Gen. Z are FINALLY getting a chance to take over media and show who we truly are. But it’s pretty iconic and brave of [Eric and Adam] to be open about it,” she said, referring to the athletes’ sexualities. “The most inspiring part is that they were met with positivity by us, their fans, as well as their sponsors. I feel like them representing their countries as a whole could give some much needed hope to LGBT+ youth.”

Radford and Rippon are two recent instances of LGBTQ+ representation in athletics, but there have been a number of LGBTQ+ competitors before them. Johnny Weir, for example, won a bronze medal in the 2008 Winter Olympics. However, Weir came out after competing in the Games. On January 18, 2018 — ten years after the fact — he addressed on Twitter his choice to keep his sexuality private: “I never ‘came out’ in sport because I didn’t imagine it as a great secret & it had nothing to do with my skating or my dreams.”

Senior Shahanaaz Soumah, another member of the LGBTQ+ Sexuality and Gender Alliance Club, insists on the importance of representation. “Although one’s sexuality doesn’t define their entire being, it still is an important part of who they are. To see openly gay Olympians is important to me and other LGBTQ youth. We see people like us become successful, which encourages us to be successful as well, and not allow ourselves to be [set back] because of discrimination against our sexuality.”

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Eleanor Roosevelt High School's Student-Run Newspaper
LGBTQ+ Representation in the 2018 Winter Olympics