At least 180 out LGBTQ athletes are at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, more than triple the number in Rio


At least 180 publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and nonbinary athletes are headed to Tokyo for the Summer Olympic Games, more than triple the number who participated at the 2016 Rio Games.

The number of publicly out LGBTQ athletes in Tokyo is also greater than the number athletes who have participated in all of the previous Olympic Games — Summer and Winter — combined while publicly out.

The massive increase in the number of out athletes reflects the growing acceptance of LGBTQ people in sports and society. The rise of social media, especially Instagram, has given athletes a forum where they can live their lives openly and identify directly with their followers.

In contrast, Outsports counted 23 publicly out Olympians in 2012 and 56 in 2016 at those Summer Games.

“Competing at the Olympics as an openly gay athlete is pretty amazing,” Canadian swimmer Markus Thormeyer told Outsports. Thormeyer was not out when he competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics and came out publicly as gay in a 2020 essay for Outsports.

“Being able to compete with the best in the world as my most authentic self at the biggest international multi-sport games shows how far we’ve come on inclusion in sport. I’m hoping that by competing at these Games I can show the LGBTQ community that we do belong and we can achieve anything we put our minds to.”

His comments were echoed by Elissa Alarie, a Canadian rugby player. We originally did not have Alarie on our list, but she contacted us and told us she was LGBTQ (she also gave us the names of three out teammates whom we also added).

“Growing up in a small French town in Quebec, I didn’t know or even know of a single LGBTQ person or athlete until I was older,” Alarie said. “I hope the increased visibility can give young people a sentiment of belonging and encourage communities to be inclusive and welcoming.”