It’s never easy to come out, but it takes real courage if you’re in professional sports. Many major sports are rife with homophobia to this day. Yet, some athletes have become gay icons. Gay athletes have had successful careers in tennis, rugby, skating, basketball, and football. SeveralOlympic gold winners are also gay.
Sheryl Swoopes, WNBA
The 47-year old, Texas-born basketball player Sheryl Swoopes came out in 2005, announcing it didn’t change who she was and nobody could help who they fell in love with. She’s 53rd on the list of the greatest female athletes of all time and seventh on the list of the best WNBA players.
Jason Collins, NBA
NBA player Jason Collins is the first active major sports athlete to come out, which he did in an interview with Sports Illustrated six years ago. Reactions among media and fellow players were mixed.
EseraTuaolo, NFL player
In 2002, EseraTuaolo came out after retiring from professional football. He has worked with the League to combat homophobia and become an outspoken advocate for gay rights since.
This transgender boxing star from Thailand has been a trailblazer not only in pro sports, but also film and television.
Ben Cohen, rugby
This ex-rugby union player and gay activist started his professional career with the British Northampton Saints over two decades ago. Cohen also helped his team win the Rugby World Cup 2003. Since retiring, the athlete has focused on The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation,an organization fighting against bullying and homophobia.
Sarah Vaillancourt, ice hockey
Olympic athlete Sarah Vaillancourt, who has won two gold medals playing ice hockey with the national team of Canada, is still active and openly lesbian.
Billie Jean King, tennis
King, who came out back in 1981, went on to become the No. 1 tennis player in the world. She has won 16 women’s doubles, 12 singles, and 11 mixed doubles titles. She won a singles title at the first ever WTA Tour Championships.
King was a member of the winning United States team in nine Wightman Cups and seven Federation Cups. She was US Federation Cup captain for 3 years. She is an active advocate for gender equality.
Other famous gay athletes include Olympic diver Greg Louganis, soccer player Megan Rapinoe, figure skater Johnny Weir, and German track and field pro BalianBuschbaum.