(CNN) – At least 30 athletes competing in the Tokyo Paralympic Games identify as part of the LGBTQ community, a new record for LGBTQ representation at the Paralympic Games, according to one tally.
That’s more than double the number of athletes who publicly identified as LGBTQ at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, according to the blog. SB Nation Outsports, who performed a similar count LGBTQ participants for the Summer Olympics.
Ex-Olympians helped the blog compile the list of LGBTQ athletes competing this month in Tokyo. This year’s competitors include Asya Miller, US gold medalist in goalball, a sport for athletes with visual impairments; wheelchair basketball players Laurie Williams and Robyn Love of Team Great Britain; and Edênia Garcia, Brazilian swimmer with four gold medals.
At both the Paralympic and Olympic Games there has been an increase in the number of LGBTQ athletes this year, according to Outsports. The Summer Olympics in Tokyo featured at least 168 LGBTQ athletes, based on blog count. Some of them, like British diver Tom Daley, Canadian soccer star Quinn and Brittney Griner of the US women’s basketball team, won gold medals.
But researchers studying LGBTQ representation in sport previously told CNN that the number of LGBTQ Olympians should have been higher. Less than 2% of the 11,000 Olympians who competed this year identified as LGBTQ, according to the Outsports tally. This underrepresentation may be due to a sports culture that still does not embrace transgender and queer athletes, according to Katie Schweighofer, an adjunct professor at Dicksinson College who studies inclusion in sports.
Athletes face the stigma of disability and sexuality in sport
Paralympians who identify as LGBTQ continue to grapple with negative attitudes towards queer and trans people. On a blog post from the International Paralympic Committee, Brazilian swimmer Garcia said she “had to protect herself from a repertoire of jokes” while training.
“Being a lesbian and disabled is a double challenge, as you carry the stigma of being invisible,” Garcia said on the blog.
But competing in front of an international audience can also inspire change. Lee Pearson, Team Great Britain’s first gay Paralympic gold medalist and dressage champion, was chosen as his team’s flag bearer in Rio in 2016. He was touched by the honor, according to stated to the BBC in February.
“It was not about me, but about the message we sent to other countries,” he said. “I hope it has sent a message to other nations where diverse sexuality is oppressed and still not accepted, and where sometimes you can even be sentenced to death.”
Williams and Love from Team Great Britain have been teammates since 2015 and got engaged in 2020. Competing together in the Paralympic Games “has strengthened [su] relationship, “Love wrote in an Instagram post in July.
Williams and Love to compete in women’s wheelchair basketball since Wednesday. In an interview last year, Love said that she hoped to inspire young people to publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation not by doing “extreme things” but by being herself, although winning a gold medal probably wouldn’t hurt either.