Competitive Swimmers Who Are LGBTQ

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Competitive swimming is a high profile sport in organized competitions and its successful athletes are equally high profile. So how does the LGBTQ community fit into this sport?

Despite its image of a relatively straightforward and non-impact sport, the competitive swimming world is individualistic with a very macho, gender-binary, testosterone-driven homophobia. This assessment can be drawn from the many autobiographies and memoirs written by out LGBTQ individuals who detail the agony they had in the closet prior to coming out. The notion of catching AIDS by swimming in the same water as an infected individual is an infamous example of ignorance surrounding this disease in the sport. Strict bathing suit styles and locker room dynamics play a large role in the culture of the sport.

To counter this hostile environment, many local LGBTQ swim clubs have been formed with numerous inter-club competitive events, especially at the Masters level of competition. The success of the Gay Games has been a big boost to LGBTQ competitive participation in the sport. The challenge for the LGBT competitor participating outside of the LGBTQ community itself is to have the courage, endurance, support, effort, achievement and respect as great as any other individual in the sport. The stance of governing bodies in the sport is crucial to creating an environment for this to be the case, and the approach of the coaches in the sport is equally important.

Many of the competitive swimmers on this list are Olympic-calibre athletes who have won medals and set world records, including the renowned Ian Thorpe of Australia and his compatriot Daniel Kowalski, Mark Tewksbury of Canada, and Johan Kenkhuis of The Netherlands. Swimmer Diana Nyad of the United States was the first individual to swim from Cuba to the United States.

The most prominent international organization for the community is the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics group. Its mission is to promote participation in aquatic sports among lesbians and gay men and friends of the community, and to ensure maintenance of the highest standards for aquatic competitions and international standards for all Gay Games and IGLA Championships.

We have identified the following successful competitive swimmers who identify as LGBTQ. Simply click on their names to read their fascinating biographies.

Australia

Austria

Brazil

Canada

Cuba

Dominica

Finland

France

Great Britain

Italy

Jamaica

Singapore

Tonga

The Netherlands

United States

See Also

Further Reading/Research


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