RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Isadora Cerullo got no medal at these Olympics. A ring will have to suffice.
Cerullo is a rugby player for Brazil and her team finished ninth at the Rio Games out of a 12-team field, well out of medal contention. When the competition was over, a venue manager walked onto the pitch and eventually got around to asking her a question.
The manager was her girlfriend, Marjorie Enya. The question was “will you marry me?” And as others surrounded them and held red heart-shaped balloons, Cerullo said yes.
Unlike the Sochi Games two years ago, where gay rights were called into question over anti-gay laws enacted by Russia’s government, the Rio Games seem to be increasingly tolerant by comparison. It hasn’t been flawless — for example, homophobic slurs were shouted by some in the stands at a U.S. women’s soccer match as the games opened — but there’s certain signs of progress on the inclusion front.
“That’s what I hope for and I feel like our society is going in the right direction,” said U.S. women’s basketball star Elena Delle Donne, who came out and announced her engagement last week. “That’s not a story. It’s normal.”
The new normal, perhaps.
Gay marriage is legal in Brazil, though tolerance seems far from universal. One gay rights group says that on average since 2013, about one LGBT person each day has been killed in Brazil. The organization called Grupo Gay da Bahia calls Brazil “the world champion of crimes motivated by homophobia and-or transphobia.”
“I know all the prejudice that exists in society against homosexuals,” said 2012 Olympic beach volleyball bronze medalist Larissa Franca of Brazil, who is competing again in Rio. “We don’t choose our feelings, let alone control them.”
So far in these Olympics, there seems to be far more cheering than prejudice.
Whether it was a transgender model appearing in the athletes’ parade at the opening ceremony, two men kissing during their leg of the torch relay along Copacabana Beach or the British women’s field hockey team including two teammates who are married — an Olympic first — it has already been a games unlike any other for the LGBTQ community.
“A lot of support,” Delle Donne said.