Although the United States government has enacted a diplomatic boycott of China, and the Omicron variant is continuing to draw out the coronavirus pandemic, athletes are still competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics being held in Beijing next month. Ice skater Brittany Bowe has become the first out athlete to earn a roster spot to compete in one of the competition’s 109 scheduled events for the United States.
Bowe qualified for the 1000-meter ice speed skating with a time of 1:13.63 during trials this week — not only first among all competitors, but just seconds behind the world record she set in the event in 2019, at a time of 1:11.61.
“It’s always fun to get a track record, and with the track record being mine, to say I went fastest in this building than I ever have in my life is a pretty big confidence booster going into Beijing,” Bowe said after the trials, according to NBC Sports.
Bowe, 33, holds a bronze medal in the same event from the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, a gold medal from the Pan American Games, four gold medals form the Speed Skating Championships, and eight gold medals from Women’s World Championships in inline speed skating.
She has done nothing to hide her sexual orientation. In 2017, she talked with NBC about dating Dutch speed skater Manon Kamminga. She was the only publicly out LGBTQ woman on Team USA at the time she qualified for the 2018 Olympics, and one of only 15 out Olympians at the Games’ conclusion, according to Outsports. At the 2020 Olympics held last year, there were 182 out LGBTQ athletes. Multiple out athletes outside of Bowe have already qualified for Beijing.
Multiple human rights activists and advocacy groups are against holding the upcoming Olympics and other sports events in anti-LGBTQ areas or countries with questionable human rights records. This also includes and the FIFA World Cup scheduled to be held in Qatar later this year and the Gay Games scheduled to be held in Hong Kong in 2023.
At the Summer Olympics held last year in Tokyo, the United States finished with the most medals in the end, but “Team LGBTQ,” as the out athletes competing have been dubbed, earned 56 medals between them. That would have put them in sixth as an official Olympic Team.
More out athletes competed at the Games in Tokyo than in any other previous Olympics. Team LGBTQ also had more athletes competing in the Games than 190 of the 206 participating Olympic squads — 205 from different countries or independently-participating territories (such as Puerto Rico and American Samoa), and one team made of refugee athletes.
According to Outsports, their 56 medals are more than any country or state that still criminalizes homosexuality, including Kenya, Jamaica, and Iran combined.
182 different LGBTQ athletes made an Olympics team, representing 30 different countries in 34 of the 46 sports. All in all, they earned 56 medals between them, which would put them in sixth as an official Olympic Team.
That means Team LGBTQ had more medals than 200 Olympic squads that went to Tokyo. That was despite the exclusion of several out athletes from certain sports that excluded several athletes that largely excluded gender diverse athletes or those with differences in sex development (DSD).
In November, the International Olympic Committee released new guidelines for transgender participation in their sports that activists and athletes alike are hailing as a massive victory for trans equality.
Those principles – developed after two years of consultations with over 250 athletes and other “concerned stakeholders” – include inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, right to privacy, and – perhaps most notably – no presumption of advantage. However, they are not binding across the entire Olympic body.
“No athlete should be precluded from competing or excluded from competition on the exclusive ground of an unverified, alleged, or perceived unfair competitive advantage due to their sex variations, physical appearance and/or transgender status,” it says, adding that no athlete should be deemed as having an unfair advantage unless “robust and peer reviewed research” finds otherwise.