At the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, out Team USA speed skater Brittany Bowe was the only out LGBTQ flag bearer.
Bowe – who could win the gold in the women’s 1000-meter race – was a back up flag bearer for an athlete who tested positive for COVID-19, but OutSports still called the moment a “powerful statement” from Team USA for its willingness to name an out athlete as one of its main representatives.
Bowe was also the first out athlete from Team USA to qualify for the winter games.
The 33-year-old already holds a bronze medal from the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, a gold medal from the Pan American Games, four gold medals from the Speed Skating Championships, and eight gold medals from Women’s World Championships in inline speed skating.
Team USA posted photos celebrating Bowe’s role in the Opening Ceremony, along with her fellow flag bearer, curler John Shuster.
Our beloved flag bearers. 🇺🇸
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) February 4, 2022
Choosing Bowe made an especially powerful statement in China, where LGBTQ people continue to face significant challenges.
While homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, same-sex couples cannot adopt, conversion therapy has not been banned, men who have sex with men cannot donate blood, and there are few protections surrounding discrimination.
The Chinese government also banned portrayals of “sissy men” from television programs and “gay love” from video games last September. The National Radio and TV Administration announced that they must “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal esthetics.”
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.