Photography by Roger Erickson
Heroes, past and present, who play for our team.
The world took a collective gasp 25 years ago during the 1988 Seoul Olympics when Louganis hit the springboard, suffered a concussion, and still earned the gold. Considered the greatest diver of all time, he shocked fans in 1996 by coming out as both gay and HIV-positive. Since then, Louganis has spoken out for HIV/AIDS rights and protections, while also mentoring athletes. “It’s important -- just being an example is the only thing I can do,” he says. “The only thing I have control of is who I am and what I do and say.”
A documentary duo—Will Sweeney and Charyl Furjanic—are attempting to produce a feature film about the diver, titled Back on Board. "As a gay filmmaker, I’ve always admired Greg," Furjanic said. "And I see this film as an opportunity to reintroduce a true pioneer to the American public."
“I literally thought that my mom had taken away my penis.” That’s how Taylor Edelmann describes growing up as a girl. Seeking an outlet for his anxiety and confusion, he turned to volleyball, eventually accepting an offer at Purchase College, 30 miles from New York City, where he became a rising star on the women’s volleyball team. And then, in the winter of 2012, Edelmann switched teams -- and genders. Remarkably, players, coaches, and teachers rallied round in a textbook show of support. Edelmann was voted team captain at the end of his junior season and graduated this spring with a B.A. in psychology.
An All-American running back born in Illinois and raised in California, young David Kopay -- tall, well-built, and forceful on the field -- appeared to be the quintessential NFL player. He would go on to create a new mold in 1975 when he came out as gay. His 1977 book, The David Kopay Story, was an instant bestseller. “[Speaking out] was important then and it’s important now,” says Kopay, “but it’s even more important now because there’s a much more positive attitude about the progress we have made in our community, the visibility that we’ve achieved.” Now 71 years old, Kopay dedicates his days to helping achieve equality on the field through his work with the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation
A competitor in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics, New Zealand–born swimmer Amini Fonua has made even more waves by publicly coming out this year. Tonga’s flag bearer at the Games, Fonua, a member of Texas A&M’s Class of 2013, made the announcement in part to defend his alma mater after the Princeton Review included Texas A&M on its list of the most “LGBT-unfriendly” schools. He graduated this year with a B.A. in telecommunications and multimedia studies.
After retiring from Major League Baseball in 1995, Bean came out publicly in 1999, sparking a major uproar in professional sports and a wider discussion about what it means to be a gay athlete. Since then, he’s remained one of the most visible and vocal advocates for combating homophobia in pro men’s sports. Now Bean is a successful real estate agent in the greater Los Angeles area and vice-chairman of Ben Cohen’s StandUp Foundation, dedicated to anti-bullying and equality in sports. “Over the last 10, 11, 12 years, I’ve put myself out there as a responsibility,” he says. “My first thought when I heard about Jason Collins was, We are changing."
Cornerback Wade Davis was a rising star in the NFL until a leg injury cut his career short. The former Tennessee Titan, who came out in 2012, has since found a new calling: He’s become an LGBTQ activist and educator, working at the Hetrick-Martin Institute where he teaches queer youth life skills. He’s also set up a sports camp in Chicago that brings LGBTQ youth together with straight allies. “I’m able to work with amazing young people,” Davis says, “to tell their stories, to do some advocacy work, and to do work in the community to really change hearts and minds.”
Gendreau set a regional scoring record with the Division I Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. He’s a kicker who remained out and proud during this year’s NFL draft -- a first -- and he’s passionate about his Christian faith, a rarity in the world of gay celebrity. Gendreau hit the national scene in April, and while the NFL overlooked him this go-round, the 24-year-old says he plans on trying until he makes the team.