2021 is basically a wrap, but this year has definitely been the year of the queer athlete since there have been a good number of folks in the sports world who have chosen to publicly come out and live their truths!
From an NFL defensive lineman to a BMX rider to a handful of pro wrestlers and some baseball players, here's a list of the athletes who have come out this year — and we can't wait to keep adding to this out-and-proud list in the years to come!
Not only did WNBA and Chicago Sky star Candace Parker pleasantly surprise the public in December when she revealed her two-year marriage to Anya Petrokov, but then she put the icing on the cake when she also revealed the pair are expecting a baby together!
“Two years ago, I got to marry my best friend in front of our close family and friends,” Parker wrote in the beautiful post to her Instagram. “My heart could have exploded. I cried like a baby.”
Included in the gallery of pics was one with the happy couple showing off Petrakova’s pregnant belly.
“We’ve always dreamed of growing our family...” Parker continued. “It’s surreal that we now have a baby on the way!”
Parker was the first overall pick of the 2008 WNBA Draft, selected by the Los Angeles Sparks. A versatile player who can play center, forward, and guard, she won a WNBA title with the Sparks in 2016 and also helped lead the Chicago Sky to a title this past season, her first with the Sky. She’s also won three Olympic gold medals for Team USA and two NCAA titles with the Lady Vols of the University of Tennessee.
Australian A-League soccer star Josh Cavallo came out as gay in an October video posted to his social media, being hailed as the first current male top-flight professional soccer player to publicly do so.
"Hi, everyone," the 21-year-old left back and central midfielder for the Adelaide United soccer team said in the video. "It's Josh Cavallo here. I'm at my home here in Adelaide. There's something personal that I need to share with everyone. I'm a footballer and I'm gay."
"Growing up I always felt the need to hide myself, you know, because I was ashamed, and ashamed I'll never be able to do what I love and be gay. Hiding who I truly am to pursue a dream I always wished for as a kid. All I want to do is play football and be treated equally. I thought that people would think of me differently when they found out. They would start treating me differently, they would start saying bad things about me or making fun out of me. That's not the case."
Minor league pitcher Kieran Lovegrove discussed being a bisexual man in professional baseball in a September interview with Joon Lee of ESPN. While their discussion mainly focused on the harsh living conditions and mental health issues that plague the minor leagues, the 27-year-old from Mission Viejo, California also spoke of his sexuality and belief there are plenty of other players in the closet.
Noting that “baseball is a game of statistics,” Lovegrove said he found it doubtful he was the only queer player in professional baseball.
“And if you want to tell me that I’m the only queer person in baseball, I’m just not going to agree with you,” Lovegrove said. “Someone is terrified because it’s a terrifying prospect to come out. I do encourage any one of them to reach out to me.”
Independent professional wrestler Rolando Perez, better known to his fans across the Deep South as Miami Ice, came out as bisexual in a social media post in late September.
“F*ck it...” Perez wrote to Twitter. “I’m bisexual.”
Perez bills himself as “a bad, bad man” who was “raised in da streetz of Lil Havana,” according to his official Facebook page and is often seen wearing loud polyester shirts with several buttons left open to show off his chest and a large gold chain.
Perez wrestles in events promoted by Alabama-based New South Pro Wrestling. Their Top Shelf and Action Clashes events are staged in smaller venues across the state, and they livestream their events on Independent Wrestling TV and according to Outsports, Perez was a two-time Pro South Wrestling All-Out champion before joining New South Pro Wrestling.
In a September interview with USA Today, 25-year-old minor league baseball player became the only active baseball professional to be out as gay!
A member of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes team as well as an accomplished country music singer-songwriter, Ruby told USA Today, "I kept thinking about the little 14-year-old me, who was scared because I'm a baseball player who loved country music. Those are worlds where people like me are told they can’t belong. I’m not a hot-shot prospect. But today, you can’t find a single active baseball player who is out publicly. I want to help create a world where future generations of baseball players don’t have to sacrifice authenticity or who they really are to play the game they love."
National Hockey League prospect Luke Prokop came out as gay in July, the first active player in the league to come out. Selected in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators, the big defender has a good shot of making the regular-season roster.
"I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay," he wrote in a heartfelt message on social media. "It has been quite the journey to get to this point in my life, but I could not be happier with my decision to come out. From a young age I have dreamed of being an NHL player, and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams."
Canadian ice dancing star Kaitlyn Weaver came out in a heartfelt and powerful post to Instagram during Pride Month. The two-time Olympian said the isolation of the global pause gave her the time and push she needed to embrace her sexual identity as a queer woman, something she admitted she had been unable to face until just recently.
“I’m shaking writing this message, but knowing that I’m moving in a loving, authentic, and compassionate way feels right. You all know me,” Weaver wrote in her Instagram post. “I follow my heart, and that always leads me to the right place. I’m ready to move forward living, loving, and being honest with all of my identity. And it has been so empowering to arrive at a place where I can do that. I’m so grateful to have Andrew’s support throughout it all - and it brings tears to my eyes to know that in him I’ve always got the best partner, and friend, for life.”
Weaver placed seventh at both the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with ice dancing partner Andrew Poje.
The 28-year-old National Football League player and Raiders defensive lineman made history when he came out as gay on Instagram during Pride Month, becoming the first veteran NFL player to come out as gay while signed to a regular-season contract.
"What’s up people," Nassib said in his Instagram post. "I’m at my house in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay."
He continued: "I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now but finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest. I really have the best life, the best family, friends and job a guy can ask for."
Professional Irish rugby player Jack Dunne, 22, revealed he was bisexual during Pride month. The 22-year-old second-row player for Leinster Rugby (who went to university on scholarships for both rugby and physics) said he has been out privately to friends and teammates since his late teens, but decided to come out publicly as well.
WWE NXT professional wrestler Toni Storm came out as bisexual in June when she took over WWE NXT’s Instagram stories.
"I’m bi and it feels good to say it," Storm revealed. "It’s something I’ve been really comfortable with for a long time. I just never expressed it."
The Bachelor star and former football player (who was signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent and was on the practice squad of the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles) came out as gay in April, saying he had finally come to terms with his sexuality and the "next step in all of this was sort of letting people know."
He wanted everyone to know he was "still the same Colton everybody met on TV" and is "proud to be gay."
American middle-distance runner Nikki Hiltz announced they identify as trans and nonbinary back in April. Hiltz had previously come out as gay while in college and has been a visible and affirming presence for gay athletes in the past.
"Hi, I’m Nikki and I’m transgender," Hiltz wrote in the post. "That means I don’t identify with the gender I was assigned at birth."
Hilitz, 26, now uses she/they personal pronouns and politely explained and defined their gender identity for followers.
Corey Walsh, the 27-year-old pro BMX rider and Vans spokesperson, said he isn’t normally the type of person to "let people in" on his personal life, but felt it was important to come out as gay in a March Instagram post because "there are a lot of people still struggling with the same situations" and he "just wanted to let people know that they are not alone."
Champion long track speedskater Conor McDermott-Mostowy never hid being gay from his family, friends, and fellow athletes, but he also wasn’t one to decorate his locker with rainbow Pride flags either. He initially feared negative stereotypes about gay male athletes but threw those concerns aside after his two-title performance at the U.S. National Championships in Utah in March.
Retired World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Gabbi Tuft publicly came out as trans in a powerful February post to Instagram, saying that "I am no longer afraid and I am no longer fearful. I can now say with confidence, that I love myself for WHO I am."
Swiss professional basketball player Marco Lehmann decided to retire from living a double life before he retired from basketball, coming out publicly as gay.
"My name is Marco Lehmann," he wrote in a January article for FIBA. "I’m a 27-year-old professional 3x3 basketball player and I decided I would not wait until I retire to announce that I’m gay."
Professional wrestler Chris Lewis — better known as Mr. Grim and the Hitman for Hire in the ring — rang in the new year in January by announcing on Twitter he is pansexual.
"For years, I've struggled with my identity, too worried about how others would feel or think about me," Lewis wrote. "I've finally gained the courage to openly express that I'm pansexual."