U.S. figure skating champion Timothy LeDuc made history in Beijing today as the first out nonbinary athlete to compete in a Winter Olympics.
The 31-year-old Iowa native, who uses they/them pronouns, and partner Ashley Cain-Gribble remain in the hunt for a medal after they skated well in the short program. The pair already have a gold together as the 2019 U.S. National Champions in pair skating, and they hope to bag Olympic gold later this year with their nontraditional skating style.
"I know for me, being openly nonbinary is only possible because amazing queer people have come before me and laid the groundwork for me," LeDuc was quoted by MSN. "So now I want to do that for others to come after, as well."
It's been a long road for LeDuc, coming from a strongly religious family. They first came out as bisexual when they were 18 and later as nonbinary ten years later, but acceptance and affirmation were not always easy to find.
In a recent interview on the My Favorite Olympian podcast, LeDuc revealed their family regularly attended an evangelical church which viewed same-sex sexual relations and LGBTQ+ identities as a sin.
"I believed the lies that I was told," LeDuc recalled. "That I was an abomination."
LeDuc recalled one particular incident where church members tried to pray their gay away.
"At one point, one of my family members brought friends home from a church group and they basically tried to perform an exorcism on me, like tried to cast my demons out, and were praying on all sides of me trying to remedy my, we called it same-sex attraction," LeDuc said.
LeDuc eventually found peace with their family, and soon excelled on the ice when they paired with current partner Ashley Cain-Gribble, who said she "never wanted to be what was looked at as the traditional team" with a traditional narrative running through their choreography and performance.
"They always had the storyline of the male is super masculine and strong and always the girl who is a wilted little flower and is weak, or it was a full-on love story, where obviously a male and a female fall in love with each other," Cain-Gribble said.
LeDuc and Cain-Gribble destroyed that narrative in their historic routine in Beijing, and hope to keep writing their truth all the way to Olympic gold.
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