The Rio Olympic Games made history with the highest number of openly LGBT athletes
competing in the sporting event's history, and the Paralympics look set to make equal strides when it comes to representing LGBT people living with disability.
Nine LGBT Paralympians are set to compete in Rio once the Games kick off tonight (September 7), and Team GB can proudly boast the only openly gay male Paralympian (that we're aware of) among its ranks in the form of flagbearer and ten-time gold medal-winning equestrian star Lee Pearson, who's not only a living inspiration for LGBT people, but athletes in general.
The Paralympics will take place September 7 – September 18 in Rio, and are set to be broadcast on Channel 4. Here's a guide to the known openly LGBT Paralympians we can expect to see at the Games:
Lee Pearson (Great Britain, equestrian)
He is many things: a para-equestrian dressage rider, a man with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a 10-time Paralympic gold medallist, Team GB's history-making flagbearer
and, as far as we know the only openly gay male Paralympian. Representing Britain in the last three games, he has won gold in dressage, freestyle dressage and team dressage. He previously told The Independent: "I get angry when people presume that because you're gay you've got to wear pink and stilettos and camp it up, or that if you're disabled you should act like a victim and not have a life."
Jen Armbruster and Asya Miller (USA, goalball)
American goalball captain Jen Armbruster (right) has competed in more Paralympic games than any other LGBT athlete starting in 1992. At 14 years old she started losing her vision and three years later an inflamed optic nerve caused her to be legally blind. She is also one half of a gold medal Paralympic power couple with Asya Miller (left), whom she first played professionally with in 2000, and with whom she has a son. Asya is both a goalball player and discus thrower for Team USA, will be playing goalball at Rio where she is hoping to take home another gold following victory in Beijing in 2008. She is legally blind due to Stargardt’s Disease.
Angela Madsen (USA, track and field)
56-year old, Angela Madsen has been disabled since 1993 following major complications during a back operation she had for injuries sustained during her time in the military. She fought on, however, to represent Team USA in both rowing and track and field. She came out as gay in 1981 and later married in 2006. At Rio, she will be competing in track and field.
Moran Samuel (Israel, rowing)
As an outstanding Israeli athlete and lesbian, Moran Samuel, has always surpassed sporting expectations and be proudly out as a lesbian saying she has never experienced any discrimination against her. She enrolled into program allowing her to complete compulsory military service whilst representing her country in sport as well. Her sport of choice was basketball which she played until she suffered a spinal stroke, leaving her paralysed from the waist down therefore going on to playing wheelchair basketball before moving onto rowing. She came fifth in rowing at the 2012 games and will be at Rio this week as an openly lesbian athlete.
Claire Harvey (Great Britain, sitting volleyball)
One of Claire's legs was left paralysed after a motor accident in 2008, but from it she went on to be Team GB's women’s sitting volleyball captain at the London 2012 Games. Sadly, she was forced to withdraw from Rio a mere month prior to the Games due to a hand injury sustained in training. She was expected to perform in the track and field team, which she switched to last year, and will not be replaced. Nonetheless, she deserves a mention as the only openly lesbian athlete who would have been competing for Team GB.
Words: Charlotte Callear
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