At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Australian diver Matthew Mitcham was the only openly gay athlete competing.
He’ll have some company at this year’s games which begin later this month in London: US soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
The 27-year-old says she has decided to go public about being a lesbian to empower other members of the LGBT community.
‘To be honest I’ve been thinking about it for a while, trying to find a time that works,’ she tells USA Today. ‘Now leading up to the Olympics, people want to get personal stories.’
‘Our team in general is in a position where people look up to us and kids look up to us,’ she adds. ‘I embrace that and I think I have a huge LGBT following. I think it’s pretty cool, the opportunity that I have, especially in sports. There’s really not that many out athletes. It’s important to be out and to live my life that way.’
Rapinoe is aware that is has been easier for female athletes in the US to be open about their sexuality than male athletes.
She hopes that will change one day soon.
‘That stigma is only going to be broken when people come out and see that there is a positive response,’ she says. ‘That doesn’t mean there will be no negative response, but if people can have the courage to be one of the first, which is very hard, those barriers can be broken down very quickly.’