Meet the openly gay Paralympians

Only two athletes out of 4,200, a shocking 0.5%, have come out as gay

Meet the openly gay Paralympians
27 August 2012

When you are a gay Paralympian, you have to triumph over more than adversity.

Not only do you have to overcome myths about gay people in sport, but your disability as well.

Out of 4,200 athletes competing in 503 medal events, only two so far have been open about their sexuality.

This means only 0.05% of athletes will be openly gay at the Paralympic Games.

Both British-born athletes, Lee Pearson and Claire Harvey are flying the flag for Team LGBT in the Paralympic Games.

UK equestrian athlete Pearson was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenital, a rare disorder that is characterized by multiple joint contractures.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Pearson says his mother was sedated for 36 hours after his birth by Caesarian section.

When the nurses refused to answer her questions, she said: ‘If I’ve got a live child – whatever the circumstances – I want to see him or her right now. And if I haven’t, then I want to be told.’

Pearson’s mother was pushed in a wheelchair to a hospital broom cupboard, where she discovered her baby in a crib with a blanket on top.

He said: ‘Remember this was 1974 not 1874, but I suppose I was not a pretty sight; my right foot was wrapped round my left knee, my left foot was wrapped round my right knee, my arms and hands were horribly twisted and I had an ugly birthmark covering half my face and the top of my head.

‘Mum took a gulp, picked me up and gave the first of a million cuddles.’

What followed after is Pearson became one of the most successful British athletes of all time, a nine-time Paralympic gold medalist.

Winning three medals each in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, Pearson is hoping to follow his success in 2012.

He says: ‘I may daydream occasionally that I’ve got a gorgeous, muscled body, but I don’t have a choice about my disability just as I don’t have a choice about being gay.

‘I love who I am and certainly don’t have a problem about being gay.’

Unlike Pearson, up until a few years ago Harvey was not disabled at all.

In February 2008, Harvey was on her bicycle when a car crashed into her leaving her unable to use her right leg.

In an interview with the BBC, she said: ‘I didn’t know straight away I was going to be disabled forever. All I heard was it’s going to be alright in a couple of days.

‘So I think all the time I was in hospital I really thought that it would be fine and it was just going to be a week. A week went onto two weeks, and two weeks went onto a month.’

Harvey had to recalibrate everything in her life, from going to the shops to getting out of bed in the morning.

But within two years of working hard, she was chosen to represent Britain at the 2012 Paralympics.

‘For a long time after my accident, my whole life and my family’s life was about things I couldn’t do anymore,’ she said.

‘But when I got into the sitting volleyball lifestyle, my whole life was about what I could do, despite my disability and in some ways, because of my disability.’

With nearly half of all 23 openly gay athletes winning a medal at the Olympic Games, Pearson and Harvey will want to make Team LGBT proud.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games will take place from 29 August to 9 September.

If you know of any other openly gay Paralympic athletes that we have missed out, please let us know in the comments below.

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

With one wife battling Stage IV cancer, Indiana again ordered to recognize marriage of lesbian couple

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney to be considered legally married as marriage equality case is being appealed
No thumbnail available

Gay couple told to 'prove' they are dating by bouncers at Edinburgh bar

Scottish gay couple are making a formal complaint after a 'rogue' bouncer lied and said they were having a couples night
No thumbnail available

Nominate your business stars who are Out at Work

Out at Work Top 50 will reveal Britain’s rising LGBTI business heroes
No thumbnail available

Mom of gay 9/11 hero Mark Bingham remembers

'Being Mark’s mother has been in turns difficult, frightening, whimsical, beautiful and downright fun'
No thumbnail available

Welcome Back Kotter co-star Ron Palillo dies

Starred with John Travolta on 70s sitcom, is survived by male partner of 41 years
No thumbnail available

Gay presidential candidate has video pulled from YouTube

Fred Karger's ad, which features two men kissing at the end, has been reposted on site with a parental warning
No thumbnail available
No thumbnail available

Woman throws paint at gay sauna, manager responds perfectly

‘I've dealt with enough of these morons in my life that I am not affected by it. But I am really annoyed that she used a boring off-white. I would have much preferred fluorescent green'
No thumbnail available

Rainbow Reykjavik: winter's hottest holiday

Warm up your winter with Iceland's international festival, where the realm of natural spas, saunas and baths is just a few hours away
No thumbnail available

Gender gap narrows in FTSE 100 boardrooms but far more work remains

Former Trade Minister Lord Davies reveals that almost one in four UK board members are now female – but challenges remain to boost that number further