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.

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