There is so much potential for sports to unite us — you can see it after a home run drops over the fence, or a last-minute goal hits the back of the net, or a marathon finish line is crossed — but the truth is that athletic institutions and communities have long fallen short when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion. Directly and indirectly, these institutions have often silenced LGBTQ+ athletes, forcing them to hide their identities in an environment that has often been closed-off and discriminatory.
We have a long way to go, but progress is being made. And it’s pretty clear who we have to thank for it: LGBTQ+ athletes who use their platforms to amplify the voices of their community. No one — including athletes, celebrities, and other public figures — is ever obligated to come out or be a spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ community, but for every LGBTQ+ athlete who does share their gender or sexuality, the sports world becomes that much more inclusive for those who follow. Here are 22 LGBTQ+ athletes who are doing just that, actively breaking down boundaries, leading by example, and showing their pride from the ring, field, court, skating rink, and beyond.