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Women and LGBTQ+ athletes are the stars of the Philippine Olympic team

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics is historically momentous because of LGBTQ+ athletes participating at almost 200.



The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, is a huge milestone for the Philippines with its Olympic team winning four medals, a first multiple-medal achievement after 89 years, including the country’s first gold since it first participated in the Summer Games in 1924. This Olympics is also important because of the visibility and prominence of women and LGBTQ+ athletes.

Filipino LGBTQ+ Olympic athletes, and even athletes from other countries, now are out and proud of who they are, something that was not possible several years ago.

The Tokyo Summer Olympics, which was supposed to be held in 2020 but was postponed to 23 July to 8 August 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, is historically momentous because of the number of out LGBTQ+ athletes participating with almost 200, according to

It will also be remembered for the first participation of out transgender athletes — New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and Canadian soccer player Quinn. Even athletes from anti-LGBT countries or countries where being gay is still illegal were brave enough to be out to make a statement.

For a very long time, athletics has been a field where LGBTQ+ people have been marginalized and bullied, causing many to hide, and now the world’s biggest sporting event is increasingly welcoming LGBTQ+ athletes.

Pioneers have blazed the trail for the athletes now in different sports and events.

In the Olympics, the first out LGBTQ+ athlete is American equestrian Robert Dover, who first competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, but LGBTQ+ participation may date back to 1928 with German runner Otto Peltzer.

HIDILYN Diaz made history as the first Olympic athlete to win a gold medal for the Philippines. Nesthy Petecio (upper) dedicated her silver medal finish to the LGBTQ+ community. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF FB.COM/HIDILYN DIAZ, IG/NESHPETECIO

Then, several athletes came out, stood for visibility and representation, and made statements on LGBTQ+ issues and rights not only in athletics but also in the world, including American soccer player Megan Rapinoe, British diver and Olympic champion Tom Daley, and American freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who famously kissed his partner during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The Philippine Tokyo Olympics team had two out LGBTQ+ athletes most likely for the first time. It drew the attention of the nation and also of the world because of the feats of the women and LGBTQ+ members in sports that are traditionally associated with and dominated by men — weightlifting, boxing and skateboarding.

The crowning glory of their achievements is the country’s first gold medal, which was clinched by a woman, 30-year-old Hidilyn Diaz from Zamboanga City, in the women’s weightlifting, 55-kilogram category, on July 26. She lifted a total of 224 kilograms, which is an Olympic record.

Diaz previously won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In 2019, Malacanan Palace included her in a matrix of persons involved in a movement to oust President Rodrigo Duterte from office, even without giving basis or evidence, and she was hounded online by Duterte supporters and trolls.

Although a straight, cisgender woman, Diaz is supportive of and respects transgender athletes joining the Olympics, mentioning the struggles and the criticisms that fellow weightlifter Hubbard experienced. Hubbard became the first trans person to compete in an Olympic women’s event on 2 August.

On the other hand, Nesthy Petecio won the silver medal in the women’s featherweight boxing on 3 August, and she dedicated her victory to the LGBTQ+ community, the first made by a Filipino Olympian.

“I am proud to be part of the LGBTQ community. Sulong, laban (Forward, fight)! Para rin po sa LGBTQ community ang laban na ‘to (This fight is also for the LGBTQ community),” she said in a report by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The lesbian athlete from Davao del Sur served as the flag bearer of the Philippines in the closing ceremony on 8 August.

Another lesbian athlete is skateboarder Margielyn Didal from Cebu. She was not able to take home a medal but won the hearts of many sports fans and spectators because of her relatable and vibrant personality and positive attitude.

The positive outcomes in the Tokyo Olympics and of the Philippine team are undeniably a testament of how inclusion and acceptance result into a stronger and more productive team and society at large.