The recent revelations made by Odia and India sprinter Dutee Chand about her same-sex relationship has set a cat loose in a pigeon’s nest. While some have come out in support of Dutee, her family has turned hostile. But then Dutee is not the only sportsperson to confess about her same-sex status. She may be the first one in India to come out of the closet, but then there are many others in the world of international sport who have spoken openly about their gay relationships. Orissa POST takes a look at some of these sporting icons.
Orlando Cruz and José Manuel Colón: Puerto Rican sportsperson Cruz became the first professional boxer to admit he is gay. He said in 2012 ‘he is proud to be gay’ and ‘proud to be a Puerto Rican’. Cruz married longtime live-in partner Colon after proposing to him through a video on his FB page. Cruz has been at the forefront of gay movement in his country.
Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigova: Tennis legend Martina Navratilova stated way back in 1981 that she is bisexual and that she was in a relationship with Rita Mae Brown. In fact once she had commented to a journalist in 1994 that she would never visit India as the country did not support gay rights. Martina who won 59 Grand Slam titles (singles, doubles and mixed doubles… some of these were with Leander Paes), also was in a live-in relationship with Judy Nelson from 1984 to 1991. However, the split was acrimonious. Martina then met her present partner Lemigova and proposed to her at the 2014 US Open. The two got married December 15, 2014 in New York. Currently they are together.
Jessica Jonassen and Sarah Wearn: Australian women’s team bowling all-rounder Jessica has openly revealed her love for partner Wearn. She has vowed to be with Wearn for the rest of her life. The left-arm orthodox spinner, who has picked up 130 wickets in the shorter versions of the game, proposed to Wearn in February 2018. Even though they have not married they stay together in Sydney.
Gareth Thomas and Ian Baum: Welsh rugby star Thomas declared about his homosexuality way back in December 2009, thus becoming the first player in the sport to announce that he is gay. Thomas currently is in a live-in relationship with businessman Ian Baum since 2014. In 2010, Thomas was voted the ‘Most Influential Gay Person’ in the UK and received Stonewall’s ‘Hero of the Year award’
Megan Schutt and Jess Holyoake: Australian pace bowler Schutt has openly declared her love for Holyoake who does not belong to the cricket fraternity. Schutt has been representing Australia since 2012 and is quite an impact player. Schutt proposed to Holyoake after same-sex marriage in Australia was legalised in 2017. Holyoake took little less than five seconds to say ‘yes’. They got married the same year and are staying happily ever after.
Caster Semenya and Violet Raseboya: The South African double Olympic gold medallist started dating Violet way back in 2007 and the two got married in 2016 and currently stay together. Dutee’s frind Caster (they are regularly in touch over email and phone) had earlier said in an interview ‘Violet initially thought me as a boy when I had entered the ladies room’. That’s how the love blossomed and Caster who is the ‘man’ in the relationship has said that the two will have children – minimum three – in future. How that will happen, she has not explained though.
Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss: Women’s tennis’ first icon, declared way back in 1971 about her preference for the same sex. The lady, who won 39 Grand Slam titles, got married to Larry King in 1965. However, the marriage fell apart after King fell in love with her doubles partner Ilana Kloss. It must have taken a lot of guts for King to announce her preferences in 1971 as the sports world was not as a liberal a place as it is now. But she soldiered on bravely and also for a time became the face of the LGBT movement in the US. Both King and Kloss reside in New York and Chicago where the former has residences.
Steven Davis: The player became the first professional cricketer to admit he is gay during an interview February 27, 2011 with ‘The Daily Telegraph’. Davis said during the interview, ‘I had to come out in public as my family already knows about’ and ‘Gareth Thomas has been an inspiration’. Davis played for England in the 2009 T20 Worlds. Later on he once joked, “To reveal I am gay was more difficult than facing Brett Lee at full throttle.” Davis also confessed about his preference for the same sex to his England teammates just before the Ashest tour in 2017, but at that point of time, the team management and players kept it a secret as the focus would have shifted from the matches. He currently does not have a partner.
Greg Louganis (Diver, winner of 4 Olympic gold medals): This 59-year-old double Olympic gold medallist was one of the first US athletes to declare he is gay. Louganis currently does not have a partner as he is battling HIV. Louganis announced he is gay in 1994 prior to the inauguration of the World Gay Games. The diver was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, six months before the Olympics. He attributed it to his one-time ‘romantic’ partner Jim Babbit with whom he was in a relationship from 1983 to 1989.