The Pan American Games are taking place this week in Chile, and Team LGBTQ+ is stealing the show.
The rainbow glory was on full display at the opening ceremonies, with two out gay athletes taking center stage for the host country.
Basketball player Daniel Arcos, who publicly came out as gay in 2020, hoisted the rainbow flag when he strolled across the field Friday night. The 29-year-old received a nice round of applause from the nearly 40,000 fans in attendance, which was an incredible moment.
The Pan Am Games is the biggest sporting event in Chile’s history. The country was last at the center of the international sports universe way back in 1962, when it hosted the men’s World Cup.
Arcos called the evening an “unforgettable moment for Chilean sport.”
Since coming out, Arcos has enjoyed widespread support, and isn’t afraid of showcasing his gay identity. His Instagram grid is full of pics featuring him decked out in rainbow regalia.
As one of only six male pro basketball players to ever come out during their active careers, Arcos didn’t always think he would be accepted. In his coming out post, he revealed he considered quitting the sport he loves.
Suffice to say, he’s glad he didn’t. “I’m convinced that sport can include us all,” he wrote at the end of his post.
Recently, Arcos commemorated his three-year anniversary of coming out with an uplifting message…complete with a fierce outfit!
Slay, you basketball mama!
“Today for me is another birthday, a different one and one that I will be proud of until the last of my days,” he wrote. “Thank you 26-year-old Daniel for writing that letter, which is still traveling the world and has given you the 3 best years of your life.”
While one out gay athlete is great, two is even better! Olympic gymnast Tomás González, who publicly came out as gay in his autobiography, was part of the festivities as well.
González made his Olympic debut at the 2012 London Games, placing fourth in the floor exercise and horse vault. The artistic gymnast finished seventh in the horse vault at Rio 2016.
The 36-year-old says he realized he was gay in his mid-20s. But it took him time to come to terms with his sexuality.
“I cried a lot those days,” he said. “I was in the process of coming to terms with myself as a homosexual and I felt that a part of me was dying, too.”
That feeling of listlessness propelled González to come out to his inner-circle in 2010. He says he was pleasantly surprised by their reaction, and at the end of the year, celebrated his birthday with his parents and first boyfriend.
Still, he feels limited by the heteronormative culture that permeates sports, including gymnastics.
“My circle did not change, but one always has to be aware that there are people with obstacles,” he said. “And then one wonders why? Machismo and homophobia are problems that are in society and in gymnastics too.”
But one of the best ways to counter stereotypes is visibility, which makes González’s presence at the Pan Am Games all the more important.
Nearly 7,000 athletes from 40 countries are competing at the Games, and homosexuality is still illegal in six of those nations.
Many other countries competing, including the Bahamas, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic, have virtually no anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.
Chile, meanwhile, has enjoyed big advances on gay rights. Though homosexuality wasn’t decriminalized until 1999, gay people now enjoy same-sex marriage and joint adoption rights.
In total, there are 12 out athletes participating in the Pan American Games. One of our favorites, Olympic gymnast Arthur Nory, is competing for Brazil.
He took home a silver medal this week.
Out LGBTQ+ athletes are all over the Pan Am Games. What a strong message to send to the world.
The three-time Olympic gymnast was fully embraced when he revealed he played for our team.