“For athletes, the Olympics are the ultimate test of their worth”
It’s the thirtieth Olympiad; a time when athletes from many nations gather to compete in some of the toughest competitions in the world. They come from countries near and far for the opportunity to perform on the world stage and bring home a medal. Their countries cheer them on. National pride is at its peak, and many athletes go home in triumph.
But other athletes, even after training and sacrificing their entire lives will leave empty handed. Their only glory; knowing they were good enough to be called Olympians.
They will ALL go home, though: Some to adulation, fame, and fortune; others
to obscurity. And once they return home, they will resume their normal lives. For
the fortunate, “normal” means not only returning to a country where they are treated as special because of their special talents, it means they’re treated as equals. That’s how it will be for the athletes from Spain, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, England, Argentina, Portugal, and Nepal ... but not for some of the athletes of the USA ... because in the USA, if you are gay, even a gay Olympian, you are not equal.
And for gold medal winning Olympian diver, Greg Louganis, that was overwhelming.
Louganis, who was gay, resisted publicly acknowledging his sexuality when he became a major national figure. He never felt completely safe. Louganis described harassment at diving tournaments, where team members would hang "fag-busters" signs around dormitories and locker rooms
Even though he won two gold medals and clearly demonstrated to himself, the world, and to America that he was worthy of equality, he remained closeted until many years later.
That’s the way we treat our world class, world renowned athletes who are LGBTQ: with disdain. That’s the way we treat anyone who is LGBTQ. We consider them unworthy; claiming that the bible prohibits equality, especially marriage equality.
A current, widely-held belief is that the bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman. But that definition, which seems to be the sole basis for bigotry, hatred, and discrimination, ignores large portions of the Old Testament. For example, Abraham (founding forefather of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) saw marriage a different way. He had his wife Sarah sleep with both the Egyptian Pharaoh and the Semitic King Abimelech for political advantage and increased riches. Unable to provide Abraham with an heir, Sarah encouraged Abraham to marry her Egyptian slave as his second wife (Yalom 7).
Today of course, Abraham and Sarah’s sexual choices would be considered promiscuity and polygamy.
And, Abraham and Sarah did not have a state issued marriage license. Of course, marriage licenses were only first issued in the mid 1800’s to prevent whites from marrying non-whites. Their purpose was to ensure “racial purity.” On a national level, state issued marriage licenses have only existed since 1929.
“Traditional marriage” as we know it is really just a modern concept, fluid and evolving as times change. It is not, as some would have it, locked in the eternity of “God’s Law.” So the argument that the bible prohibits marriage equality is really a thinly veiled excuse for bigotry.
As we cheer our athletes on and then welcome them home with open arms, let us remember that some of them, like Greg Louganis, must lead secret lives. Many are terrified at being discovered for who they really are; especially in the 29 states where it is still legal for an employer to fire someone for being gay. And remember that their Olympic status will mean nothing in the 31 states where they are not worthy of the fundamental human right to marry.
And when the cheering ends, the crowds disperse, and the people move on to another event, let us also remember that we too are fighting a battle of Olympic proportions: the battle for equality. It will take all of our skills, talent, and determination to make equality a reality in this country. We cannot slacken our
pace. We cannot let up; because this, our Olympics, the Olympics of equality, is the ultimate test of worth. And every LGBTQ person, athlete or not, is worthy of equality under the law!
. . . And I’m just a mom who loves her son . . .
This post was previously published here on The Qu.