Greg Louganis won Olympic gold medals for diving in 1984 and 1988. But he still wasn’t quite enough to land a coveted Wheaties box.
And by “enough,” I mean straight.
“[Wheaties’] response was that I didn’t fit their wholesome demographics or whatever,” Louganis once explained of the cereal snub. “Basically, being gay, or being rumored that I was gay, [prevented me from being on the box].”
If your blood is boiling at that, you’re not alone.
When it comes to America’s acceptance of LGBTQ athletes, clearly, a lot has changed since Louganis was given the cold shoulder two decades ago. But we don’t need a cereal box to tell us that — just look at this year’s Team USA roster.
America boasts seven out and proud LGBTQ Olympians competing in this year’s games — and all of them are women.
These badass queer athletes are helping show young LGBTQ people around the world that, yes, they can play sports too — and be amazing at it.
1. Brittney Griner, basketball
When the 6’8″ center isn’t snagging rebounds, Griner’s working on her mobile app, BG:BU, which helps young people fight bullying.
2. Megan Rapinoe, soccer
Rapinoe helped the U.S. women’s soccer team win gold against Japan at the 2012 games. Also, she can’t travel without gum and a reliable neck pillow, in case you’re wondering what she probably brought with her carry-on luggage to Brazil.
3. Ashley Nee, canoe/kayak
Nee — who’s been on the world championship stage for the past three years — basically lives in the water. But she can have fun on land too. Her hobbies include street art and long boarding.
4. Kelly Griffin, rugby
Today, Griffin is a warrior on the field, but that wasn’t always the case. She didn’t start playing rugby until her freshman year of college.
5. Seimone Augustus, basketball
Augustus, who helped lead her team to gold in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, started her own foundation to raise awareness around health and wellness.
6. Jillion Potter, rugby
Potter is a Coloradan (who’s kinda obsessed with flossing) who helped her team win bronze in the world championships in 2013.
7. Angel McCoughtry, basketball
McCoughtry has already set individual U.S. records at the Olympics for best field goal percentage and most field goals made. But she also wins brownie points for having a song available on iTunes called “Illusion.”
This isn’t just a big year for queer U.S. Olympians either. Globally, there are more out LGBTQ Olympians than ever before.
There’s a record-breaking 43 (and counting) out LGBTQ Olympians in total participating in this year’s games, according to historian Tony Scupham-Bilton and Outsports.
And that’s a huge flippin’ deal (that diving pun’s for you, Tom Daley).
So is 2016 just … gayer than years past?
I wish! Queer athletes have always competed in the Olympics, of course, but ever-evolving societal views have made more athletes comfortable competing as their authentic selves. What’s even cooler about 2016 is that game-changing new policies are opening the door for more transgender Olympians to compete too.
While we certainly shouldn’t ignore the fact that, in many regions of the world, progress on LGBTQ rights and visibility has been much slower — and in some places, legislation is even going backward — there’s no denying that the global trend is bending toward equality.
Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally — a leading organization combating homophobia in sports — told Upworthy, “The progress is palpable.”
“In the last year, we have seen more athletes come out, more allies speak out, and more teams and leagues take a stand than at any other time in history,” he noted.
All of this progress surely puts a smile on Louganis’ face. After all, he’s been demanding change since his Olympics three decades ago.
“We’ve come so far, as far as marriage equality and so many things that I’ve really kind of fought hard for,” Louganis said. “I never thought I’d see the day that I would be able to get married.”
Oh, and that whole Wheaties fiasco? A popular online petition demanding Louganis get his cereal box got the right people’s attention at General Mills earlier this year, and justice was finally served. He got his Wheaties box.
“It means more now than it probably would’ve then because they would’ve been celebrating the athlete [back then],” he recently told “Oprah: Where are they Now.” “I’m a gay man living with HIV. I feel like I’m being embraced as a whole person and not just a part of me.”