Illustration by Kelly Doherty/OutWrite
In light of the negative sentiment toward transgender athletes, I’ve found there isn’t enough coverage of queer and trans athletes that celebrates their accomplishments. In honor of the 2024 Paris Olympics slogan “Games wide open,” I’ve compiled a list of 15 queer athletes who are excelling in their sport, competing in the 2024 Paris games, or both.
Lia Thomas (Swimming)
Lia Thomas is a transgender swimmer who took first place in the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships for women’s swimming last year. She was the first openly transgender athlete to win a NCAA Championship. Despite controversy about whether she should be allowed to compete at the University of Pennsylvania on the women’s team, she planned to make a bid for the 2024 Olympics. The World Aquatics guidelines for transgender women involved proving that their concentration of testosterone is below 5 nmol/L for 36 months prior to applying and that they had not experienced assigned male at birth puberty beyond age twelve. New guidelines have come out banning all transgender women from competing in the Paris 2024 Olympic games. However, Thomas is still a trailblazing elite swimmer and will continue to compete nationally.
Carl Nassib (NFL Football)
Carl Nassib is an outside linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well as the first NFL player to publicly come out while still playing. Nassib was first drafted to the Cleveland Browns in 2016 before becoming a starter the following season, then was waived by the team in 2018. He set career highs for tackles and sacks upon joining the Buccaneers before moving to the Raiders in 2020, where he became the first openly gay player to compete in a playoff game. Nassib returned to the Buccaneers for the 2022 season. He is currently in a happy relationship with Danish Olympic swimmer Soren Dahl.
Mina Margraf (College Gymnastics)
Mina Margraf is a queer gymnast who qualified twice for the Junior Olympics before signing with the notoriously homophobic Brigham Young University in Utah. Margraf competed in every meet in the 2023 season and achieved a career high of 9.925 on beam. Margraf didn’t have much time to consider her sexuality until injuries to her elbow forced her to stay out of the gym for a period in high school. As a bisexual athlete, she acknowledged that the culture of the conservative university is changing but, in an interview with Outsports about experiencing homophobia on campus, she notes, “It does pile up and it does kind of wear on your shoulders. Being in an environment where you don’t feel as supported in that aspect is challenging.”
Parker Landon Dunn (Soccer)
Parker Dunn is a transgender soccer player for the London Bees as well as TRUK United FC, the first all transmasculine soccer team in European history. The team debuted on 2023’s Trans Day of Visibility, and Dunn scored the first of eight goals that night. Two months after coming out, Dunn created a TikTok account to become a role model for other transgender soccer players that he never had growing up. He feared losing his contract with the London Bees, but, according to an interview with Sports Media LGBT+, found his coach and teammates to be “very supportive” when he came out and asked them to use his preferred name and pronouns. Dunn is passionate about making sports more welcoming to trans athletes through implementing systems such as using the number of stripes on a player’s jersey to indicate their pronouns, so they aren’t misgendered by referees and announcers.
Brittney Sykes (WNBA Basketball)
Brittney Sykes was drafted as a guard to the Atlanta Dream in 2017, becoming the earliest drafted women’s basketball player in Syracuse history. She went on to play for the Los Angeles Sparks from 2020 to 2022 before joining the Washington Mystics for the upcoming 2023 season. She is an outspoken advocate for the queer community and identifies as lesbian.
Alexis Sablone (Olympic Skateboarding Coach)
Alexis Sablone competed in every X Games since 2009, which marked her return to the sport after being told there wasn’t a place for women in skateboarding as a teenager. After designing a skateable sculpture in Sweden, releasing two pairs of Converse skate shoes (one of which was Pride themed), and placing second at the 2019 USA National Skateboarding Championships, Sablone was chosen for the first ever USA National Skateboarding team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She went on to place fourth in the Olympic street finals and will coach Team USA for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Luke Prokop (Professional Hockey Player and NHL Prospect)
Luke Prokop is a defenseman for the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) in Canada as well as a prospect for the Nashville Predators. He came out as gay in 2021, becoming the first player currently signed with the NHL to do so. NHL teams and players have recently come under fire for refusing to wear the Pride jerseys the league designed to promote inclusion for fans and athletes alike. Notably, Russian Orthodox player Ivan Provorov notably refused to wear a the jersey for religious reasons, and the Chicago Blackhawks declined to wear them due to security concerns raised by Russian players. Prokop published a statement on Twitter in light of these controversies: “Pride nights and pride jerseys play an important role in promoting and respecting inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community and it’s disheartening to see some teams no longer wearing them or embracing their significance.”
Aleshia Ocasio (Professional Softball)
Aleshia Ocasio played for the Florida Gators in college, helping the team win the 2015 Women’s College World Series. She also pitched the first seven-inning postseason no-hitter in Florida Gators history. After college, she played for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch League. Ocasio now plays for the Puerto Rico women’s national softball team, where she represented Puerto Rico at the 2022 World Games. She identifies as a lesbian and is married to Washington Mystics (WNBA) player Natasha Cloud. Ocasio is outspoken about her advocacy for queer athletes of color in interviews and on her Instagram.
Natasha Cloud (WNBA Basketball)
Natasha Cloud is a Washington Mystics player who helped the team win their first WNBA Championship in 2019. She decided to sit out the 2020 season to focus on social activism in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the tumultuous racial climate following the murder of George Floyd. In 2022, Cloud achieved a career high in both points and assists. She was the first female basketball player to sign with Converse where she aims to “use my platform as a microphone” and “be a voice for the voiceless.” She is married to softball player Aleshia Ocasio after meeting online.
Nadezhda “Nadya” Karpova (Professional Soccer)
Nadya Karpova is a forward for RCD Espanyol and a member of the Russian National team. She became the first openly LGBTQ+ Russian national athlete after coming out as a lesbian in 2022. She is opposed to Russia competing in the Paris 2024 Olympics and is outspoken about her stance on Russia’s actions in their war against Ukraine. She is also an Adidas brand ambassador and has modeled for Balenciaga.
Quinn (Professional Soccer)
Quinn is a midfielder for the National Women’s Soccer League club OL Reign and the Canada National Team, previously playing for Washington Spirit and Paris FC. They are the first openly transgender and nonbinary athlete to compete and win a gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They became the highest drafted Canadian athlete in NWSL history in 2018 and helped the Canadian National Team advance to the Round of 16 in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Alana Smith (Professional Skateboarding)
Alana Smith is a Team USA skateboarder who competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the women’s street skateboarding event. They are the youngest medalist in X Games history, winning silver in the women’s park event at the age of 12. When they competed in the Olympics, they had their pronouns — they/them — engraved on their skateboard and written on their shirt, but were still misgendered by broadcasters who covered the event. They want to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics, but fear it will be “highly gendered.” They have experienced a negative impact on their mental health from being sorted into a binary gendered category when competing.
Dijana “DiDi” Haračić (Professional Soccer)
Dijana Haračić is a goalkeeper for NWSL league Angel City FC. She also plays for her home country on the Bosnian National Team, where she started for their World Cup qualifying match against Russia in 2018. She started playing with D.C. United before they were renamed the Washington Spirit along with several other teams before being traded to Angel City FC for their inaugural season in 2021. She was named Angel City FC’s Most Valuable Player in 2022. Haračić came out in her sophomore year of college and feels supported by both her league and teammates. In an interview with Athlete Ally, she says, “I’m blessed to be surrounded by a great group of empowering women who support the LGBTQ community and also those who share their experiences as out athletes.”
Merrick McHenry (UCLA Men’s Volleyball)
Merrick McHenry is a middle blocker for UCLA Men’s Volleyball and just helped lead the team to their 20th national title. Boasting a 0.537 mark ranking, the second highest in UCLA history, he finished the season with a career high of 107 blocks. McHenry was born in a small town in Texas and feels more comfortable with his gay identity now that he resides in Westwood.
Sophie McKinna (Olympic Shot Put)
Sophie McKinna is a six-time national shot put champion in her home country of Great Britain. She competed in the 2020 Olympics and will return to compete in Paris in 2024. McKinna came out as gay recently in an interview with Sky Sports News, where she cites coming out as a step on her journey to the Olympics.
Author: Ava Rosenberg (She/They)
Artist: Kelly Doherty (She/Her)
Copy Editors: Min Kim (They/Them), Bella (She/They)