University of Michigan’s Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office Founded
Jim Toy, the son of a Chinese father and Scottish-Irish mother, achieved distinction as a longtime advocate for LGBTQ persons. In 1971, he co-founded the University’s Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office, now known as the Spectrum Center. This achievement was monumental in that it was officially the first staff office for LGTBQ students in a United States institution of higher learning.
The WNBA launches
On April 24, 1996, women’s basketball announces “We Got Next” as the NBA Board of Governors approved the concept of a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) to begin play in June 1997. For the next 25 years, the WNBA and its athletes stand at the forefront of using their platforms as a place to promote social justice and racial equity. From Sheryl Swoopes advancing equality for people identifying as LGTBQ+ to Maya Moore leaving to prompt criminal justice reform to wearing shirts with bullet holes following the shooting of Jacob Blake, championing social justice has always been an integral part of the W. “We are a walking protest at all times as a W.N.B.A. athlete,” Mistie Bass told the New York Times in 2020.“If you think about it, we have so many different stigmas. We’re just constantly in the fight. I don’t think we have ever not been in a fight for equality, for justice.”
USWNT player Megan Rapinoe makes an unprecedented statement on international stage
Showing solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the U.S. Women’s National Team star kneels during the national anthem before an international match with Thailand in Columbus, Ohio. Research indicates no soccer player has ever knelt during the national anthem before an international competition anywhere, not just within the United States. Said Rapinoe: “It was a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now. I think it’s actually pretty disgusting the way he was treated and … [w]e need to have a more thoughtful, two-sided conversation about racial issues in this country. “Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it.”
Chand inspires LGBTQ+ community in India
Dutee Chand is India’s national women’s record holder in 100 meters and 4×100 relay. She came out in 2019 as India’s first openly gay athlete after the country’s Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality. Chand competed at the 2017 and 2019 World Athletics Championships, and the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. Chand’s sexuality was a controversial topic among her family, and her sister threatened to out her before Chand publicly announced her sexual orientation. Chand is seen as a role model and hero by many in the gay community in India.
Gold medalist Kerron Clement comes out
Kerron Clement, a Trinidadian-born American track & field athlete who competes in the 400-meter and 400-meter hurdles, won two Olympic gold medals and five world championships during his career and held an indoor world record in the 400m for nearly 13 years. In 2019, at age 33, Clement announces he is gay at a Nike event in Los Angeles and is considered the first U.S. men’s track star to come out while actively competing. “I was hiding that part because of what society thought,” he said, according to Outsports. “But it’s OK to be that way… Love is love. I have an attraction to men. It’s who I am and it’s what made me become the athlete I am today.”
Saunders wins Silver Medal, protests oppression and racism on Olympic podium
American shot putter Raven Saunders wins a Silver Medal at the Tokyo Olympics and crosses her arms into an X shape on the medal stand to represent “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.” The Black LGBTQ athlete, then 25, has spoken openly about her struggles with mental health, and says she aims to give light to “people all around the world who are fighting and don’t have the platform to speak up for themselves.” Saunders demonstrates on the podium despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rule prohibiting athletes from making such symbolic gestures on the medal podium. Prior to the start of the Tokyo Games, the IOC relaxes its Rule 50, which had banned all such demonstrations throughout the Olympics, allowing athletes to express their views on the field of play before the start of competition but still outlaws demonstrations during medal ceremonies. The IOC chooses not to discipline Saunders for her “X” gesture after her mother passes away days after the event.