Towards the end of each year, I write a series of posts about the biggest LGBTQ stories. This year, I’m writing about the five stories which shaped the LGBTQ community in 2015.

Not everyone will agree with me, but the number of athletes who have come out as gay or bi at every level of Sports is perhaps the most significant LGBTQ news story of 2015. Just this past week, another news story was added to this trend– Los Angeles Dodgers executive Erik Braverman came out with the goal to inspire youth. I think however, the story will also help support current athletes, as it demonstrates that management already is or can be supportive.

I’ve written a number of posts every year regarding the issue of out of the closet athletes, and I expect that this will continue in 2016. Here’s why this is so important.

Stigma and discrimination against gays and is most often rooted in gender roles and expectations about gender expression, whereas Sports is an arena where masculinity and “acting like a man” is worshipped and expected as the norm. When athletes who are the epitome of winners and great sportsmen, this challenges the false ideas about masculinity and sexual orientation. That some women athletes come out as gay supports this notion that sexual orientation has nothing to do with ideas of gender expression, or rather, gay, bi and straight men and women are very normal. One of the best examples, was when free skier, Gus Kensworthy came out.

Equally important as his coming out, were the reactions of other athletes, a number of whom suspected and didn’t care. This suggests that overall younger sports loving guys and girls just don’t care about the orientation of talented athletes. Like Braverman’s coming out, Gus’s revelation will inspire many youth to be proud of who they are, so that the next generations of queer youth may grow up totally different from previous generations.

Still, there is plenty more work to be done– these stories are not yet nearly common enough and there are potentially thousands of closeted athletes playing at every level of Sports. We have not yet reached a tipping point where these stories are unimportant or too commonplace.

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