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Five most influential LGBT+ sportspeople

In recent decades the visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in our communities has developed considerably. Despite this excellent progress, many believe that the world of sport is still lagging behind. But here are some who are paving the way.

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In recent decades the visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in our communities has developed considerably. The law has changed in many countries to permit same-sex marriage, and major storytelling platforms such as Netflix and Hollywood are representing LGBTQ+ people more and more. Despite this excellent progress, many believe that the world of sport is still lagging behind.

According to a 2019 Human Rights Campaign report, 70% of LGBTQ+ people do not come out to their teammates and coaches through fear of homophobia and non-acceptance. Hence, sportspeople who decide to come out are not just being honest about who they are; they are taking an ethical and political stance that is crucial to shaping the future. 

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RUGBY: Garath Thomas 

Gareth Thomas made his name in international rugby following his debut for Wales against Japan in 1995. He then equalled the best Welsh record by scoring four tries in a match against Italy in 1999. Gareth was selected for the British and Irish Lions Tour of New Zealand in 2005 and was made the captain for the second and third tests in the series. 

Gareth and his wife, Jemma Thomas, filed for divorce in 2007; in 2009 their divorce was finalized. In December 2009, Garath announced that he was gay, telling the Daily Mail newspaper: “I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player, first and foremost. I am a man.”

By coming out as gay, Garath Thomas became the first openly gay male rugby player – he hoped his announcement would make it easier for a younger rugby player to come out and be accepted by the game, he said. 

Following his announcement, support for Garath was roundly positive, from his ex-wife Gemma, and the world of rugby. Later, in a newspaper interview, Gemma said they had wanted to stay together, but for that to happen, she would need to have all of him, not ninety percent. She went on to marry again, and so did Gareth – to a man called Stephen Thomas. Neither Garath, Gemma, nor Stephen enjoy the media attention surrounding their private lives and tend to steer clear of it. 

In September 2019, Garath made another public announcement – that he was hiv positive, with an undetectable status. He was again applauded for his bravery and proactive stance on the issue. On the day of the announcement, he completed an Ironman event.  

Sportspeople who decide to come out are not just being honest about who they are; they are taking an ethical and political stance that is crucial to shaping the future. 

FOOTBALL: Katie Sowers 

In 2020, Katie Sowers became the first openly gay person to coach at the Super Bowl, acting as an offensive assistant for the San Francisco 49ers. She was born in Kansas and began playing football at the age of eight. She began her playing career with West Michigan Mayhem and the Kansas City Titans. In 2013, she won the IFAF Women’s World Championship with the United States Women’s National American Football Team – but in 2016 she announced her retirement, due to a hip injury.  

Following her retirement, Sowers joined the National Football League with Atlanta Falcons – she was a wide receiver’s intern. She stayed with the Falcons after the internship ended as a scout before moving to the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers hired her through the ‘Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship,’ a program that aims to bring more diversity into NFL coaching positions. Sowers continued her work as a seasonal coaching assistant until 2019 when she received a promotion to a full-time position. In her first season as an offensive assistant, the 49ers won the championship sending the club to the Super Bowl – Katie Sowers then became the first female, and openly gay coach, involved in the event.

As one of the first out female coaches in the world of football, Katie Sowers represents a change in attitudes within the sport and its official governing bodies. The need for more inclusivity and diversity in the sport, particularly within coaching roles, has opened up new channels of possibility for talented minority coaches to make an impact. Katie Sowers is likely to be both an inspiration to younger minorities involved in the game and the first of many in leading professional roles.   

DIVING: Tom Daley

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Tom Daley is an Olympic diver and award-winning personality who disclosed his sexuality on his popular YouTube channel in 2013. He was born in Devon, England, in 1994. He had an early interest in diving and was noticed by a diving coach at a local center. After being placed into a competitive squad for the first time in 2002, his career went from strength to strength; he won many junior events throughout his boyhood and began entering professional competitions as a teenager. 

In 2012, Tom Daley, along with his counterpart Jessica Ennis, was tipped to be among the first medallists of the London Olympic Games. They were widely publicized with big brand department store John Lewis displaying 40-foot banners of them outside selected stores. The event itself, however, didn’t go exactly to plan. Tom’s performances in the dives varied drastically – in one event he requested to retake the dive due to the interference of camera flashes. Despite the setbacks, Tom won a bronze medal in the men’s 10-meter dive event.

In 2010 Tom began a YouTube channel where he uploaded Vlogs on a range of topics including food, exercises, and lifestyle. In 2019, his channel had 800,000 subscribers and over 100 million views. It was on this channel in 2013 that Tom announced he had been in a relationship with a man since earlier that year. In summary, he said that he had never before felt love before and that he couldn’t be happier with his new partner. He stopped short of applying a label to himself, merely saying that he still fancied girls, but the attraction felt much stronger with his spouse.

TENNIS: Renee Richards

Renee Richards is a former American tennis player who underwent male-to-female reassignment surgery and competed in professional tennis tournaments in the 1970s. Born in 1934 in New York City, she grew up as a Jewish boy named Richard Raskin. As a youngster, she excelled as a wide receiver on the football team, a pitcher on the baseball team, as well as an outstanding performer on the tennis court. 

In college, Richards began dressing as a woman which eventually led to reassignment surgery in 1975. Following her surgery, she battled to compete in several professional tennis tournaments. 

Renee Richards personal journey and professional success was not easy. She experienced issues with her identity, which created sexual confusion, depression, and suicidal tendencies. In the early to mid-sixties, she began to see a doctor called Charles Ihlenfeld, who specialized in endocrinology, transsexualism, and sexual reassignment. With the help of Dr Ihlenfeld, she began taking hormone injections in the hope of future reassignment surgery. It finally happened in the early 1970s through a specialist surgeon – following the surgery, she moved to Newbeach, California.   

While in California Renee (a name which means reborn in French) picked up tennis again and began playing at the local club. Her devastating left-hand soon caught the attention of the club, and she was entered into several professional tournaments including The Tennis Week Open. The USTA and WTA attempted to block her through sanctions, but she won a court case at the New York State court arguing that the governing body was undermining her human right to be a woman.    

SOCCER: Megan Rapinoe

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Women’s soccer has boomed in recent years, growing in popularity around the globe; diversity in the sport is also on the rise, and people such as Megan Rapinoe are leading the way. Born in 1985 she is an American winger who has played in World Cup tournaments for her country, as well as a string of home-based professional teams. She is known for her skill on the ball, her accurate passing, and composed finishing. Outside of the game, she is an advocate for many LGBTQ+ organization, like Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Athlete Ally. 

In her first year of college, Rapinoe discovered that she was attracted to women; she officially came out in the July 2012 edition of Out magazine – aged 27. In her interview, she disclosed that she had been in a relationship with Sarah Welsh, an Australian soccer player, since 2009. Five years later, the couple ended their relationship. In 2015 Rapinoe announced her engagement to Sera Cahoone; however, the arrangements were put on hold. Rapinoe later confirmed she had been dating basketball star Sue Bird. 

As well as openly expressing her sexuality in the media, Rapinoe is an advocate of LGBTQ+ rights and has stood up against inequality and discrimination – quite publicly – on a number of occasions. In 2016, she knelt down during the national anthem at an NFL league game in support of Colin Kaepernick, and has refused to sing the national anthem on several occasions: “being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” she says.

Travel

Trump-appointed judges void Florida bans on conversion therapy for children

Two south Florida laws that banned therapists from offering conversion therapy to children struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity were declared as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court.

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Two south Florida laws that banned therapists from offering conversion therapy to children struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity were declared as unconstitutional by a federal appeals court.

In the case – Otto et al v City of Boca Raton, Florida et al, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 19-10604 – the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided (in a 2-1 decision) with two therapists who said the laws in the city of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County violated their free speech rights.

American Republican President Donald Trump – the loser in the country’s latest presidential election, and who refuses to concede – appointed the two judges who supported conversion therapy.

According to Circuit Judge Britt Grant, the laws “allow speech that many find concerning – even dangerous,” but the First Amendment “does not allow communities to determine how their neighbors may be counseled about matters of sexual orientation or gender.”

The therapists in the case, Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton, said their clients had “sincerely held religious beliefs conflicting with homosexuality,” and they sought counseling to conform their identities and behaviors with those beliefs.

A study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law noted that 20 American states and Washington, D.C. already ban licensed healthcare professionals from conducting conversion therapy on children. The practice – which aims to change people’s sexual orientations or gender identities – stigmatizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and is linked to depression, anxiety and suicide.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) also opposes conversion therapy, since the practice often assumes that homosexuality is a mental disorder.

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Health & Wellness

Lesbian, gay, bisexual communities more at-risk for dementia – study

Social inequality makes less privileged groups, including sexual minorities, more prone to develop cognitive impairment. So making the society more just and more accepting of diverse sexuality may help prevent dementia and reduce related health care burden on society.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual — or LGB — people are more vulnerable to one of the fastest-growing health concerns in the country: dementia, according to research from Michigan State University.

“Our study speaks to the unaddressed questions about whether members the LGB community are more likely to develop cognitive impairment at older ages and, if so, what factors contribute to their poorer cognitive health, ” said Ning Hsieh, an assistant professor of sociology at MSU and lead author of the study published in the journal, The Gerontologist.

“We knew that stress and depression are risk factors for many chronic health problems, including cognitive impairment, in later life. LGB people experience more stressful events and have higher rates of depression compared to their heterosexual counterparts,” she said.

Analyzing the elevated cognitive health risks among older members of the LGB community, the study was the first to use a national sample and screening tool to gauge cognitive health disparities between LGB and heterosexual older adults.

Hsieh and MSU colleagues Hui Liu, professor of sociology, and Wen-Hua Lai, a Ph.D. student of sociology — compared cognitive skills of 3,500 LGB and heterosexual adults using a screening tool and questionnaire that tests for six domains. Those areas included temporal orientation; language; visuospatial skills; executive function; attention, concentration and working memory; and short-term memory.

Social inequality makes less privileged groups, including sexual minorities, more prone to develop cognitive impairment. So making the society more just and more accepting of diverse sexuality may help prevent dementia and reduce related health care burden on society.

The researchers found that on average, older LGB adults were more likely to fall into categories for mild cognitive impairment or early dementia compared to heterosexual older adults. The team also tested for specific health and social factors — such as physical conditions, mental health conditions, living a healthy lifestyle and social connections — and the only factor related to cognitive differences for sexual minorities was depression.

“Our findings suggest that depression may be one of the important underlying factors leading to cognitive disadvantages for LGB people,” Hsieh said. “They may experience higher rates of depression than their heterosexual peers for many reasons, including not being accepted by parts of society, feeling ashamed of their sexual orientation or trying to hide their romantic relationships and being treated unfairly in school or at work.”

The researchers felt surprised that other factors — such as fewer social connections, drinking or smoking — didn’t have as great of an effect on LGB people’s cognitive function later in life. But, they also recognized the need for additional research to understand how the stressors sexual minorities experience earlier in life can lead to cognitive impairments as they age. Additionally, Hsieh said, they hope that the study’s findings shed light on the need for greater inclusivity for sexual minorities, as it can have an influence on their mental and cognitive well-being.

“Social inequality makes less privileged groups, including sexual minorities, more prone to develop cognitive impairment,” Hsieh said. “Making the society more just and more accepting of diverse sexuality may help prevent dementia and reduce related health care burden on society.”

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Lifestyle & Culture

Learning to live with a health condition

If you wish to learn to live with a health condition, then, how can you? This can be a scary and ever-changing space, and it’s not apparent what the best wisdom is. With our tidbits of guidance below, we hope this time can feel a little less daunting.

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Increased societal awareness regarding the empowerment of minorities, the acceptance of non-heteronormative sexual and gender identities, and the true need for empathy regarding mental health has made strides in these last years. There’s a long way to go, but we’re on the right path.

That said, it’s also true that these problems are hardly an exhaustive list. It’s true to say that many of us can be subject to challenge and hardship in life, and perhaps the one issue that transcends cultures, borders, and classes is that of our health. Anyone can be surprised with a new health condition they must manage, and anyone must try to ensure a worthwhile quality of life as they adapt and adjust to their new responsibilities. Even those of us who are able-bodied should be able to understand that healthy regard for those less fortunate than ourselves is fundamental to a good and caring society.

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If you wish to learn to live with a health condition, then, how can you? This can be a scary and ever-changing space, and it’s not apparent what the best wisdom is. With our tidbits of guidance below, we hope this time can feel a little less daunting.

Understanding The New Norms

Anyone with a health condition must navigate new norms. For some, this might suggest a chance in diet, a limit regarding how much they can eat, or more. It might be having to discuss with new friends or relatives just what your needs are, and how this might impact your ability to socialize. Moreover, it means researching into your condition and the careful handling of it. For instance, learning about how to increase the life of your hearing aid can ensure you’re cared for for longer, which, as things go, will help you feel more cared for.

Taking Responsibility

It’s important to take responsibility for your condition – to the extent that you can. This doesn’t mean that it was ‘your fault,’ or anything so horrible, rather that it’s important to know you have to make the best of it, and to stay grateful regardless. That’s easy for us to say as we can’t know the extent to which your life has changed in this way, but we can certainly recommend that this attitude can help anyone fight through anything. 

It might be that you rededicate yourself to exercise and a good diet after this wake up call. It could be that you simply try to be nicer and more empathetic to people. We hope this doesn’t come across as blunt or insensitive, but there are so many people out there that let their hardship improve them. You’ll no doubt be one of those people. In this way, you can always make the best of a bad situation.

Leaning On Others Is Okay

It’s fine to lean on others. We all need to from time to time. And, furthermore, people want to help. They want to be leaned on. They don’t like seeing someone they know struggling and only allowing themselves to do that alone. It makes them feel unwanted and unhelpful. So – enlist your family members or ask for help from your friends if you really need it. There’s no shame here. It’s why people assembling in groups in the first place – to be part of one another’s journey.

With this advice, we hope you can learn to live with a health condition in the best possible sense.

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Health & Wellness

Many transgender people who receive hormone therapy have unaddressed heart disease risks

The researchers found that more than half of the study participants (56.5%) had been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, which is also associated with increased risk of heart disease.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

Many transgender people who receive gender-affirming hormone therapy already have unaddressed heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, even during young adulthood, according to new research presented via the American Heart Association.

“Previous research has shown that transgender individuals are less likely to have access to health care or to utilize health care for a variety of reasons, including stigma and fear of mistreatment,” said Kara J. Denby, M.D., lead study author and a clinical fellow in cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. “Since transgender individuals have frequent physician visits while taking hormone therapy, this seems an opportune time to screen for cardiovascular risk factors and treat previously undiagnosed cardiovascular disease that can lead to poor health outcomes in the future.”

The researchers examined risk factors and medical history for more than 400 adults (56% assigned male sex at birth, mostly in their 20s and 30s) when they first sought care at the multidisciplinary transgender program at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

The researchers found that more than half of the study participants (56.5%) had been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, which is also associated with increased risk of heart disease.

For participants without current heart disease, two scoring systems were used to estimate their risk of developing heart disease. The researchers found: 6.8% had undiagnosed high blood pressure; and 11.3% had undiagnosed high cholesterol.

Of those already diagnosed with high blood pressure, more than one-third had not been receiving recommended treatment. And, of those already diagnosed with high cholesterol, more than three-quarters had not been receiving recommended treatment.

“When we calculated the risk for developing a heart attack or stroke over 10 years, the risk for transgender men and women was higher than that reported for the average (person) of their age and gender. We also found that, even in the highest risk individuals, many were not receiving recommended treatment,” said Denby.

In addition, the researchers found that more than half of the study participants (56.5%) had been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, which is also associated with increased risk of heart disease.

“Transgender individuals face numerous barriers and biases to access the health care they need. We owe it to them to improve access and care so they can improve their CVD health and overall well-being. Policies and health care structures that are safe and supportive are critical for the transgender population to achieve health equity,” Denby said.

The study, however, is limited by being a retrospective review of medical records. The results cannot be used to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between being transgender and the presence of heart disease risk factors.

Co-authors include Meghana Patil, M.D.; Karlo Toljan, M.D.; Leslie Cho, M.D.; and Cecile A. Ferrando, M.D., M.P.H. Author disclosures are in the abstract. The researchers reported no external funding sources.

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Travel

Italy eyes to make violence against LGBT people a hate crime

A bill eyeing to criminalize violence against LGBT people was approved in Italy’s lower house of parliament. It now needs final approval from upper house before becoming law.

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A bill eyeing to criminalize violence against LGBT people was approved in Italy’s lower house of parliament. It now needs final approval from upper house before becoming law.

Italy’s lower house of parliament passed an anti-discrimination bill that makes violence committed against LGBT people and disabled people a hate crime. The bill actually modifies an existing law punishing racist violence, hatred and discrimination; with people convicted of such crimes facing up to four years in jail.

Approved by 265 votes to 193, with one abstention, the legislation now needs final approval from the upper house, where it is backed by the ruling coalition parties.

The bill actually only originally focused on tackling offenses involving homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. But it was eventually expanded to also offer protections to people with disability.

The bill did not exactly pass without opposition, particularly from right-wing parties, conservative groups and the Italian Catholic Church. Among the contentious elements was the bill’s proposal to observe the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on 17 May every year, with initiatives and ceremonies in Italian schools.

As reported by Arcigay, one of the biggest LGBTQIA organizations in Italy, there are more than 100 hate crime and discrimination cases reported in the country each year. But over the last 25 years, numerous attempts to create a law to punish acts of homophobia and transphobia have failed.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Win your customers over with humor

For inspiration, take a look at these top tips to win your customers over with humor.

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When it’s done right, humor can be a great way to connect with your target audience. It makes your business more relatable and allows potential customers to see the human side of your company. What’s more – humor can be a critical part of your brand, which means you’ll want to inject something funny into as much of your marketing materials as possible.

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For inspiration, take a look at these top tips to win your customers over with humor.

Test Your Material

Just because you think something’s funny, doesn’t mean everyone else will. When it comes to testing your material, you’ll want to do more than just ask the person sitting next to you whether something’s amusing. With online market research, you can test potential concepts, puns, and jokes on members of your target audience. This gives you the chance to get honest feedback and figure out whether you’re hitting the right mark.

Own Your Mistakes

Every company makes mistakes from time-to-time, but it doesn’t need to wreck your brand. By owning your mistakes and putting things right, customers will forgive you for the odd misstep. If something has gone wrong, humor can be a good tool to use. You can acknowledge a mistake in an amusing way, show that you’re happy to laugh at yourself, and even enhance your customers’ opinion of your brand.

Use Varied Content

When it comes to being funny, you don’t have to stick to one tried and tested method. Whether you’re producing funny snack ads, amusing articles, or sassy social media posts, be as varied as possible. By incorporating numerous types of content into your marketing campaigns, you can reach more people and get a better return on your investment. Furthermore, you’ll be able to boost engagement across multiple platforms and reap the rewards that it brings.

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