The Paralympics kick off on August 24th, with at least 23 out LGBTQ athletes from at least 8 countries competing in an event defined by inclusion and equality
August 18, 2021

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is highlighting the participation of out LGBTQ athletes in this year’s Paralympic Games in Tokyo. This year, the number of out LGBTQ athletes (23) is nearly double the amount that competed (12) in at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. GLAAD recommends that journalists covering the Paralympics refer to the resource guide, “COVERING LGBTQ ATHLETES AT THE 2020 OLYMPICS AND PARALYMPICS,” published by GLAAD, Athlete Ally, and Pride House Tokyo. The guide offers the most up-to-date terminology, tips on fair and accurate coverage of LGBTQ athletes, and helpful context and background.

Quote from Rich Ferraro, Chief Communications Officer at GLAAD:

“The Paralympics by nature are a celebration of inclusion and equality, and the historic number of out LGBTQ athletes participating this year is something to celebrate. LGBTQ people are more likely to live with disabilities and to face systemic discrimination on both fronts; the visibility brought by the Paralympics and its talented athletes helps fight that stigma. Every athlete, regardless of ability, gender, race, or sexual orientation, deserves a chance to participate in sports and to represent their communities with pride.”

Quote from Lauren Appelbaum, Vice President, Entertainment and News Media & Communications at RespectAbility:

“There is a large intersection between the LGBTQ+ community and the disability community, and the increased representation at this year’s Paralympic Games reflects that. We hope that even more out athletes participate in the future, as it is critical for all disabled people to have positive role models for success.”

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games begin August 24th and run through September 5th. Like the Olympics, the Paralympics were delayed one year by the pandemic but retain the official 2020 name. The Paralympics are the largest sporting event in the world for people with disabilities, and a total of 540 events across 22 sports are included this year, with badminton and Taekwondo making their Paralympics debut. Over 3500 athletes from at least 134 nations will compete—which includes a Refugee Paralympic Team made up of refugees who have fled war or human rights abuses in their home nations.

At least 23 out LGBTQ athletes are participating. To date, there are 20 out LGBTQ women, one out LGBTQ man (Lee Peerson), and two out nonbinary athletes (Robyn Lambird and Maria “Maz” Strong) competing. GLAAD uses information provided by Athlete Ally and Outsports to highlight just a few of the many athletes to watch this year:

  • Monique Matthews (Sitting Volleyball, USA)

  • Hailey Danz (Triathlon, USA)

  • Lee Peerson (GB, Equestrian)

  • Robyn Love (GB, Wheelchair Basketball)

  • Edênia Garcia (Brazil, Swimming)

  • Robyn Lambird (Australia, Wheelchair Racing)

  • Maria “Maz” Strong (Australia, Seated Shot Put)

About the Paralympic Games:

The first Paralympics were held in 1960, with 400 athletes from 23 countries competing in Rome. Like the Olympics, they now take place every four years, with separate Winter and Summer Paraympics each hosting a closing and opening ceremony. The Paralympics were created to allow athletes with disabilities to strive for and reach the pinnacle of athletic excellence. Eligible disabilities are broken down into ten main categories: impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. From there, classifications continue and vary by sport.

The Paralympics are held in the same city, using the same facilities, as the Olympics. This is the second time the Paralympics are held in Tokyo, as they also took place there shortly after the Olympics in 1964.

About LGBTQ people with disabilities:

According to a study published in 2012, 36 percent of LGBTQ women and 30 percent of LGBTQ men self-identify as disabled individuals. 26 percent of gay men and 40 percent of bisexual men disclosed having a disability, as did 36 percent of lesbians and 36 percent of bisexual women. Research done in 2019 by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Center for American Progress estimated that nearly 5 million LGBTQ people live with one or more disabilities. For transgender people the numbers are higher: while one in four adults (including those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual) in the U.S. have a disability, two in five transgender adults identify as disabled. Further research done by UCLA via the California Health Interview Survey shows that trans people “are significantly more likely to report having a disability due to a physical, mental or emotional condition.”

People with disabilities and LGBTQ people face similar obstacles in terms of bias and stigma; these issues can be compounded for LGBTQ people with disabilities. Similarly to LGBTQ people, people living with non-visible disabilities (such as mental health conditions, learning disabilities, or physical conditions that are not immediately apparent) often have to weigh the benefits of “coming out” against the possible drawbacks of making their disability known.

To reference the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics LGBTQ coverage guide by GLAAD, Athlete Ally, and Pride House Tokyo, visit: 

For more tips on fair and accurate coverage of people with disabilities, reference the National Center on Disability and Journalist style guide:

For more information on disability resources and specific communities, reference RespectAbility’s Solutions Center: and RespectAbility’s LGBTQ resources: 

About RespectAbility:

RespectAbility is a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, and that advances policies and practices that empower people with disabilities to have a better future. RespectAbility’s mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Follow RespectAbility on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.