At the Rio Olympics, LGBT history will be made when the first same sex married couple– British hockey players Kate Richardson-Walsh and Helen Richardson-Walsh will compete. Brazil is not an LGBT friendly country and with that in mind, this historic moment takes on even more importance.
Kate and Helen met as children, playing the same sport together. They both went to the Olympics for the first time in 2000 in Sydney. In 2008, Kate ended her engagement to Brett Gazzard, the captain of Great Britain’s men’s hockey team, and soon after, Kate and Helen began dating. In 2013, the couple married.
Kate said in an interview, “We’re a couple, we love each other, and we happen to be playing in the same team. I think because our teammates and our friends and family have all been so supportive and understanding of that we also don’t see anything strange or different.”
This year there are approximately 44 openly gay athletes participating in the games, which is a record number. However, many countries at the Olympics still harbor outdated, ridiculous and discriminatory anti-LGBT laws and practices.
Unfortunately, Brazil is one of these countries. “It is not easy to be gay, transsexual, or transvestite in Brazil because you face discrimination at home, in the schools, in church, at work, in the streets, by the government,” said Luiz Mott, founder of the Grupo Gay da Bahia, the oldest LGBT rights group in Brazil.
Taking a step in the right direction, though, Rio has set up a safe haven for gay Olympians at Pride House. “It is a place where LGBT visitors can expect to get advice and support on keeping themselves safe in the area, as well as what to do if they experience hate crimes or violence,” said Keph Senett, a coalition member of the house.
And with the additional increased security at the Rio Olympics, we hope that the athletes can worry about nothing more than going for the gold!