Swinton Insurance – Top 10 Sports Personalities 2020

In alphabetical order

This category is for a sportsperson that is are either LGBT+, or who have proven to be strong advocates of the LGBT+ community in sport.


Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff came out as gay publicly (she told family when she was 11) shortly before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, joining the condemnation of Russia’s anti-gay laws. She said: “I am very protective of those being discriminated against especially if it’s because of their sexuality. I wanted to send a message to the LGBT community in Russia that they’re supported.” She has achieved great success; in 2012 she made history as the first Australian woman to win a Snowboard Cross World Cup medal, gaining the Bronze in Austria, going on to win a Snowboard Cross World Cup in 2015.


Footballer Beth Mead scored two amazing goals that helped take England to victory in the SheBelieves Cup held in the US in 2019. The Arsenal forward also won the WFA Goal of the Year award for a goal against Brighton. Beth, who scored 77 goals in 78 games for her previous club, Sunderland, is a supporter of the Rainbow Laces campaign against homophobia in sport. Mead said: “I think it creates an environment for people to be able to talk and speak out about who they are, regardless of what anybody else thinks. It’s a great campaign that can help boys and girls to be open to who they are as people.”


An inspirational figure in motorsport, Charlie Martin is hoping to make history as the first trans driver in the 24-hour Le Mans race. She identified as transgender from early childhood, and transitioned in 2012, midway through her motor racing career, documenting her transition on her YouTube channel in the hope of helping others. Now a Stonewall Sport Champion, she says: “The biggest barrier that prevented me from being my true self in motorsport was undoubtedly the fact that I was unable to see anyone else like me, from club racing right up to professional level. I’m pleased I overcame this fear.”


Chris Mosier is an American triathlete and transgender advocate, whose challenge to the International Olympic Committee’s policy on the inclusion of trans athletes led to a change of policy. After transitioning in 2010, Mosier earned a spot on the Team USA sprint duathlon men’s team for the 2016 World Championship, making him the first known trans athlete to join a US national team different from his sex at birth. At first his participation was in jeopardy, but he became the catalyst for change that widened inclusion. He founded the international resource transathlete.com and works with You Can Play organisation for LGBT+ athletes.


Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas, who represented his country in both Rugby Union and Rugby league and has played in more than 100 test matches, announced on Twitter in September that he was HIV positive after a tabloid newspaper threatened to release it. He was inundated with support, including a message from Prince Harry. Thomas, who completed an Ironman race immediately afterwards, told the BBC that revealing his HIV status was similar to coming out as gay in 2009, the first openly gay professional rugby union player, because of “the fear, the hiding, the secrecy, the not knowing how people are going to react”.


Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy has competed in slopestyle, halfpipe and big air categories and won a silver medal in Men’s Slopestyle in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, representing the US . Kenworthy came out as gay in 2015, becoming the first action-sports star to do so, and at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea he was pictured kissing his then boyfriend before his race, which was broadcast on live TV and became a significant moment in LGBT visibility. In November he announced that he would compete for Great Britain in the 2022 Winter Olympics. He has also acted in the series American Horror Story.


American professional wrestler Kiera Hogan wrestles for Impact Wrestling, and also for Women of Wrestling under the name Fire. During US Pride Week in 2019, she came out and announced her relationship with fellow wrestler Diamente. In her announcement she talked about how she was bullied at school, but is pleased that things have changed: “Now, being an adult and seeing the progression of the LGBT community, it’s all so inspiring. I became so confident in being who I am to a point where I was just like, you know what, I feel like I can share this with the world. I don’t want to hide this anymore. I feel like I can be accepted for who I am now.”


Professional US soccer player Megan Rapinoe is co-captain of the United States women’s national soccer team and was the first player (male or female) to score a goal directly from a corner at the Olympic Games. In 2019 she won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, was awarded The Best FIFA Women’s Player Award and honoured as The Guardian Footballer of the Year. Rapinoe, who came out as gay in 2012, is an advocate for numerous LGBT organisations and has her own gender-neutral clothing brand. She is campaigning for equal pay for women in sport.


Jamaican competitive swimmer Michael Gunning has competed in both 200m butterfly and freestyle in the 2017 and 2019 World Aquatics Championships, and is the Jamaican national record holder for 200m butterfly and 200m and 400m freestyle. He came out as gay on TV in 2018 and went on to win the Pride Award at the Attitude Pride Awards 2019 for his promotion of LGBT visibility in sport. He recently became one of Stonewall’s Sport Champions, saying: “I’d love to know that by being my authentic self I’ve managed to inspire athletes from all sports to stay true to themselves, and to feel comfortable enough to come out.”


Belgian competitive rower and coach Simon Haerinck made waves out of the water as well as on it in 2019, with a social media campaign, launched in December, called #samesportdifferentsexuality that quickly went viral. Hotel manager Haerinck, who coaches at the Royal Rowing Club in Ghent, launched the campaign to encourage straight team members to take photos with LBBT+ team-mates as a display of solidarity. Haerinck, who came out at 23 after five years of hiding his sexuality, says he wishes he hadn’t waited so long, and hopes that sports clubs can be places of acceptance where people can be themselves.