Remember when Jason Collins came out in May?
Then NBA center wrote in a Sports Illustrated cover story: “I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.” Well, everyone cheered then, but some forgot there have been LGBT athletes throughout the past several decades who deserve just as much respect and cheer — and not all of them were men.
And when it comes famous lesbian athletes the first two that come to mind are tennis superstars Prague-born Martina Navratilova, who came out as bisexual in 1981, and Billie Jean King, who was outed in 1981 by a former female lover. King lost most of commercial endorsements as a result, but regardless, she continued to enjoy much success and in 2000 became the first open lesbian to coach an Olympic team.
But while Navratilova and King may have been two of the first, they led the way for future women to also come out of the closet.
Here are just of them...
Vicky Galindo — Softball
Galindo came out to the Advocate magazine before hitting up China for the 2008 Olympics.
“It had been a tough year: had recently broken up with her longtime girlfriend, a lot was weighing on her, and opening up about her sexuality was something she felt had to be done. ‘I needed to be comfortable with who I was,’ she says now,” a follow up to her coming-out from the Advocate reads. “It was also her way of coming out to her parents. ‘I was like, Hey, Mom, by the way, there’s an article I did that you might be hearing about.’ Galindo returned from China with a silver medal and the admiration of her teammates, including one who said Galindo’s openness gave her the courage to come out herself.”
The accomplished 29-year-old ball player has a lot to be proud of. Some of her accolades: Gold medalist at Pan American Games (2007), Two-time World Cup Champion (2006 & 2007), World Champion (2006), Olympic Silver medalist (2008).
Amelie Mauresmo — Tennis
Mauresmo was ranked number one in the world, won 25 singles titles including two major championships (the 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon Championships), and won a Silver Medal at the Olympics.
Mauresmo came out during one of her most intense tennis tournaments, and the story hit headlines across the sports world, hampering her down and even bringing her to regret coming out the way she did.
“It was tough,” she told the Guardian in 2006. “It was hard. I have never regretted the fact that I came out, but I do regret how I said it. It was too brutal. I could have done it in a much easier way. was no big deal for me. But I didn't realise what a huge story it was going to be.”
She tennis she “enjoys downhill skiing, go-karts, horse-back riding and listening to music by Dido.”
Sarah Vaillancourt — Hockey
Vaillancourt retired this year, ESPN reported, after making quite a mark on the sport.
“The 27-year-old forward won gold with the team in 2006 and 2010,” the announcement reads. “Vaillancourt had 45 goals and 53 assists in 107 career games with Canada. She played in six world championships and won gold in 2007.”
But her coming out story was even more inspiring.
Joe Pelletier’s blog Greatest Hockey Legends called her career “promising” and recapped the way she told the world she was a lesbian.
“Vaillancourt was an amazing story in her college career at Harvard University. As a freshman she openly admitted that she was a lesbian, and that she would leave if anyone had a problem with that,” the story reads. “Fortunately none of her coaches or teammates did, because she went on to become one of the top players in the Ivy League school's history.”
Regardless of leaving, she left a legacy in hockey that will be hardly, if ever, forgotten.
Natasha Kai — Soccer
According to the New York Times, Kai “draws attention nearly everywhere she goes in New Jersey. Maybe it is because she rolls around in a large pick-up truck, has a strong Hawaiian accent and is covered with body art. Her unique style and extraordinary flair attracts eyes on and off the field.”
Maybe we’ll never know why, but the famed forward player has quite the positive rap sheet. She became the first-ever player from Hawaii to play for the WNT and to make a FIFA Women’s World Cup Team, according to her U.S. Soccer profile, and would make it to Beijing for the Olympics in 2008.
Known for her tattoos and hard attitude, though, Kai does have a softer side. She studied sociology in college and likes to surf (she did grow up in Hawaii, after all). She’s got three brothers and two sisters — she’s the oldest, and more than 25 tattoos. Her favorite food? A big mac. Favorite color? Pink.
Patty Sheehan — Golf
Sheehan came out to the world in 1998, through a column she wrote for Golf World magazine.
"I didn't really know how well others would deal with the idea of Bryce having two moms, but I've decided if they have a problem with it, it's
their problem, not mine," she wrote. "We have the means to provide Bryce with a comfortable upbringing and, more importantly, we have the
desire to be loving and devoted mothers....Bryce knows that she's loved and wanted now."
By then, the 18-year veteran of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1993, won the Nabisco Dinah Shore title in 1996, and had twice won the U.S. Women's Open, and has more than 35 total career titles to date.
When Patty Sheehan won the U.S. Women's Open and the Women's British Open in 1992, she became the first golfer to win both in the same year.