Equality Florida Institute will present two-time Olympian and four-time gold medalist Greg Louganis with its highest honor, The Voice for Equality Award, at the organization’s gala on Sunday, Nov. 12 in Fort Lauderdale.
The Voice for Equality award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated sacrifice, courage and personal commitment to LGBT equality. Recent past recipients include tennis pro Martina Navratilova, marriage activist Jim Obergefell and trans reality TV star Jazz Jennings.
“It is especially timely that Greg is our Voice for Equality honoree this year, as Equality Florida recently launched its HIV Advocacy Program, with the goal of reducing HIV stigma through public education,” said Terry Gaw, event co-chair in a statement. “Sports figures are seen as role models, exemplifying what is possible, and their cautionary tales can carry additional significance. Greg has paved the way, inspiring others to live their lives fully and without shame.”
The diver has grown up in the public eye. He won his first Olympic medal as a teen in 1976 at the Montreal summer games and was frequently featured on the covers of magazines and in media interviews.
But, as he revealed in a recent telephone conversation from his California home, he kept many secrets from his admirers.
Louganis came out publicly in 1994 and in 1995 revealed he had tested HIV positive. He had actually tested positive months before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where he suffered a heavily-publicized, bloody head wound but still went on to win two gold medals.
Louganis has shared his story openly in a 1995 autobiography, “Breaking the Surface,” and the 2014 documentary, “Back on Board.” He has become a spokesperson for living authentically, and an advocate for HIV-testing.
“When I was diagnosed in ’88, life expectancy was like three years,” he recalled. “…and that was doing good. We’ve come a long way with treatments and understanding, (but) a lot more education has to happen, especially in smaller communities, as well as globally.”
Louganis traveled to Russia, a country where gays and lesbians are still persecuted openly, to share this message. He met with some underground LGBT activists in a subway station to avoid surveillance.
“It was bizarre, meeting in subway to get the location for event, but they kept telling me ‘they’re listening.’ That’s something that goes back to the Soviet Union days. I was in the Soviet Union competing way back in 1979 and we’d all kind of joke on the team about our rooms being bugged,” recalled Louganis, who noted that Rev. Fred Phelps, a radical anti-gay evangelist, followed him around the country for years after he came out, a similar experience.
In addition to appearances like the awards ceremony in South Florida, Louganis keeps himself busy with occasional acting roles (“Sharknado 5,” “Entourage the Movie”), sponsorship deals and a stage musical about his life.
He’s also put his highly-publicized financial challenges behind him and finally has time to enjoy his four-year marriage to Johnny Chaillot.
Louganis said, “We have so many balls in the air at the moment, but that’s happened in the past, too…you never know what’s going to land or what’s going to take hold. You kind of have to be open to it. I don’t have any predictions or projections. Who knows?”
Greg Louganis will be presented the Voice for Equality Award at the Equality Broward gala on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, 2301 S.E. 17th St. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $175 at EqFl.org.