This past June, as the US women’s soccer team was dominating the FIFA World Cup finals, player Megan Rapinoe offered one possible explanation for their success: “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team,” she said. “It’s never been done before, ever.”
The comment was a hat tip to Pride month, but it also acknowledged something significant: In this year’s women’s World Cup, there were more than 40 openly gay players and coaches—more than double the number who were out in 2015. (Homosexuality is criminalized in several of the participating nations; otherwise, there might have been even more.) At the last men’s World Cup in 2018, however, none of the players were openly gay.
The trend continues at the Olympic level: At the 2016 Rio Olympics, where there at least 55 out athletes—more than at any Olympics before—44 were women.
In other words: When it comes to queer inclusivity, women’s professional sports leave men’s in the dust.
The lack of LGBTQ visibility in most men’s sports reflects the hyper-masculine, homophobic culture of that world. “In competitive sport, male athletes who appear to lack aggressiveness…may find themselves labeled a ‘pansy’ or a ‘queer’ by their coaches and teammates.”