Famous Lesbian Athletes

We now live in a time where athletes are not as scared to come out. Some even feel it is part of their duty to help younger LGBT athletes realize they can dream big and have role models to look up to.

Whether these lesbian athletes are stars in the realms of soccer, basketball, or tennis, their personal stories and advocacy for gay rights make them inspirations for sports fans all over the world. Some notable openly gay female athletes have competed in the Olympics and other talented lesbian athletes are World Cup champions. A few of the most famous lesbian athletes were pioneers in the LGBTQ movement.

So here is a list of some famous lesbian athletes we should be proud of:

Megan Rapinoe

The 27-year-old U.S. Olympic soccer player spoke frankly about her sexuality in an interview with Out magazine, saying she is a lesbian and in a committed relationship with a woman. While her statement may seem bold, the 27-year-old Rapinoe told Out’s Jerry Portwood that she’d just never been asked directly. “I think they were trying to be respectful and that it’s my job to say, ‘I’m gay,’ she said. “Which I am. For the record: I am gay.” Rapinoe, who’s been dating her girlfriend — identified in the magazine only as an Australian soccer player — for three years, also took time to chat about homophobia in sports and, more specifically, female athletes’ perspective on the subject. “I feel like sports, in general, are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out,” she said. Still, she added, “In female sports, if you’re gay, most likely your team knows it pretty quickly. It’s very open and widely supported. For males, it’s not that way at all. It’s sad.”

Elena Delle Donne

As if playing in the Olympics wasn’t exciting enough, WNBA champ Elena Delle Donne has come out as gay in a Vogue magazine interview, announcing her engagement to girlfriend Amanda Clifton.

“It was just one of those articles where they came into my home, spent a couple days with me, and [fiancee] Amanda is a huge part of my life,” says Delle Donne, an MVP with the Chicago Sky.

“So to leave her out wouldn’t have made any sense. It’s not a coming out article or anything. I’ve been with her for a very long time now, and people who are close to me know that, and that’s that.”

Sarah Vaillancourt

Originally from Quebec, the Canadian hockey champ decided to stop hiding her sexual orientation while still a freshman at Harvard University. “If they weren’t going to accept me on the team,” she told The Seattle Times, “I wasn’t going to stay.”

Abby Wambach

“I came from a fairly conservative [upbringing]. I know my mom loves me – I know my family loves me. But sometimes for really deep-feeling people, it’s hard to actually feel that. Being gay and then having some of these demons that I felt I had to numb away – and some of the pain that I had throughout my career – it was part of who I am. Being inside my own skin and being scared and being in pain? I just really wanted to feel love.”

Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner’s basketball skills took her to the top of her sport, helping her college team win a national championship at Baylor and becoming the No. 1 pick of the Phoenix Mercury in the 2013 WNBA draft.

But as a gay woman, she also felt burdened by a policy written into the student handbook at her private Christian university, which banned homosexual behavior and advocacy for LGBT issues. She hopes someday to help reverse the policy at Baylor, a school she still loves. “To break something, we have to bring it up, we have to get it out there, and eventually the topic will start to become more of a conversation,” she says.

Vibeke Skofterud

Vibeke Skofterud is a cross-country skier from Norway. Her best showing in previous Olympics came in Salt Lake City in 2002 with an eighth place win in the 30km. In 2008, Skofterud came out in the Norwegian magazine See and Hear, telling them that she’d known she was gay for a while: “I have gone many rounds with myself, and it has taken a lot of time to figure out. I was not always honest with my own feelings.” She went on to say that she would live in a “dump site” as long as she could live with her girlfriend.

Seimone Augustus

“I knew I was gay by the time I reached middle school. I’ve never been attracted to guys. I can appreciate their beauty, but it comes without desire. I’ve always had a more intimate connection with women. In high school, I kissed a girl for the first time. It felt too comfortable and too right to think I was anyone but whom I was in that moment. I’ve followed that honesty my whole life.”

Caitlin Cahow

Caitlin is an American ice hockey defenseman who won a silver medal with the women’s national team at the 2010 Winter Olympics. She first took to the ice as a figure skater but became enamored with hockey and began competing in leagues with boys at a young age.

“For me, [coming out] really wasn’t a question,” she said. “I knew when my hockey career was done… that I could be doing more for people out there. … It was in part motivated by some of the Russian LGBT policies that were becoming worldwide, and in part, it was because I speak with a lot of young athletes all the time and I want to be honest with them.”


Martina Navratilova

The Prague-born tennis pro, who came out as bisexual in 1981, is credited with having “expanded the dialogue on issues of gender and sexuality in sports,” according to ESPN. “Martina was the first legitimate superstar who literally came out while she was a superstar,” Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation, said. “She exploded the barrier by putting it on the table. She basically said this part of my life doesn’t have anything to do with me as a tennis player.

Billie Jean King

Unfortunately, the tennis pro’s 1981 outing was not her choice; she was forced out when her former female lover sued her for palimony and nearly lost all of her commercial endorsements as a result. But her career was far from over, and in 2000, she became the first open lesbian ever to coach an Olympic team.

Rosie Jones

The pro-golfer, who won 13 events during her 21 years, came out in a 2004 New York Times editorial. “You see, my sponsor, Olivia, is one of the world’s largest and most respected companies catering to lesbian travellers, and this represents the first time a company like this has sponsored a professional athlete — a gay professional athlete,” Jones wrote. “Inherent in this sponsorship is my coming out. It’s a bit of a curiosity because I’ve never been in the closet. For more than 25 years, I’ve been very comfortable with the fact that I’m gay…I have never, until now, felt the need to discuss it in the news media.”

Ilana Kloss

The South African-born commissioner of World Team Tennis has also been the partner of Billie Jean King for more than 20 years. She also credits King with encouraging her to pursue her career. “I had an opportunity to hit tennis balls with Billie Jean King when she was in South Africa when I was 11,” she said. “She encouraged me to pursue my dream, and I did.”

Amelie Mauresmo

Former World No. 1 tennis player, Amelie Mauresmo, was the first openly lesbian on the WTA tour since Martina Navratilova. At only 19, the frenchwoman surged into the 1999 Australian Open finals and with much speculation about her sexuality, Mauresmo also took the opportunity to come out to the national press after she jumped into her girlfriend’s arms for making the grand slam final down under. Mauresmo is a two-time grand slam singles champion, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006. She also holds an Olympic silver medal from the 2004 Athens summer games.

Sheryl Swoopes

Three-time MVP Sheryl Swoopes was the first player to be signed to the WNBA when it was created. Not only was she a star on the court she was one of the first high profile athletes to publicly come out.


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