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Out at the Olympics

Basketball player says being open was an easy decision for her

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Out athlete Seimone Augustus is already a gold medal-winning Olympian. She hopes to add to her medal count in London. (Photo by Neil Enns; courtesy Dane Creek Photography)

With 12,602 athletes set to compete in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, it’s hard to believe that so few are openly gay or lesbian. Despite newfound presidential support for same-sex marriage and growing LGBT media visibility, the number of out athletes is really no more impressive than in the past two Summer Olympic games (11 in Athens 2004, 10 in Beijing 2008). Estimates this year range from nine to 20.

Some Olympic athletes decide to stay in the closet. However women’s basketball player Seimone Augustus is one openly gay Olympian whose reasons for going public with her identity outweigh those for keeping it concealed.

“Everybody’s been real receptive and real positive. To me it’s a big relief because people want to know who you are as an athlete and now as a person,” Augustus says during a phone interview. “It’s a big part of who I am.”

Augustus, a Baton Rouge, La., native, has shown tremendous talent in basketball since she was 3 years old and started playing on a junior team for 5-year-old boys. By 2006, she was the No. 1 WNBA draft pick for the Minnesota Lynx after playing for Louisiana State University. With her phenomenal record she was then named to the 2007-2008 USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team. At the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, she became a gold medalist.

Other openly LGBT athletes who will compete in London this summer include German fencer Imke Duplitzer, American soccer player Megan Rapinoe, Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, Dutch field hockey players Marilyn Agliotti and Maartie Paumen, German cyclist Judith Arndt, Dutch equestrian Edward Gal and Swedish soccer player Jessica Landström. The U.S. women’s soccer head coach, Pia Sundage, is also openly gay.

“It’s 2012. Things are changing. People are more open-minded now. For your sanity and comfort it’s time to let people know who you really are,” Augustus says. “It’s a hard thing to do but you want to get that weight off the shoulder.”

Pride House 2012, a festival hosted by a number of LGBT sports organizations including Pride Sports UK and the LGBT consortium, will provide a gay-friendly venue for all athletes, staff and spectators of the London 2012 Olympics to celebrate LGBT involvement in sports from Aug. 3-7 at the CA House overlooking the Limehouse Basin Marina in London.

Pride House was a success at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and this year will feature live music from local LGBT organizations, exhibits, video presentations and various sports programs, including the “Football vs. Homophobia” football tournament. The event is an attempt to foster greater LGBT visibility in the Olympics and provide a comfortable space for Olympic athletes who are in or out of the closet and to educate anyone who is curious how the LGBT community has impacted sports.

“Being gay is just one part of being a human, and being able to be out in the sport that you really love and enjoy shows how complete a person you are,” Kurt Dahl, co-president of the Federation of Gay Games, says. “[Coming out] really allows a person to do what they love and put everything into it.”

The Federation of Gay Games is another of the organizations hosting Pride House 2012 to highlight LGBT Olympic involvement.

“The more people who are visible and participating, the easier it is for people who don’t have the rights and ability to do that,” Emy Ritt, the Games’ other co-president, says on coming out. “It shows that LGBT people are everywhere and is bringing the public to a better place.”

Seimone is happy to have found that place in her life where she feels ready to be out publicly as an athlete. Her engagement to girlfriend LaTaya Varner in May was one factor that facilitated this sense of comfort.

“She made me feel more comfortable with who I am. When someone gets engaged and they’re happy with their life it’s time,” Augustus says. “I’m really happy with where I am playing basketball and on the Olympic route. So many great things have happened in my life. I want everyone to know about it.”

The opening ceremony for the London 2012 Summer Olympics airs today (Friday) at 4 p.m. on NBC, and the games continue through Aug. 12.

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Arts & Entertainment

LGBTQ+ ally Jamie Lee Curtis reveals her 25-year-old child is Trans

Curtis and her husband Christopher Guest, British screenwriter, composer, musician, director, and actor have two daughters.

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Screenshot via Page 6 YouTube channel

LOS ANGELES – In a new interview with the American Association of Retired Persons’ magazine, Golden Globe and BAFTA winning actress Jamie Lee Curtis disclosed that her youngest child is transgender. In the interview Curtis reflected that she has “watched in wonder and pride as our son became our daughter Ruby.”

Curtis and her husband Christopher Guest, British screenwriter, composer, musician, director, and actor have two daughters. Ruby, 25, works as a computer gaming editor while Curtis and Guest’s 34-year-old daughter, Annie, is married and works as a dance instructor. Curtis also noted that Ruby and her fiancé are getting married next year in a wedding that Curtis will officiate.

The longtime Hollywood couple have been married for more than 36 years but have no grandchildren, “but I do hope to,” she told the magazine.

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Sports

Non-binary Olympian leaves games without a medal but still a winner

For the first time in my entire life, I’m proud of the person I’ve worked to become. I chose my happiness over medaling

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Alana Smith via Instagram

TOKYO – In a series of firsts for the Summer Olympic Games, Alana Smith left the Tokyo games with a sense of accomplishment and a couple of firsts. The 20-year-old non-binary skateboarder competing in the debut of their sport noted on their Instagram account, “My goal coming into this was to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me.”

Smith wrote: ‘What a wild f***ing ride…My goal coming into this was to be happy and be a visual representation for humans like me. For the first time in my entire life, Im proud of the person I’ve worked to become. I chose my happiness over medaling. Out of everything I’ve done, I wanted to walk out of this knowing I UNAPOLOGETICALLY was myself and was genuinely smiling.

The feeling in my heart says I did that. Last night I had a moment on the balcony, I’m not religious or have anyone/anything I talk to. Last night I thanked whoever it was out there that gave me the chance to not leave this world the night I laid in the middle of the road. I feel happy to be alive and feel like I’m meant to be here for possibly the first time in a extremely long time. On or off day, I walked out of this happy and alive… Thats all I have ever asked for.

Thank you to all the incredible humans that have supported me through so many waves of life. I can’t wait to skate for the love of it again, not only for a contest. Which is wild considering a contest helped me find my love for it again. 💛🤍💜🖤”

Smith’s Olympic debut was slightly marred by their being misgendered during news coverage of their events by BBC commentators misgendering Smith discussing their performance, which led to protests from LGBTQ+ groups and allies including British LGBTQ+ advocacy group Stonewall UK.

 

During the competition, Smith proudly held up their skateboard, which featured their pronouns they/them written across the top. The misgendering was addressed by NBC Sports which issued an apology Tuesday for streaming coverage that misgendered Smith.

“NBC Sports is committed to—and understands the importance of—using correct pronouns for everyone across our platforms,” the network said. “While our commentators used the correct pronouns in our coverage, we streamed an international feed that was not produced by NBCUniversal which misgendered Olympian Alana Smith. We regret this error and apologize to Alana and our viewers.”

NBC also reported that this is the first Olympics in history that has featured skateboarding, with 16 athletes traveling to Tokyo to represent the United States. Smith qualified for the third Olympic spot in the women’s street category after competing at the World Skate World Championships in 2019, according to Dew Tour, which hosts international skateboarding competitions.

According to Outsports, the online LGBTQ+ Sports magazine and NBC Sports, Smith is one of more than 160 openly LGBTQ athletes competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics and one of at least three openly nonbinary or Trans athletes.

Quinn, a midfielder for the Canadian women’s soccer team who goes by only their first name, is the first openly Trans athlete and nonbinary athlete to compete in the games. Laurel Hubbard, a Trans woman from New Zealand will compete in the super heavyweight 87 kilogram-plus (192 pound-plus) weightlifting category on August 2.

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Books

‘Playing the Palace’ a campy, fun rom-com read

What happens when a prince meets an event planner

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‘Playing the Palace’
By Paul Rudnick
c.2021, Berkley
$16/272 pages

If you loathe romance or hate to laugh, then skip this book.  

If you’re looking for a rom-com that’s as fab and campy as Provincetown or Rehoboth Beach on a summer night, “Playing the Palace” by Paul Rudnick is the book for you.

Reading “Playing the Palace” is like sipping a delicious frozen Daiquiri.

Carter Ogden, the neurotic, good-hearted, Jewish, funny, out, gay narrator of this frothy romance, becomes your BFF and drinking buddy at the opening sentence, “It’s still weird, waking up alone.”

The plot of the book is simple: Carter, 29, is an associate “event architect” (in plain English – event planner) in New York City. He makes ends meet by living with wacky, supportive roommates.

Carter, a native of Piscataway, N.J., and IHOP aficionado, is feeling dejected as he approaches his 30th birthday. His ex, an actor, has left him. He can’t help but wonder if he’ll ever find love again.

Until, at work, he meets Edgar, the Prince of Wales. Edgar has come over from the United Kingdom to speak at a charity event for a group that works to provide clean water to countries that need it. And, this being a fictional prince in a rom-com, Edgar is openly gay. 

As you’ve been forewarned, we’re not dealing with realism here.

Edgar sees Carter and asks him to give him tips on how he can get his speech across more effectively.  

From that moment on, the two – the IHOP-loving event planner and the future King of England — are in a fine romance. (Edgar is an orphan. His parents were killed in a plane crash.)

Their quest for the happily-ever-after involves pancakes, projectile vomiting, social media and a Thanksgiving meet-up of Carter’s Jewish aunts and Edgar’s grandmother, the Queen of England.

By itself, the story of “Playing the Palace” might seem predictable. What makes it sizzle – why you laugh out loud even as you root for the romance to work out – is its narrative voice.

“Playing the Palace” is a funny, sometimes touching monologue in the voice of Carter.

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to love Carter when he says he “addressed my problems to the framed photo of the late beloved Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the wall of my tiny, partitioned bedroom.”

Writing a whole novel as a monologue could fizzle out if other writers tried it.  

But, Rudnick a gay novelist, playwright, essayist, screenwriter and humorist, is a master of this form.

His plays, produced on and off-Broadway include “Jeffrey,” “I Hate Hamlet,” “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” and “The New Century.” He’s won an Obie Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards and the John Gassner Playwriting Award.  

Rudnick’s novels include “Social Disease” and “I’ll Take It.” “Gorgeous” and “It’s All Your Fault” are among his YA (young adult) novels.

His screenplays include “Addams Family Values,” “In & Out,” the screen adaptation of “Jeffrey” and “Sister Act.” He wrote the screenplay for “Coastal Elites,” the comedic satire that debuted on HBO last year.

Something of a polymath, Rudnick is, according to his bio, “rumored to be quite close” to film critic Libby Gelman-Waxner, whose reviews have appeared in Premiere magazine and Entertainment Weekly.

A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, his essays have appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times and Vogue.

As you might expect, the volume is chock full of pop culture references and wit. “I took a shower using my new manly body wash,” Carter says, “which is exactly the same as the female version, only with simplified graphics and a steel-gray, squared-off bottle, as if it contains motor oil and testosterone.”

It’s not surprising that Rudnick told Entertainment Weekly that he’s working on a musical of the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Reading “Playing the Palace” is like seeing a Broadway musical.  

“I was looking into eyes that were so radiantly blue I either wanted to faint or yell ‘just stop it,’” Carter says when he first sees Edgar.

“Playing the Palace” is a show-stopper.

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