Observations of LBGTQ Rio 2016 coverage

Although the media likes to mention the private lives of athletes, they failed to mention that that diver Tom Daley's fiance Dustin Lance Black was in the crowd.

by Bruce Hartley
Life Columnist

The recent Rio 2016 summer Olympics was a display of courage, pride, determination and a few more interesting things that caught my eye as a 50-something long-time sports fan. How our world has changed, with more people being able to be open about their gender and sexual identities. The world of sports, news and advertising attempted to navigate this new frontier with a few missteps and a few victories.  

One thing the media seems to enjoy doing is sharing the personal side of athletes’ lives. They often show family members in the crowd and make reference to them by name. It was interesting when the commentators covering the men’s synchronized diving finals with bronze medalist Tom Daley, and they did not mention his male fiancé in the crowd. Even though his fiancé Dustin Lance Black was an Oscar-winning screenwriter, film director and film producer, who won the Academy Award Best Original Screenplay in 2008 for my favorite movie, Milk.

Color media commentary failed to label Brazilian volleyball player Larissa Franca’s wife correctly and labeled her as Larissa’s “husband”. NBC did issue an apology, later that day. Again, as a 50-something man, I know the importance of labeling my partner the right way. I know if a straight couple was mislabeled by announcers, things would have be a big mess for the network.

These missteps are unfortunate in a year when there is a record 49 out LGBTI athletes competing in the Rio Olympics (outsports.com). We must continue to support our community and help them be comfortable to live their lives, but we must also remind leaders in all industries to think before they speak. This is a basic foundation of journalism, and fact checking must be done at all times.

On the bright side, we witnessed the first Olympic marriage proposal in Rio between Olympic volunteer Marjorie Enya and Brazilian rugby player Isadora Cerullo – complete with a kiss on national television.

The thing that I was most excited about was a brand new Nike commercial that aired on August 8, 2016. The commercial featured trans athlete Chris Mosier during prime time Olympic coverage by NBC. According to outsports.com, Mosier is featured as part of Nike’s “Unlimited Courage” advertising series. Mosier is the first open trans athlete to make a men’s U.S. national Duathlon team. This is huge strides for media and I applaud Nike for being a leader for our community.

I am so excited to see how our world continues to evolve to embrace everyone no matter the gender or sexual identity. Change is hard; especially for us older folks, but we can do it. We must be leaders for our younger LBGTQ friends/family and focus on challenging others to accept and understand gender and sexual identity as reality in today’s world.

The Gayly – September 2, 2016 @ 10:35 a.m.