Greg Louganis won Olympic gold medals for diving in 1984 and 1988. But he still wasn't quite enough to land a coveted Wheaties box.

And by "enough," I mean straight.

"[Wheaties'] response was that I didn’t fit their wholesome demographics or whatever," Louganis once explained of the cereal snub. "Basically, being gay, or being rumored that I was gay, [prevented me from being on the box]."


Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images.

If your blood is boiling at that, you're not alone.

When it comes to America's acceptance of LGBTQ athletes, clearly, a lot has changed since Louganis was given the cold shoulder two decades ago. But we don't need a cereal box to tell us that — just look at this year's Team USA roster.

America boasts seven out and proud LGBTQ Olympians competing in this year's games — and all of them are women.

These badass queer athletes are helping show young LGBTQ people around the world that, yes, they can play sports too — and be amazing at it.

1. Brittney Griner, basketball

When the 6'8" center isn't snagging rebounds, Griner's working on her mobile app, BG:BU, which helps young people fight bullying.

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images.

2. Megan Rapinoe, soccer

Rapinoe helped the U.S. women's soccer team win gold against Japan at the 2012 games. Also, she can't travel without gum and a reliable neck pillow, in case you're wondering what she probably brought with her carry-on luggage to Brazil.

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

3. Ashley Nee, canoe/kayak

Nee — who's been on the world championship stage for the past three years — basically lives in the water. But she can have fun on land too. Her hobbies include street art and long boarding.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

4. Kelly Griffin, rugby

Today, Griffin is a warrior on the field, but that wasn't always the case. She didn't start playing rugby until her freshman year of college.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.  

5. Seimone Augustus, basketball

Augustus, who helped lead her team to gold in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, started her own foundation to raise awareness around health and wellness.

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images.

6. Jillion Potter,  rugby

Potter is a Coloradan (who's kinda obsessed with flossing) who helped her team win bronze in the world championships in 2013.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.

7. Angel McCoughtry, basketball

McCoughtry has already set individual U.S. records at the Olympics for best field goal percentage and most field goals made. But she also wins brownie points for having a song available on iTunes called “Illusion."

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images.

This isn't just a big year for queer U.S. Olympians either. Globally, there are more out LGBTQ Olympians than ever before.

There's a record-breaking 43 (and counting) out LGBTQ Olympians in total participating in this year's games, according to historian Tony Scupham-Bilton and Outsports.

And that's a huge flippin' deal (that diving pun's for you, Tom Daley).

Olympic diver Tom Daley (U.K.) made a splash after coming out in 2013. Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images.

So is 2016 just ... gayer than years past?

I wish! Queer athletes have always competed in the Olympics, of course, but ever-evolving societal views have made more athletes comfortable competing as their authentic selves. What's even cooler about 2016 is that game-changing new policies are opening the door for more transgender Olympians to compete too.

While we certainly shouldn't ignore the fact that, in many regions of the world, progress on LGBTQ rights and visibility has been much slower — and in some places, legislation is even going backwardthere's no denying that the global trend is bending toward equality.

Nicola Adams is an out and proud boxer from the U.K. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC.

Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally — a leading organization combating homophobia in sports — told Upworthy, "The progress is palpable."

"In the last year, we have seen more athletes come out, more allies speak out, and more teams and leagues take a stand than at any other time in history," he noted.

All of this progress surely puts a smile on Louganis' face. After all, he's been demanding change since his Olympics three decades ago.

“We’ve come so far, as far as marriage equality and so many things that I’ve really kind of fought hard for,” Louganis said. “I never thought I’d see the day that I would be able to get married.”

Oh, and that whole Wheaties fiasco? A popular online petition demanding Louganis get his cereal box got the right people's attention at General Mills earlier this year, and justice was finally served. He got his Wheaties box.

“It means more now than it probably would’ve then because they would’ve been celebrating the athlete [back then],” he recently told "Oprah: Where are they Now." “I’m a gay man living with HIV. I feel like I’m being embraced as a whole person and not just a part of me.”

Photo courtesy of General Mills, used with permission.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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