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When it comes to LGBTQ acceptance, female athletes are years ahead of the men.

As stigma surrounding gay athletes has diminished, men remain reluctant to come out.

When it comes to LGBTQ acceptance, female athletes are years ahead of the men.

An estimated 50 LGBTQ athletes from around the world will compete during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It makes these 2016 games, quite literally, the gayest Olympics in modern history with more than double the number that Outsports reported participating in the 2012 games.

What does this tell us? Nothing, really. It's not as though there's been some recent flood of gay and bisexual athletes into the world of elite sports over the past four years. Rather, it's far more likely that LGBTQ athletes have been part of the Olympics all along, just closeted.


That we're seeing such an increase in the number of out athletes is a testament to an overall increased acceptance of LGBTQ people. Obviously, the level of acceptance can vary wildly by country, but for the most part, things are going in a pretty positive direction. After all, being able to be true to yourself is a good thing, whether you're an athlete, accountant, or astronaut.

Four of the 12 members of the U.S. women's national basketball team are gay.

Elena Delle Donne, Angel McCoughtry, Brittney Griner, and Seimone Augustus are four of the greatest basketball players in the world. They also happen to be gay. In the world of women's basketball, coming out of the closet is treated as pretty minor news.

"It’s been normal," Delle Donne told USA Today in reference to the public reception she got after coming out in early August. "Nothing crazy. Obviously a couple of people wanting to talk about it here and there. A lot of support. It’s been really nothing too crazy, which is great. That’s where I hope our society moves to, where it’s not a story. It’s normal."

Delle Donne (#11) and McCoughtry of the United States run up the floor against Serbia during the Rio 2016 Olympics. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

This is a stark contrast to the men's team. Not only are there zero out gay men on the men's national team, but there aren't currently any in the NBA as a whole.

Of the NBA's 450 players, zero publicly identify as gay or bisexual. In the league's history, just one player, Jason Collins, has come out while still an active player. Collins, who came out as gay in 2013 after more than a decade in the league, retired at the end of the 2013-2014 season.

Collins (#98) of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates after making a basket during a game against the Denver Nuggets in 2014. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images.

While it's true that there aren't any publicly out gay or bisexual players currently playing in the NBA, that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Statistically speaking, it's highly unlikely that the league is without at least a few gay or bisexual players currently holding roster spots across the league. There are bound to be at least a handful out there.

"As a player, I’ve been that person where it’s really hard to come out. It’s super hard. You’re just not comfortable with it. You’re worried about not being accepted, being rejected, being cast out. It’s tough. It’s really tough." — Brittney Griner, WNBA

In 2013, NBA hall of fame player Charles Barkley told radio host Dan Patrick, "Everybody (in the league) has played with a gay teammate."

Former player John Amaechi (#13) came out as a gay man long after his NBA career ended. Photo by Jess Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images.

Why is there such a disparity in the stigma surrounding gay athletes between men's and women's sports? That's what some of the top women's players want to know.

"I would love to see more (come out) on the men’s side, more players feel comfortable to come out," Griner told USA Today. "But I also understand it because as a player, I’ve been that person where it’s really hard to come out. It’s super hard. You’re just not comfortable with it. You’re worried about not being accepted, being rejected, being cast out. It’s tough. It’s really tough."

Griner of the United States and Maimouna Diarra of Senegal play during the Rio 2016 Olympics. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.

"I would love to see that (sort of support in the NBA), if there are any (gay men). No one should have to hide who they are," Delle Donne added.

Delle Donne reacts to a call against Serbia at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

When it comes to LGBTQ visibility in sports, women historically have been further along than men.

"Female athletes have been ahead of the men in terms of coming out publicly for years," Cyd Zeigler of Outsports said in an e-mail. "Part of that is that there are more lesbian and bisexual women in elite-level sports than there are gay and bisexual men. That means not just more athletes and coaches to come out, but also a larger support structure within the sport for LGBT women than the men. Plus you have an overall broader cultural acceptance of gay and bisexual women than men have."

Zeigler, who pretty much wrote the book on LGBTQ athletes, thinks it'll only be a matter of time before male athletes catch up to women in terms of coming out.

The good news is that by all indications, the NBA appears to be fully supportive of future gay or bisexual players.

Between its handling of Collins' coming out and the 2017 NBA All-Star game, the league is putting together a pretty LGBTQ-friendly appearance. After the state of North Carolina passed a law that many had labelled anti-LGBTQ (specifically, it targeted transgender individuals), the league warned that without substantial changes to the law, they would have no choice but to pull the game, slated to be played in Charlotte, from the state. The state didn't make the necessary changes, and in July, the NBA announced that it would follow through on its threat, moving the game to another city.

"While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2," the league said in a statement.

Larry Tanenbaum presents Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan a jersey signifying Charlotte as the host city for the 2017 All-Star game in February 2016. Months later, the league stripped the city of the game in response to the state's anti-LGBTQ law. Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images.

Hopefully, as time goes on, stigma surrounding gay athletes will continue to diminish. No one should have to hide who they are.

Collins will not go down in history as the only NBA player to be out as gay during his career. The question is whether the next athlete to follow in his footsteps is already in the league or not.

Seton Hall's Derrick Gordon became the first out gay NCAA Division I men's basketball player when he came out. Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images.

In the meantime, maybe the men could take a lesson or two from the ladies.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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