Canadian Olympic Gymnast Rosie Cossar Comes Out

Canadian Olympic Gymnast Rosie Cossar Comes Out

Rosie-CossarX480On Tuesday the Canadian Olympic Committee announced a new pro-LGBT initiative, aimed at creating a safe and welcoming place for LGBT athletes. This announcement comes just on the heels of the news that 2012 Olympic rhythmic gymnast Rosie Cossar has come out as openly lesbian.

Cossar – who has recently retired from the sport – was captain of the Canadian team during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Much like gay men competing in sports that are ostensibly “macho” often feel the need to prove their masculinity, Cossar often felt ostracized – particularly by her coach – for not being girly enough for a sport like rhythmic gymnastics. “I never dressed 'butch,' but people noticed," Cossar told Outsports. "My coach would ask me why I wasn't wearing a dress. She seemed disappointed. My other teammates would get excited about getting dolled up and I just didn't care."

Cossar told Outsports that the main factors affecting her reluctance to come out were two-fold. First, the historic domination of the sport by Eastern European countries bred a sentiment of misunderstanding about LGBT issues, and subsequently a culture of homophobia that created a toxic environment for anyone looking to come out. Secondly, Cossar said that competing in a sport with subjective scoring (rather than one determined by points or specific measurements), created a fear that if the judges didn’t like her for any reason, her success in her sport may suffer.

Furthermore, Cossar said that even her coach – supposedly the beacon of support for any athlete – often made homophobic remarks in front of her, keeping her further in the closet. "She would make comments about gay people. She was very convinced it was a choice they made. She would say it's a curse and you can't live a normal life,” Cossar recalled.

Still, Cossar said that she couldn’t reconcile the irony of competing for Canada proudly, while still harboring this intense shame for her true identity. “What's the point of representing your country if you can't represent yourself in a true way?” she pondered. “I felt guilty for not representing myself as a person for who I truly was. I felt I wasn't doing myself any good, hiding my true self."

Since retiring, Cossar has become more involved with the LGBT community and has worked with the Pan AM Games and Pride House Toronto, as Toronto looks to host the Pan AM Games next year. Once fearful of coming out herself, she hopes to work to create an environment where future athletes can feel safer about being openly gay." I would love to provide a space in sport for people who want to be themselves,” she said. “I want to make a difference."

This has been reposted from SheWired.