For as long as there have been sports, there have been LGBTQ+ athletes. ESPN+ usually has lots of live sports, but it also has documentary films and series that tell athletes' stories, and that includes LGBTQ+ competitors. These stories bring joy, struggles, love and connections to life as these sports men and women find ways to be true to themselves on and off the fields of play. Here are the best LFBTQ+ shows to watch on ESPN+.
30 for 30: Renee
The ESPN documentary series 30 for 30 is well known for telling dramatic sports stories with depth and context, and this film in the series focuses on transgender tennis player Renee Richards. Born as Richard Raskind, Richards began exploring gender identity over a decade before transitioning in 1975. Renee had long been involved in competitive tennis, and she attempted to continue competing as a woman but she found herself blocked by United States Tennis Association rules. In 30 for 30: Renee , you can learn about the court case that followed, and the struggles in Renee's personal life then and now. Be aware that Renee is very raw, discussing thoughts of suicide among other topics.
The Courage Game
Learn about a one-of-a-kind lacrosse game that is more than a simple exhibition. The Courage Game started with an All-American college lacrosse player, Andrew Goldstein, who came out as gay publicly. His story, which was profiled on TV years ago, was an inspiration to a young kid who was dealing with coming out himself. Knowing that an athlete that was drafted and turned pro could be out and proud inspired young Braden, who formed a friendship with Andrew. This led to The Courage Game, a charity lacrosse game that reaches out to gay youth to give them hope and comfort.
30 for 30 Shorts: Mack Wrestles
Texas High School sports has a reputation for tense competition and rabid fanbases, but in Mack Wrestles , we can see the ugly sides of those traits as a trans athlete upsets the status quo. Mack Beggs already identified as male by high school, but the rules in place forced him to compete with the gender of his birth. Rather than walk away, Mack did just that while also advocating for changes to the rules. In the face of competitors that refused to wrestle or cried foul in protest, Mack's success on the mat and as an advocate can leave you feeling hopeful.
SC Featured: Bingham
Stories of the LGBTQ+ community can be inspiring, but they can also be painful. Mark Bingham was an amazing man, as a public relations executive, national champion rugby player, and aspiring filmmaker. After college, he came out to his family and close friends, but not to his rugby teammates. This all changed when he joined a new predominately-gay rugby team, which gave him a chance to be himself and help change people's minds. His life took a heroic yet tragic turn aboard United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.
30 for 30: Unmatched
Unmatched is the story of longtime rival tennis greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Navratilova was the first American professional athlete to come out, first as bisexual and later identifying as gay. Her challenges in living as a new U.S. citizen and out in the 1980s cast her as a 180 degree opposite to her rival Evert, yet the two became amazing friends. This story covers their matches and their friendship, as each recount the challenges of the times.
E:60 Brittney Griner
This is the story of Brittney Griner, a basketball superstar who has lived a life that is anything but easy. Griner was targeted and bullied as a child, and she was even taunted as not being a real girl. She found herself in sports, and as she excelled at basketball she grew confident enough to come out and live her best life. She went on to win a national championship in college and a WNBA champion as well. She became the first openly gay athlete to sign an endorsement deal with Nike.
UFC 239: Nunes vs. Holm
Amanda Nunes may have given herself the nickname "The Lioness", but her excellence in the UFC octagon has earned her another one. She is the GOAT— short for Greatest Of All Time, as Nunes has recently known no equal. She is dominant in two different weight classes, as she reigns as champion of both Women's Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions. Nunes is also proudly out as a lesbian so she serves as the first openly gay champion in the UFC. Nunes is married to Nina Ansaroff who is also a UFC MMA athlete. Celebrate Pride Month by watching the Lioness dominate back in UFC 239, as she dispatched a great fighter in Holly Holm. Starting June 21, you can also see Nunes win over Felicia Spencer from UFC 250 on ESPN+
Sports provides such a wide landscape for stories of triumph, especially for the LGBTQ+ athletes featured in these stories. Renee provides a powerful story of challenging unjust rules while also examining the real toll the fight for rights can take on an individual. It is a story that resonates even with the events of our current times, and can give us new perspectives on the people fighting for their own liberty each day.
A favorite of mine is E:60 Brittney Griner , which is far more than just a short segment with an athlete profile. This extended story goes deep into Griner's life before sports, and the pain she suffered simply for coming out and being who she is inside. Knowing that her relationship with her father hasn't improved is heartbreaking, but likely to resonate with LGBTQ+ who watch that have their own difficult family stories to tell.
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