Lesbian Olympic swimmer Martha McCabe shows the way
Retired Canadian Olympic swimmer Martha McCabe has come out as a lesbian in an interview with CBC TV network, saying she wants to encourage other LGBTQ girls and women to join sports.
McCabe, a 30-year old world champion and Pan Am Games silver medalist, noted there should be more sports superstars that should come out as lesbian and advocate for women in the LGBTQ space.
Martha McCabe wants to inspire
In her interview, McCabe admitted that in her eight years as a swimmer on Canada’s national team, she never felt attracted to women.
However, she believed it might have been different if lesbian athletes were more commonplace and as accepted among their ranks. She pointed out that at least 10 teammates identified as LGBTQ but almost all were men.
“I want to be an example to young female swimmers and help ones who are struggling with this, so they can see it’s normal,” McCabe told CBC.
She further said that, “The people I looked up to were in swimming. The people I was constantly surrounded by and giving my full attention to were in swimming.”
“I think if there was an out lesbian within that circle, someone I could have potentially looked up to, it would have been normalized a little bit more.”
She noted that “there haven’t really been any superstars in the sport publicly come out as lesbian and advocate for women in the LGBTQ+ space, it makes it more challenging to realize these things about yourself.”
“I think because I didn’t see it in people I looked up to, the thought never crossed my mind. I didn’t question the norms society had built around me because I didn’t even realize there was something to question,” she said.
The Olympic journey of Martha McCabe
Born 4 August 1989 and raised in Toronto, McCabe seemed destined to be an Olympic swimmer, having to participate in the “McCabe Olympics” with her three older siblings while growing up.
She first competed in synchronized swimming for three years before turning to racing. She also graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in kinesiology and health sciences.
Winning a bronze in the 200-metre breaststroke at the 2011 FINA World Championships, she took part in her first Olympic Games at London 2012 where she finished fifth in the 200-metre breaststroke.
Because of this, she was named 2012 Female Swimmer of the Year at Swimming Canada’s Big Splash Awards. The next year, she got her third straight world championship in the 200-metre breaststroke final.
Despite a stress fracture in her right clavicle in 2014, she earned a spot on the teams for the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships to gain the final of the 200-metre breaststroke at both events.
She won a silver in the 200-metre breaststroke at Toronto 2015 and was named co-captain of the Canadian Olympic swimming team at Rio 2016, where she swam her last competitive race.
Coming out and sharing her story
McCabe related that she didn’t examined her sexuality until after her retirement. As such, she marched as an ally during Toronto’s 2019 Pride parade with the Canadian Olympic Committee.
This year, she celebrated her first Pride month as a member of the LGBTQ community online with her girlfriend.
Mark Tewksbury, an Olympic champion swimmer and advocate for gay rights after coming out publicly in 1998, lauded McCabe’s revelation. The two had marched together during the London Olympics.
Tewksbury said,”This is so important, Martha sharing her story. I don’t know how many women have ever been on the national team and have publicly identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community before.”
Meanwhile, McCabe said, “Young people need to be able to see themselves in the people they look up to.”
She further cited the importance of minority voices of different races, sexualities, and gender identities so that “younger generations can see they are not alone, and that you can be successful despite your differences.”