Organizers also announce special performance by Todrick Hall set for Oct. 1 dinner
As the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio reach the halfway mark, here in North Texas, Black Tie Dinner officials are getting in the spirit by announcing that openly gay Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis will receive the 2016 Elizabeth Birch Equality Award.
Louganis will receive the award at the 35th annual Black Tie Dinner, set for Oct. 1 and the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. The Birch Award is given in recognition of “demonstrated national impact on LGBT rights.”
Dinner officials also announced today, Friday, Aug. 12, that entertainer Todrick Hall — an Arlington native who gained national attention when he advanced to the semifinals in the ninth season of American Idol and who recently brought his Straight Outta Oz tour to the DFW Metroplex — will make an appearance at the dinner.
Nathan Robbins, 2016 BTD co-chair called Louganis “an American icon and trailblazer whose story and contributions to our community have impacted countless individuals around the world.” He added that BTD is “truly honored to present him with the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award at this year’s dinner and look forward to honoring all of his great work.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Louganis’ first Olympic appearance: He placed second in the tower event in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. He went on to win a total of five Olympic medals — gold medals in spring board and tower diving in Los Angeles in 1984, and again in Seoul in 1988.
Those victories in Seoul came despite the fact that Louganis hit his head on the diving board during the springboard preliminaries and suffered a concussion. He refused to drop out of the competition, though, and went on to win the gold in springboard by a 25-point margin. That and his much narrower win in the 10-meter tower dive earned him ABC’s Wide World of Sports’ Athlete of the Year honors in 1988.
(He had been favored to win gold in 1980 at the Summer Olympics in Moscow, but an American boycott of those Games left him hanging until Los Angeles.)
In addition to his Olympic victories, Louganis has won five world championship titles and 47 national titles — more than any person in U.S. history — and his records remain unbroken.
It was also in 1988 that Louganis first tested positive for HIV. He did not disclose his HIV status — or come out as a gay man — until 1995 when he released his autobiography, Breaking The Surface, which spent five weeks at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
Back on Board, the documentary about Louganis’ return to the world of diving as a mentor for young athletes which was initially released in 2014 and nominated for a Producers Guild Award and an Emmy, is now showing on HBO.
The story of Louganis’ life “ has inspired millions,” BTD officials said, noting that he “regularly speaks to the most significant organizations and companies in the world to share that story. Today, as an author, actor, activist and humanitarian, clothing and jewelry designer, he continues his tradition of excellence in every field he touches.”
Todrick Hall has a long list of accomplishments after his name: singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, choreographer, playwright, costume designer, Broadway performer, American Idol finalist, star of his own self-titled MTV Show and viral YouTube sensation.
His Broadway credits include Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple and The 2010 Tony Award-winning musical Memphis! In the four years he has been a full-time YouTuber, he has opened the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, been a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race and Gay for Play, choreographed music videos for Beyoncé, written and starred in the Virgin America safety video, Fiat commercials and the theme song for the new online version of Jim Henson’s Sesame Street.
Hall has also teamed up with The Trevor Project, the city of West Hollywood, HIV Equal and HIV Beats to help raise awareness of several issues within the LGBT community.
BTD 2016 Co-Chair Mitzi Lemons said, “Todrick Hall is truly a force of nature, and we are sure that his special performance at this year’s dinner will be a highlight of the evening. Todrick has used his unique gifts and platform to entertain and inspire and we are thrilled to have him as a special guest.”
For more information on Black Tie Dinner, visit BlackTie.org. Raffle tickets, sponsorship tables, tables and individual tickets are currently on sale at the website.
How the gays are doing at the Olympics
The Australian women’s basketball team, which includes Dallas Wings guard Erin Phillips, has won three consecutive games. By press time, the team had beaten Brazil, Turkey and France. They were scheduled to play Japan on Thursday, Aug. 11, and Belarus on Saturday, Aug. 13, all in pool play.
Phillips has averaged 22 minutes play per game. In the game against France, she made four out of four free throws and two field goals.
Phillips is from Melbourne, in south Australia and played for the Adelaide Lightening before coming to the U.S. in 2006. She has played in the WNBA for Connecticut, Indiana, Phoenix and Los Angeles before being traded to Dallas this season. She lives in McKinney with her partner.
In other gay athlete news:
• Rafaela Silva of Brazil won a gold medal in judo (officially coming out after her victory).
• British diver Tom Daley won a bronze medal for Great Britain in men’s synchronized 10-meter platform. Daley is engaged to writer Dustin Lance Black.
• Canada’s women’s rugby team, including lesbian Jen Kish, beat Great Britain 33-10 in women’s sevens to win a bronze medal.
• Linda Villimsen, from Denmark, is the only out cyclist competing. She finished sixth in the women’s time trial on Wednesday, Aug. 10, and 23rd in the women’s road race.
According to OutSports, a record 49 athletes competing in this summer’s games and three coaches are out. Of the 11 out male athletes, none are American. Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh, a married couple, both compete on Great Britain’s field hockey team.
Here’s a list of out athletes, their country and sport:
Nicola Adams (Great Britain, boxing)
Seimone Augustus (USA, basketball)
Tom Bosworth (Great Britain, race walk)
Isadora Cerullo (Brazil, rugby)
Dutee Chand (India, track & field)
Tom Daley (Great Britain, diving)
Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel (Netherlands, field hockey)
Lisa Dahlkvist (Sweden, soccer)
Elena Delle Donne (USA, basketball)
Katie Duncan (New Zealand, soccer)
Nilla Fisher (Sweden, soccer)
Amini Fonua (Tonga, swimming)
Larissa França (Brazil, beach volleyball)
Edward Gal (Netherlands, equestrian)
Kelly Griffin (USA, rugby)
Brittney Griner (USA, basketball)
Carl Hester (Great Britain, equestrian)
Michelle Heyman (Australia, soccer)
Mélanie Henique (France, swimming)
Jen Kish (Canada, rugby)
Stephanie Labbe (Canada, soccer)
Alexandra Lacrabère (France, handball)
Hedvig Lindahl (Sweden, soccer)
Ari-Pekka Liukkonen (Finland, swimming)
Robbie Manson (New Zealand, rowing)
Hans Peter Minderhoud (Netherlands, equestrian)
Ian Matos (Brazil, diving)
Angel McCoughtry (USA, basketball)
Nadine Müller (Germany, discus)
Marie-Eve Nault (Canada, soccer)
Ashley Nee (USA, kayak whitewater slalom)
Maartje Paumen (Netherlands, field hockey)
Mayssa Pessoa (Brazil, handball)
Jillion Potter (USA, rugby)
Megan Rapinoe (USA, soccer)
Helen Richardson-Walsh (Great Britain, field hockey)
Kate Richardson-Walsh (Great Britain, field hockey)
Tessie Savelkouls (Netherlands, judo).
Carolina Seger (Sweden, soccer)
Caster Semenya (South Africa, track & field)
Rafaela Silva (Brazil, judo)
Martina Strutz (Germany, pole vault)
Susannah Townsend (Great Britian, field hockey)
Sunette Stella Viljoen (South Africa, javelin)
Julia Vasconcelos (Brazil, taekowndo).
Marleen van Iersel (Netherlands, beach volleyball)
Linda Vilumsen (New Zealand, cycling)
Jeffrey Wammes (Netherlands, gymnastics)
Spencer Wilton (Great Britain, equestrian)
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2016.