LGBT History Month 2014: Orlando Cruz, Boxer

Photo Credit: Associated Press

LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 lesbian, gay,bisexual or transgender Icons. Each day in October, a new LGBT Icon is featured with a video, bio, bibliography, downloadable images and other resources.

In 1994, Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher, believed a month should be dedicated to the celebration and teaching of gay and lesbian history, and gathered other teachers and community leaders. They selected October because public schools are in session and existing traditions, such as Coming Out Day (October 11), occur that month.

October 13: Orlando Cruz, Boxer

The 2000 Olympic Games were pivotal for boxer Orlando Cruz. After representing Puerto Rico in the games, Cruz launched his professional boxing career. He won a world featherweight title and went nine years without a defeat.
The homophobia that Cruz experienced growing up in Puerto Rico made it difficult for him to accept his sexuality, especially in the world of boxing machismo. Cruz’s internal conflict continued as rumors spread among boxing fans. This tension culminated during his 2008 world title fight. “The spectators bad-mouthed me; they called me a faggot,” Cruz said. “That’s when I realized that something had to change.”

Cruz spent the next few years meeting with a psychologist to work through coming out publicly. In 2012 Cruz became the first professional boxer to come out during his career and one of the first professional athletes to come out while still active. Soon after, he won a major fight wearing rainbow shorts. A year later he married his boyfriend.

In 2013 the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame made Cruz an inaugural inductee. He stated, “I want kids to know that you can be whoever you want to be, including a professional boxer.”