First Non-Binary Winter Olympian Challenges Ice Skating Stereotype

Timothy LeDuc and partner Ashley Cain-Gribble aim to break gender norms in figure skating

By Rachel Sauvage

LONDON, Jan 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Timothy LeDuc takes to the ice in Beijing as the first openly non-binary Winter Olympian, the figure skater aims to challenge gender stereotypes and blaze a trail for others athletes who feel neither male nor female.

The American, who uses the pronouns them/them, wants to eliminate traditional notions that all skating pairs tell ‘Romeo and Juliet’ stories, and instead present a show of equality and strength with the partner Olympian Ashley Cain-Gribble, 26.

“My hope now is to be openly non-binary and be upfront about it, maybe that will pave the way for other non-binary and gay athletes to come in pairs in ice dancing,” LeDuc said. , 31, in a video interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A record number of openly LGBT+ athletes will compete in the Winter Olympics, according to the LGBT+ news site Outsports, following the record set at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Tokyo also saw the first openly transgender and non-binary Olympians, including Canadian soccer player Quinn, who uses a single name, and American skateboarder Alana Smith, who was misinterpreted by broadcasters using the wrong pronouns.

“I’m not too worried about people’s perception of me or people cheating on me,” LeDuc said.

“I hope that, you know, the fact that I’m open and authentic helps move this conversation forward and helps people better understand that people can… be amazing athletes and still exist outside of the binary.”


The closeness between LeDuc and Cain-Gribble was evident even though they conducted the interview from separate locations, enjoying a period of rest after winning their second U.S. National Championships this month.

While Cain-Gribble wore a white U.S. Olympic team zip-up hoodie, LeDuc wore a black V-neck shirt and bright eye makeup.

“Timothy has always been there for me, they have supported me every step of the way in my life. And so I will always be there to support their journey,” Cain-Gribble said.

“We were already kind of not really subscribed to a standard narrative of masculinity-femininity on the ice,” LeDuc said.

“It had nothing to do with Ashley being married to someone else… (or) me being gay. It had everything to do with us both being such strong athletes and incredible and that we didn’t want to diminish any of our incredible abilities on the ice.”

In one routine, Cain-Gribble wears an all-in-one leotard with legs, unusual for a figure skater.

“If I want to wear a dress, it’s because I want to, it’s not because someone…wants me to be more feminine,” she said. “I feel really powerful in a leotard.”

LeDuc explained that Cain-Gribble was “body-shamed” for being taller than most skaters, thus almost written off as the future winner. During this time, LeDuc was told to shut up about being gay and dismissed as weak by a potential partner.

At 18, they also had to fend off attempts at gay conversion therapy by other Christians and praised their close family for coming to terms with their identity.

“There were some tough times when I came out, some people tried to pray the gay away from me,” LeDuc said.

“But I, I can’t say enough how amazing my family is. They’ve completely changed their perspective,” they said. “Now my parents walk with me on Trans Pride Marches and Pride Marches.”

Ranked seventh in the world behind athletes from Russia, China and Canada, the duo want to crack the top five in Beijing.

“It’s been a lifelong dream,” Cain-Gribble said. “It’s the first time that we really don’t have to fight for a place or qualify for something. We can just be there and skate.”

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news

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