Pride Month: Bo Kramer on the joy of finding self-acceptance

'The only person that can make you happy is you' 22 Jun 2022
Bo Kramer makes a pass during the gold medal match at Tokyo 2020 as a Chinese player faces her.
Bo Kramer helped the Dutch team win gold in the women's wheelchair basketball tournament at Tokyo 2020.
ⒸJoe Toth/OIS
By Bo Kramer | For the IPC

My name is Bo Kramer and I’m a wheelchair basketball player from the Netherlands. 

I’ve been playing basketball for nine years now and it’s been the best nine years of my life. Very proud to say we wrote history last year by completing the golden circle with winning the gold medal at the Paralympics in Tokyo. This means that I can say I’m a current European, world and Paralympic champion at this moment. I mean, dreams do come true!   

It took Bo Kramer more than a year to fully accept herself and embrace coming out. @Adam Pretty/Getty Images

My biggest dream as a young girl was to become a professional football player. 

As a 10-year-old girl I started this journey at the local football club in my hometown, with a 100 percent belief that I’ll achieve this dream one day. I really enjoyed training hard and getting better. 

Like every athlete you have to deal with at least one injury in your sports career, so did I. My left knee was hurting really bad at one moment so I decided to go to the doctor. They took an X-ray of my left leg and they took one of my right leg to compare. My left knee was all good, but they saw strange white spots in my right tibia which didn’t belong there. By the age of 11 I found out I had bone cancer in my right leg. They found out by coincidence, so I was actually really lucky. It wasn’t full-grown yet, so I only needed several operations to remove the tumors. Hardest part of this story: I wasn’t able to play football anymore… 
My whole life, sports have been a major part of me and my family, so doing no sport wasn’t an option. My dad came up to me with the Paralympic talent day and this is where I played wheelchair basketball for the first time. It was love at first sight! 

Stepping into the Paralympic sports world nine years ago was a big step for me. From day one it felt like this warm and lovely bath. Everyone is sweet, everyone has their own story, everyone looks different or has a different handicap but everyone is welcome and you can be your true self. In my eyes, this also means for your sexual orientation. 

When I started to play wheelchair basketball I wasn’t out yet. I didn’t even know I was into women, to be honest. 

Within wheelchair basketball, being a lesbian isn’t weird. There are a lot of them, so coming out was pretty easy in this surrounding. From the beginning I knew my family would be supporting as well. It did take me more than a year to fully accept myself and tell the rest of the world I was into women though. This was not because I wasn’t feeling safe to say it, but more the ‘road’ to acceptance within myself. 

I really hate the fact that people assumed I was into women because I have short hair or something like that. So, I had this plan to prove to the world that not every girl with short hair that wears boy clothes is a lesbian. Didn’t work out that well, ha-ha! Note: I’m not saying every girl with short hair is a lesbian, but I am.
To be honest, I do have the idea that being a lesbian is more accepted then being gay. Within the Paralympic team you see way more lesbians than gays. I don’t really know if I just don’t know them, or if it's less accepted. In my opinion, the sports world is a safe place to be whoever you are, so I hope other athletes in other sports experience this the same way.  

Talking about your struggles with a trusted friend will make the experience of coming out easier, Kramer says. @Matt Roberts/Getty Images

My advice to other athletes who are struggling with their sexual orientation is: Choose somebody you trust or you feel safe enough with to talk about your struggles. It will help to clear things out in your head and hopefully you’ll come to the point of accepting and embracing yourself. A teammate really helped me with my struggle of ‘acceptance’ by talking a lot about her experiences and her ‘road’ of coming out. This really helped me in a positive way. 
And remember, the only person that can make you happy is you.