Hi - I'm Amini Fonua, an Olympic swimmer from the pacific nation of Tonga who's training for the Tokyo Games in 2020. I made some headlines as one of the few openly LGBTQ Olympians at the Rio Games in 2016, not so much because I'm from a country where it's still illegal to be gay, but because I publicly criticized a Daily Beast article that outed fellow Olympians, including some from homophobic countries.

I spoke out against the dangers of outing and published a series of tweets that went viral, followed up by a number of media interviews, that helped to get the story retracted, with an apology. The International Olympic Committee ultimately deemed the article "unacceptable, which was actually the first time the IOC had ever acknowledged any LGBTQ presence.

I hadn't been publicly "out" long, and since Tonga is religious and very conservative, I was nervous -- but I was obviously one of the few in a position to speak for the many athletes who weren't ready, or didn't feel safe, being out. That's a decision all of us should make on our own,  particularly when our lives are at stake.

One thing I never expected, just for speaking up, was the outpouring of heartwarming support I received -- and not just from fellow athletes. Outsports named me "Male Hero of the Year," the Los Angeles LGBT Center presented me with its Vanguard Award at their anniversary gala, and Out Magazine included me in its "Out 100" list. And though Tonga didn't welcome me home as a hero, they didn't censor me. Believe it or not, I think I'm helping to change hears and minds there and I've still got a strong chance to earn a shot to compete at the Tokyo Games next year.

Here's the thing, though -- I don't receive any training support from my country. It's not a homophobic thing; they don't support any of their athletes. It's all up to us.

While training for the Rio Games, I spent every hour that I wasn't training or sleeping, working as a barista. I've got a bachelor's degree in Telecommunication and Multimedia from Texas A&M, but it's not feasible to have a full-time job while training for the Olympics. And since my work as a Starbucks barista offers a flexible schedule with health benefits, I'm still doing that today. But because expenses are so much greater than they were four years ago, I'm working close to full-time to support myself, leaving no time for training.

I do have some side hustles that help me get by. I teach private swimming lessons in the NYC metropolitan area, offer mentoring sessions to high school athletes hoping to swim in college, and I’m set to launch my own collagen hair oil mask promoting hair thickness called “Tropikaux” this spring.

I recently moved from the SF Bay Area to New Jersey, where things are cheaper, but it's still more than I'm able to manage on my own. That's why I've started this GoFundMe. I have a very real chance to qualify for the Tokyo Games, my third (and most likely final) Olympics. But for the first time, I'm asking for help -- and I'm more anxious about doing that than I was speaking out against that horrible Daily Beast article. 

Any money I'm fortunate enough to raise will go toward travel & accommodation for competitions, high quality racing suits, training equipment, coaching, health insurance, post-workout recovery and body maintenance (acupuncture), food & nutritional supplementation, and transportation to and from workouts.

I have a few qualifying competitions between now and next summer, both in the US and abroad, but my main competition will be the 2020 Oceania Championships held June 15-21 in Suva, Fiji. I am a two-time Oceanic swimming champion, so I have experienced great success at this competition before.

From the bottom of my heart, I can tell you that any donation you make will be gratefully received and support a stronger LGBTQ presence at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Thanks for hearing me out!



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Amini Fonua 
Fort Lee, NJ
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