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Rosie Cossar: Olympian, LGBT advocate, UTSC student

Olympian and first-year paramedicine student Rosie Cossar at World Pride in Toronto 2014.

As a rhythmic gymnast Rosie Cossar competed all over the world representing Canada, while supressing her true identity.

“I was the team captain for my group, I was representing my teammates, I was representing my clubs, my city, my province, my country, but I constantly had this mask on,” says Cossar,

“I was constantly trying to pretend I was someone different than who I actually am, and constantly worried about the person I actually was.” 

Cossar was masking her sexuality. “I didn’t think I would be able to have a life being a gay athlete, being a gay woman. And I didn’t think there were options for me, because I didn’t see any,” she says.

Although she didn’t realize it at the time, Cossar started her Olympic journey when she was five, enrolling in gymnastics. Three years later she was competing on an international level and training Russia.

“I was under a lot of pressure, and most of it I put on myself, I felt that a part of me was less than adequate, so for other parts of me I have to be more than adequate,” says Cossar.

Cossar’s rhythmic gymnastics team was the first Canadian team to qualify for the Olympic Games, and her 2012 London Olympic experience was destined to be life-changing.

“So much happened in so little time, words don’t properly describe this. It’s so different from anything else I have experienced in my life. You are the focus of the entire world for three weeks. Never before was I on the media so much. Before and after the games that goes down,” says Cossar.

With the constant media attention leading up to the games she was beginning to realize she could no longer represent her country without representing herself.

“I owed it to myself, I worked so hard my whole life and I thought how could I not represent that work genuinely to the real person who did it and not to the mask,” she says.

She started her process of coming out by opening up to her teammates; and then she publically came out in 2014, two years after the games.

As the games came to a close, Cossar’s activism was just beginning.

“I do a lot of advocating for LGBT rights and I get invited to places because I am an Olympic athlete and people want to listen to what I have to say.  I don’t take that for granted at all. I use that to my benefit and it enables me to start conversations,” says Cossar.

Cossar is the lead for the #OneTeam, an LGBT inclusion program launched by the Canadian Olympic Committee. It includes 50 athlete ambassadors who stand up, support and work as allies for the cause.

That’s not all. After being out of school for five years, Cossar has also just completed her first-year in the University of Toronto Scarborough paramedicine program.

“It was important for me to get a diploma in paramedics as well as a degree, and to be able to do two in one was just ideal,” she says. 

“Since I was little I always wanted to work in the medical field and I thought that meant being a doctor,” says Cossar. “And gradually as I got older I started to realize my different strengths, and I know I am very cool, calm and collected in situations of crisis.”

Helping others is something that Cossar is very passionate about, and this is embodied through her public speaking engagements, her field of study, and her involvement as the chair of UTSC’s Women in Sports Subcommittee. The subcommittee is focused on increasing women participation in intramural sports at UTSC, and creating a more female-friendly environment at Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

“Just like any other issue in the world whether it be human rights, women rights, LGBTrights, it’s important for me to find that equality somewhere,” says Cossar. “It is important for me to make sure everyone has an opportunity and I don’t think that gender should determine people’s opportunities and I don’t think that sexuality, race, or anything of that manner should determine what possibilities people have access to.” 


© University of Toronto Scarborough