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Rob Kearney is the First Openly Gay Strongman

by | Jun 12, 2023 | Biographies, LGBTQ+ History | 0 comments

Rob Kearney is the First Openly Gay Strongman 

Every time we read a book about a real person, my youngest’s first question is, “Mom, are they still alive?” I noticed he pays much more attention when the answer is yes. Tonight’s book, Strong, by Rob Kearney, was a big hit. 

Rob is the first openly gay strongman. This book, while it mentions his sexuality briefly, is mostly focused on Rob discovering his passion for weightlifting, but believing that he still has to dull parts of himself to fit in (the example in the book is his choice of clothing). When he meets his partner Joey, Joey encourages him to be himself in all parts of his life, and Rob starts trading out his black and grey clothing for colorful clothing that more closely matches what he wears outside of the gym. 

This book is focused on Rob and his journey, and is not focused on his sexuality. For any parents who might be nervous to have conversations with their kids, this is a great book to introduce kids to the idea that “sometimes guys like girls, and sometimes they like guys, and that’s okay.” It’s very nonchalant and just a normal part of the story. 





As a parent, my ultimate goal is to be a safe place for my kids while they figure themselves out and all the parts that make them unique. I loved how this book used Rob’s love of colorful clothing as an example of fully embracing who they are and what brings them joy. I also loved how Joey’s involvement was so encouraging and that safe space for Rob to be brave showing people who he is. 


I know that talking to kids about LGBTQ+ people is a hot-button topic for a lot of people right now, so I wanted to share our conversation: 

I read this section from the book: “Joey was fun and kind, and he made Rob smile. The two of them fell in love.” 

Oldest child (8): “aww, they fell in love! Sometimes that happens.” 

The end. 

I think sometimes our level of comfort when discussing things that are not familiar to us as parents can be projected onto the kids as “this will make them uncomfortable” – which is both a way to blame your kids for your own discomfort and trains them that it’s something to be avoided. 

In our home, we are guided by three principles: Kindness, Dignity, and Respect. We treat everyone with kindness, we honor the dignity of every human, and we respect the differences between people. When topics around sexuality come up, as they do when children are watching and observing the world around them, we just talk about how everyone is different and that’s okay. I hope that as my children interact with others, they can model being a safe space for their friends as well. 

Age Level

Both my rising third grader and rising kindergartener loved this book. At the end of the book is a photo of Rob and Joey holding hands, and my youngest was very invested in figuring out who was who. He used the illustrations to see that Rob sports a rainbow mohawk. He was so impressed with his own observation skills, and so was I!


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