Johnny’s World: The Gaylympics: Part 3

August 8, 2013 12:00 PM8 comments

jworldWill they or won’t they? Who’s to blame? How can we help?

In the last few weeks I have used my column to discuss the upcoming Olympics and its impact on gay rights in Russia in hopes of opening people’s minds on a variety of issues that I believe in and that I believe are of some validity in trying to explain to people my somewhat biased opinions.

Since I last wrote, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of explaining my views and beliefs in a slew of interviews from CNN to BBC and even to Al Jazeera. My experience as a gay Olympian with a Russophile’s past has given me quite a platform on which to stand and preach in my way. This week I want to discuss how my thoughts and I have been received and what, if any, change I believe I can accomplish.

My opinion is definitely not the popular choice it seems. While many people have echoed my sentiments that the show must go on next February in Sochi and that a strong Western presence in Russia will only help the LGBT movement within Russia, many others have taken to hurling insults and hate my way.

On one program I was joined by an “out” Olympian from New Zealand, Blake Skjellerup, who will compete in Sochi and who will do it proudly. He agreed that the greatest thing we can do as athletes representing our respective nations and not the minority group we come from, is compete and do it well. Our proud presence and fearlessness upon arriving in a place whose government is hostile to us and doing our thing as best we can will be a stronger statement that not going to the Olympics and remaining on the sidelines. The name Jesse Owens comes to mind as he competed in Nazi Germany’s 1936 games and, as an African-American, was segregated in his own country and hated in the host nation. Yet, he scored four gold medals and was applauded by neither Hitler nor FDR. But his statement was world class.

The power of the human spirit will prevail against all odds.

I have been asked on repeat if I should qualify for the Olympics and win a medal, would I wave a rainbow flag or do something special in honor of the gay community. My answer, which has been deemed disgusting as well as full of selfishness among other comments of a more colorful nature, is “No.”

To me, waving a rainbow flag in victory or defeat would be the same as waving a flag that celebrated my skin color, ethnic origin or eye color– the things I’ve been born with. It is one thing to be proud, and quite another to make a scene. I want people to accept my community with open arms as normal, because we are normal. Competing on behalf of the United States and waving any flag other than the American one would be disrespectful.

As Olympians, we compete for the entire nation and all those who live within it. I am not a politician, a protester or someone who believes that being gay is the root of all good things in my life. Being gay is something I was born into, just like my LGBT fans. And to my anti-fans, it’s the same way we are born into skin color. While being loud and forceful may seem like the right move in acceptance, I believe in quiet normalcy and drawing attention by merits, not by yelling.

Through all of this pro-Olympic rhetoric, I am firmly committed to helping the LGBT community of Russia in any way I can and am following the steps I believe will have the most impact. My beliefs are my beliefs and no amount of yelling or telling me I’m inept will change that.

I believe that our presence, not just at the Olympics, but in Russia is valuable. Our prayers are valuable. Showing the world that we are equal by showing and not telling is valuable. We are our own greatest weapons and I hope everyone can rise up in some small way — whatever way you believe in– and show the world your own personal excellence and ability to have compassion. The one thing that joins all of us on the pro-gay side of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law is that we all want to help, and as a group we can.

I urge everyone to stop hating and start loving as it is the only way we can truly help.

  • IcyHeart

    I truly appreciate your stance on this, but I wish that you would stop presenting yourself as a possible member of the 2014 Olympic team. As a two-time Olympian, an out athlete, and Russophile, you have unique credibility. Please don’t mess that up with any more dishonesty.

  • Tyler Albertario

    Fucking feckless little house faggot

  • Neptune

    “Quiet normalcy” has a tendency to look a lot like complacency. Sometimes you have to yell so people (friends and enemies) will hear.

  • AO

    Tyler- wow, what a well thought out response, did you have someone with a brain help you with it?

  • Wayne Besen

    “To me, waving a rainbow flag in victory or defeat would be the same as
    waving a flag that celebrated my skin color, ethnic origin or eye color–
    the things I’ve been born with. It is one thing to be proud, and quite
    another to make a scene. I want people to accept my community with open
    arms as normal, because we are normal. Competing on behalf of the United
    States and waving any flag other than the American one would be
    disrespectful.”

    In terms of being “respectful,” Russia’s new law seeks to make LGBT people invisible and labels their existence “propaganda.” Given the draconian, homophobic nature of such a law — that is already causing bloodshed — we should be disrespectful. Or, at least treat Russian officials with the same disdain they have for the LGBT community.

    It sets a bad example if you will not participate in any coordinated US action that brings visibility to the plight of Russian LGBT people. When they pass out the rainbow pins, you should strongly consider wearing it.

    • IcyHeart

      Uh, he’s not going to be there. He’s an over-the-hill athlete milking this to stay relevant.

    • misfitmimes

      It will be interesting to see if any US Olympians—or any Olympians from anywhere—mount a coordinated action, since that is expressly forbidden by IOC rules, as Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler points out:

      “Despite the calls for public protest by athletes at the Games, there’s a harsh reality we have to contend with. Athletes, coaches and fans looking to make a statement about Russian anti-gay laws don’t just have Russian law to worry about: The Olympic charter forbids these kinds of statements. ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas,’ the Charter’s Rule 50 reads. … If an athlete walks into the Opening Ceremony carrying a rainbow flag, as some have called for, he will be disqualified from participation and faces bans from subsequent Olympic Games. Instead of asking athletes, coaches and fans to risk disqualification, arrest or worse in Sochi, Russia this winter, it’s time for the IOC itself to take a stand.”

      http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/08/06/dont-boycott-the-olympics-ban-russia-from-competing-instead/

  • Lady Lisa

    I absolutely agree that the best way to positively impact gay rights in Russia (especially in a long-term way), is to have a ‘quiet normalcy’, rather than a loud,
    shouting match. I myself am straight, however I have several male friends who are gay, and I can assure anyone that they are very normal, ordinary people. They don’t scream or act things out, or wave a rainbow flag, but they carry it with them always, it’s in their heart, not in their hand.
    I believe that Johnny representing the U.S.A. proudly and fiercely for the Olympic athlete and person that he is, will show Russia and the entire world watching that gay people are equal and absolutely normal. And I believe Johnny’s presence will definitely lend strength and facilitate positive change for the oppressed LGBT people in Russia. I believe Johnny has the perseverence and skill to really help people’s lives not just in Russia but the world over, by leading by example.

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