Gay Movement’s Major New Voice

September 18, 2013 5:30 PM16 comments

nfbentonpicWhile it appears that two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. national mens figure skating champion Johnny Weir ended his competitive skating career this month by allowing a Sept. 1 filing deadline to pass, this new development has come just as Weir shot to forefront among leading LGBT voices with his powerful intervention against an ill-conceived effort to launch an Olympic boycott. In so doing, he’s drawn the angry, jealous ire, including cascades of remarkably shrill online insults, of many who’ve claimed such standing in the gay movement but who lack Weir’s high profile.

In fact, Weir’s withdrawal from competition at this point enhances the credibility of his strong anti-boycott stand, removing the allegation that he was acting merely out of selfish self-interest, lusting for a third shot at Olympic gold at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next February.

Weir has never shied away from controversy during his past decade’s colorful figure skating career, although it has usually been associated with his offbeat costumes and not infrequent sassy remarks. Some of that persona has always been evident in his public appearances on the ice or off, as trendy fashion, unconventional routines and other forms of exaggeration have always been part of his makeup. But it’s always been done, he’s made clear many times, to give heart and show solidarity for the many misfits and oddballs out there, including LGBT youth, who are so often subject to abuse.

This “method to his madness” underscores in Johnny Weir remarkable capacities not only for empathy and compassion, but for intelligence, articulation and, above all, a resolve to put them all to use by way of uncommon personal courage.

While often expressing these qualities in an online blog, Weir began bringing them to a wider forum of public discourse through a weekly newspaper column he began almost a year ago, published exclusively in my newspaper, the Falls Church News-Press.

Despite flying all over the world for competitions and exhibitions, he never missed a weekly deadline with 600 words of original, insightful content on all manner of love and life issues.

But when the drumbeat began arising in LGBT circles this summer about a movement to boycott the Winter Olympics as a way to protest new Russian anti-gay laws, Weir felt obligated to put his weekly column to the purpose of opposing such a move with a variety of compelling arguments. He wound up writing on the subject for four consecutive weeks in August.

When he submitted the first one, he suggested to me that the subject might warrant drawing some further attention, and I agreed, issuing a press release about it that went out to a national media list. Sure enough, it led to a thundering media response, with lots of TV, radio and newspaper interviews.

Not surprisingly, the self-appointed gay spokesmen favoring the boycott plan began chewing rugs in anger and jealousy, and their effort escalated when last week Weir was interviewed on ESPN by Keith Olbermann and showed up in a form of campy drag, namely, a Russian Army uniform, to underscore his argument on behalf of mutual respect and cooperation rather than angry confrontation.

It turns out there has been a wider context for all this impacting overall relations between the U.S. and Russia. The major pro-boycott gay spokesmen, it turns out, are strongly aligned with the infamous neo-conservatives (neocons) in the U.S. who launched the invasion of Iraq, being the chief political operatives for the nation’s military-industrial complex, and instinctively itch for fights internationally wherever they can provoke them.

It is these neocons, mostly Republicans, that are urging on the bombing of Syria and are denigrating Russian president Vladimir Putin’s brilliant initiative to defuse the Syrian crisis. It is these neocons who insist on the militaristic “American exceptionalism” that Putin rightly criticized in his recent New York Times op-ed.

The neocons hoped a burgeoning LGBT-led Olympic boycott movement would heighten adversarial U.S.-Russian postures, planning that by now it would have gained major and swelling momentum.

But Johnny Weir almost singlehandedly pulled the plug on all that, qualifying him as not only a leading spokesman for the LGBT cause, but also for international peace-making more generally.

  • gabi

    Nothing “new” about it, this “gay voice” has never missed a beat. As for “neocons” and “Syria,” let’s all just get a grip, shall we?

  • JFallsChurch

    why do i read this?

    • fcnative

      It’s like a car wreck… you can’t not look.

  • TJ

    Please extend the Gaylympics articles; there is still much to be discussed about Sochi and Russia. I agree that Weir has the *potential* to be a powerful new voice in the LGBT Russia discussion and as a reader I would like to hear more of what he has to say about that.

  • Michael Edgar

    Why has the publisher of this newspaper started wearing a rug in his golden years? It’s kind of sad. :-(

    • TJ

      Pssst! I hate to be the one to tell you this but while we’re on the topic of hair… Nobody believes you’re a ‘natural green’, either;)

  • fcnative

    Way to go Nick! You (sort of) kept the self-promotion to a minimum in this article!

  • fcnative

    Also, Nick, why the knock on American Exceptionalism? Although I think your writing is usually rambling, poorly reasoned, and self-congratulatory, it makes me happy and proud of this country that you (an openly-gay journalist who is frequently critical of the American government) are free to do what you do. If you don’t get American Exceptionalism, then you’re just dim.

    • sJames6621

      I hope you dont think that Exceptionalism applies to the vile anti gay groups like FRC and AFA. Of course there are nut jobs everywhere

      Bryan Fischer of the AFA lives in Tupelo Mississippi – that should expalin his hatred of so many.

      Tony Perkins head of the FRC, from Lousiiana paid about $82000 to David Duke , a known kluxer for a mail list of haters of presumably black people.

      http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/picture-worth-thousand-memories

      George Rekers who founded the FRC and was a founder of narth which claims to fix gays – as is not uncommon a closet case who uses utter hatred of gas to hide from others (and yes his own immorality) his won orientation.

      Rekers is about #2 or #3 on this list

      http://www.ranker.com/list/top-10-anti-gay-activists-caught-being-gay/joanne

      • fcnative

        I detest groups like the FRC and the AFA. American Exceptionalism isn’t based on the premise that everything and everyone in America is exceptional. Rather, in my view, it’s based on the premise that this country and its constitution afford us the ability to live remarkably free lives.

        My point was that Nick Benton’s career is evidence of how exceptional America is on two counts:

        1) He is openly gay. LGBT individuals are not only persecuted and ostracized in many countries, but are at risk of being jailed or even executed. Much needs to be done in America for full equality for LGBT folks, but this community has it a hell of a lot better here than in Uganda, Russia, or wherever else.

        2) He is a journalist who frequently criticizes the American government. Let’s not forget that the notion of a free press is a joke in many other countries. Moreover, journalists who criticize the governments of their own countries can face horrible fates in many places (such as Russia).

        In sum: the very freedoms that Nick Benton enjoys whenever he writes one of his opinion pieces exemplify American Exceptionalism. Accordingly, it frustrates me when he criticizes the notion of American Exceptionalism in one of his opinion pieces!

  • jayjonson

    I was hoping this might be satire. Alas, it is simply delusional self-promotion.

    • sJames6621

      I’m willing to give him a shot but see my other comments about about what will make him a real progressive voice in an utterly lost in old time church in so many ways

  • sJames6621

    personally i see the russian deal / boycott as damned if you do damned if you dont. the one possibility is If the atheletes will simply all wear rainbow colors, we’ll se if the ruskies dare to kick them out

    Probably they will, and then the whole world except fr the extremist islamics and the right wing xtians who also see obama as a Black man nightmare come true, will understand what its like when an ex kgb thug runs a country.

    We actually need them eg the syria thing is not great but will protect our soldiers and may end the horrible threat / use of banned weapons.

  • Bill

    So is Congressman Moran a neocon as well? Wasn’t he in favor of bombing Syria as reported by this paper? Also, how did we go from Johnny Weir to bashing Republican neocons again?

    • JFallsChurch

      hard to find an article written by NB that doesn’t bash conservatives

    • Peter J. Stanton

      That’s what flaming secular progressives do. They seek tolerance yet show none. They blame those who are not responsible for their misery. They give a pass if you share their politics. It was Obama, Kerry and the Dems who started the Syria mess. BTW This is one rambling incoherent article.

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