Saturday, July 27, 2013

Johnny Weir Willing to Ignore Russia's Stance on Gays

Johnny Weir Willing to Ignore Russia's Stance on Gays

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, signed anti gay legislation and most of the global LGBT community is livid about it, including me. Playwright, Harvey Fierstein, wrote a piece in the NYT and mentioned a boycott on the 2014 Olympics in Russia. This is why:

“Just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or ‘pro-gay’ and detain them for up to 14 days,” he wrote. “Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay -- or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay -- can go to jail.”

If in fact they are going to enforce these arrests in Russia, why any gay person in his or her right mind would even go there passes me by.

As a side note, up until 2009, the US would not allow anyone with HIV to enter the country. President Obama put an end to that ridiculous law in 2009 and I think it was one of his first official acts. Russia still places travel restrictions on people with HIV.

In a recent piece, Olympic athlete, and openly gay man, Johnny Weir, wrote about how hard athletes work to reach the point where they can participate in the Olympics and how much it means to them. He's not in favor of a boycott, but I'm not sure exactly what his point is. He'd calling for gay athletes to participate, he's saying what Russia is doing is wrong, and yet he's not giving a valid argument as to why we should support him...other than that he deserves it and he's entitled to our support. While I respect all the hard work he and every other athlete has done to reach that point, it's hard to put anything else before the issues that are going on right now in Russia with LGBT people. Seriously. We're not talking about money and winning awards. We're not talking about ice skating and competition. We're talking about the quality of life with maybe millions of human beings. And humans beings will always trump anything else for me.

Weir says this:

To have a boycott would not only negate the career of some athletes who have only one chance at competing at the Games, but also the over-time shifts an exhausted father takes to make ends meet, or the social acclimatization of a brother who can’t go on spring break because his brother needed another costume, or the mother who works part-time at a job far beneath her, just so she can afford to watch her first born perform for the world. The Olympics are not a political statement, they are a place to let the world shine in peace and let them marvel at their youthful talents.

Once again, this is bigger than someone's dad's sacrifice, or someone's brother missing ridiculous spring break, dude. And how Weir can actually say these things without considering the bigger picture surprises me. He clearly comes from a place of both entitlement and privilege

There isn’t a police officer or a government that, should I qualify, could keep me from competing at the Olympics. I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof. I beg the gay athletes not to forget their missions and fight for a chance to dazzle the world.

I had to re-read that paragraph a few times just be certain I wasn't missing something. I hope his ass doesn't wind up in prison. Way to go, Johnny boy. It's always best to put yourself first, be self-serving, and forget about the majority of innocent LGBT people suffering through the physical and mental injustices of Russia's stance on LGBT rights...or lack thereof.

I don't think I've read anything that self-serving before. And I read the entire piece, not just what I posted here.

You can read more here. And the comment thread is even more interesting.

One person said this, and at least I don't feel as if I'm in the minority this time.

Wow. So having the privilege to dedicate one's life to sports (and it IS a privilege) trumps torture and imprisonment.

I'm not saying that Olympians aren't amazing people. But what about the average person? What about the average LGBT kid who can't compete in the Olympics and is wondering whether or not he or she will survive the day?

Weir and other athletes desperately need some perspective.


Shelagh said...

Neither of my children are ever going to be Olympians, but if they were, the thought of them going to Russia would upset me far more than the disappointment of not seeing them compete.

Boycotts can be tricky. I read this yesterday and it certainly made me think. Boycotting Russian vodka seems like an easy and obvious way to protest what's happening in Russia, but the CEO of this particular company is one of the few Russian public figures to have condemned the new legislation. Yes, their could well be some financial motivation but it doesn't change the fact that he could still go to prison for being 'pro-gay'.

As far as the Olympics go, on the one hand I would understand any athlete (or coach, etc) not going - after all, why should they risk imprisonment? Then again, I'd love to see an outrageously, camp contingent winning lots of medals - a bit like Jesse Owens in 1936.

ryan field said...

I agree...and the boycott for vodka is tricky now, too. I've been told (and I saw articles) that Stoli is, and always has been, a huge supporter for gay rights. They even wrote an open letter to the LGBT community. Personally, I wouldn't go there for fear I'd wind up in prison for 14 days. It's not a chance I'd be willing to take.

Remembering Grace said...

I remember seeing the story of when the US boycotted the 1980 games...there was a lot of emphasis on how the athletes didn't support it, that they had worked four years to get to the Olympics, and the government took their chance away. So maybe Johnny is looking at it from that perspective?
But I agree with you...this is a different time, their government has stated they WILL be targeting a percentage of our population over there. The international community needs to shame Russia into a new way of thinking.

ryan field said...

And what they are doing in Russia is so serious.