BUZZFEED: Why Is The World’s Gayest Sport Stuck In The Closet?

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by dardar1126, Jan 31, 2014.

  1. dardar1126

    dardar1126 Well-Known Member

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    http://www.buzzfeed.com/blairbraverman/why-is-the-worlds-gayest-sport-stuck-in-the-closet

    Why Is The World’s Gayest Sport Stuck In The Closet?

    Men’s figure skating has always been caught between its public image and its conservative culture. But with anti-LGBT policies haunting the Sochi Olympics, the sport’s biggest stars are under more pressure than ever to set the record straight.

    posted on January 31, 2014 at 1:24am EST
    Blair Braverman - BuzzFeed Contributor

    Excerpt:

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  2. reese

    reese Well-Known Member

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    I think this is an overall better article than the similar Newsweek article. Worth the read.
  3. IceJunkie

    IceJunkie Well-Known Member

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    I skimmed over the article - I read the Newsweek one last night - and from what I read it was quite interesting. Nothing we didn't really know but I think it's informative for the public who thinks figure skating is the sporting equivalent of musical theatre in terms of LGBT acceptance (again I think the actual current athletes are quite accepting...it's the upper echelons of the sport, where a lot of self-hating gay and straight men are, that is pushing the sport towards what Jenny Kirk called a 1950s view of the world)
  4. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    Okay, so I know he requested anonymity- but there cannot have been that many senior men's coaches who were former Olympians.

    This quote ("His own top skater, he tells me proudly, is “a true-true guy. The straightest they come.”) is so disturbing to me, I really want to know who said it. Has anyone figured this out before I do the legwork finding out who all the men's coaches were? It can't be describing Max Aaron or Brandon Mroz (which were my first thought, though I really don't know if they are straight or not), as Zakrajsek was not an Olympian.

    ETA: Never mind, that took me like 30 seconds. Probably Keegan Messing's coach, who is a former Olympian; though Ross Miner's wikipedia page also lists a coach who was an Olympian.
  5. reese

    reese Well-Known Member

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    Or Doug Ladret?
  6. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    I have no idea if Douglass Razzano is gay or straight- but I don't think anyone would describe his skating using the manly buzzwords. He is artistic. That's why I eliminated Doug Ladret.

    I did edit to add that it was possibly Miner's secondary coach.


    Whoever said it, man- the follow up quote about gay skaters only attracting a gay audience where straight skaters attract everyone is awful. No wonder they wanted anonymity.
  7. arcuel

    arcuel New Member

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    I don't know why, but I can't stop laughing at this part :lol:
  8. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    Great article -- thanks
  9. Carolla5501

    Carolla5501 Well-Known Member

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    Some of these skaters are still kids!

    They should not have to be "outed" for some political statement. I don't care if they are gay or not. I think their personal life is their business not mine. If the skater feels comfortable making a political statement about Russia that's fine, but if he/she isn't comfortable they should not be pushed by gay lobbying to "take a stand"

    I daresay that a lot of kids at their age who are not in the "World's Gayest Sport" are still working out their sexuality issues too... it's just that because they don't skate we don't care LOL!

    Not to mention, that just because you are gay does not mean you have to make your personal life public.... I could stand to know a lot less about the personal lives of a lot of public figures LOL!
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  10. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    ^^ I agree, Carolla. The majority of skaters are obviously still maturing as individuals and finding out who they are, not to mention the difficulty of trying to develop their talents and finding their identity on the ice as complete figure skaters. Actually, they shouldn't be expected to speak with authority on a host of worldly topics (but as happens to many athletes, they are often asked about off-ice current events and controversial issues). I don't think any young skater, regardless of their sexual orientation needs to discuss their intimate personal life for the sake of a movement. People should just be allowed to be who they are and express who they are in whatever way they please without being hounded by skating officials, or media, or pro-gay organizations, or anti-gay organizations.

    To a degree I do understand the attempt to write about the "closeted" gay subject in figure skating (as it does tend to arise every four years... e.g., the questions Johnny Weir was asked by media pre-Vancouver, and the heavy speculation in the press immediately after Johnny's 2006 Olympic sp, when he skated in iconic fashion and as a male to The Swan, not to mention the questions John Curry was asked many years ago). Of course, Russia's anti-gay law makes the whole topic even riper for discussion this time around. And, in figure skating after the rebellious, outspoken and inimitable Johnny Weir (along with more progressive attitudes existing culturally) quite a few skaters regardless of whether they are gay or straight, seem to feel more comfortable in their own skin and in expressing themselves creatively on the ice without fear of the former bullying by TPTB about colorful costumes and not looking macho enough.

    OTOH, I think the sport needs to own up to its own history and tradition of promoting "macho-ness" while fearing the "gay" characterization. At this point, why not simply embrace and celebrate the wonderful beauty of all who have contributed so greatly to the sport, and be more open about and inclusive of the different backgrounds and characteristics of the individuals who make up this sport, without the "winking" and protesting too much. I think it will continue to take time due to the fact that many of the people who grew up in the sport who happen to be gay are unable to embrace openness since they learned the hard way that macho pretense is very important both culturally and within the sport, even despite the fact behind-the-scenes they are quietly known and accepted to be gay without fanfare. Of course in an ideal world, that is as it should be anyway.

    Still figure skating by owning up to its closeted history as a whole and coming clean in that respect, while pointing out the variety of different backgrounds and contributions from all skaters could end up promoting the sport for all that it is and for what draws so many people to it. The joy and appeal of figure skating has not much to do with people's sexual orientation. Ultimately, I think it's the secretive, hush-hush tradition of denial that has been so prevalent in the sport that in many respects has made it difficult to fully promote the sport to a larger public. Skaters as individuals don't need to come out necessarily, as much as the sport itself needs to reflect on its history and to embrace openness and diversity.

    The reference in the article to a current skater, if he comes out, that it would have no impact on his career, is an erroneous assumption IMO. Perhaps after said skater retires, he might be more comfortable coming out, or not. Everyone is entitled to their privacy. As far as the reference to "athletic" vs "artistic" being coded "butch/femme" terms, that's true. But also, "athletic" has been used generally to refer to skaters based on how they are perceived, sometimes as being stronger technically. It can be overdone in that respect too, as Debi Thomas was often referred to as being more athletic, despite the fact she was also very creative artistically, often choreographing her own programs. Because Midori Ito had stocky legs and powerful jumps, she was labeled "athletic," and not given points for her graceful qualities and engaging presentation skills. Even early in her career, Midori was a budding artist, even if not at the level of a Janet Lynn.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
  11. fenway2

    fenway2 Well-Known Member

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    Jeremy apologized twice for what? For walking away? For the lame metaphor that he made last year? For bumping into the writer in the hall twice? For passing gas? Why did he apologize twice? I hate vague writing.
  12. ioana

    ioana Well-Known Member

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    Peter Johansson :confused:? I would say that's highly unlikely.
  13. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    I don't know anything about the man, or whether or not he'd say something like that- but he meets the criteria of coach who is a former Olympian. Based on Keegan's comments in the article (though not quite in the same realm as the anonymous coach's) I highly think my first guess was the right one.

    Keegan seems to be the skater most concerned with being manly. Even with Max Aaron it seems to be more the commentators who expect him to be manly, he is trying to expand his skating to be more full.
  14. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    I doubt and would hate to think it's Peter as I have partied with him and Mark Mitchell awhile back.
  15. ioana

    ioana Well-Known Member

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    I'm completely clueless about Burghart, but if the only choices available are him or Johansson, I'd got with him in a heartbeat.
    Johansson in his competitive days http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivlrjZ5JtGA
  16. Primorskaya

    Primorskaya New Member

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    Comments on this and on the Newsweek article are pretty telling: non skating fans reading them are astounded that the sport and its participants are either homophobic or locked firmly in the closet. They expect it to be the most gay-friendly place on earth.

    So, people at ISU, USFS and all the rest of them: the whole world thinks you're Gay Central anyway, so what the f**k are you afraid of?
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  17. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

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    Why the obsessive interest in "outing" everyone mentioned; even if it is only speculation?
    What useful purpose is served?
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  18. Carolla5501

    Carolla5501 Well-Known Member

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    Why are you so determined to out someone?

    Why do you have to know?

    apparently the person in question wanted to remain private. Time to take your fingers off the keyboard and quit gossiping
  19. Andora

    Andora Well-Known Member

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    I would think the person in question didn't want to face any possible ramifications for his statements more than anything...
  20. immoimeme

    immoimeme having a nice day

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    Really.wtf difference does it make. Should we publicly speculate on YR sexuality? We can you know lol.

    In general, why the fck is every fcking thing so sexualized these days? Don't we have anything better to do, like save the planet?!
  21. ioana

    ioana Well-Known Member

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    The only 'outing' here involves figuring out who made certain comments about what mainstream audiences find appealing. And if it is Keegan's coach, at least the fact that the two of them were the only ones in the article who were willing to state that perception in so many words 'straight sells better than gay' -even anonymously in one case- is pretty telling in and of itself. You can't start to address a problem unless people are willing to admit it exists (i.e. let skaters be themselves instead of pushing 50's gender roles on them). Then again, maybe all this vagueness goes back to USFSA trying to maintain the status quo and a good way of doing it would be to make vague statements that skirt the issue.
  22. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    Outing someone as a person to make a comment? In this thread in particular I think using the phrase "outing someone" certainly seems to take a different meaning.

    I want to know because I think the comments are rather appalling.
    People shouldn't say things they don't want to be associated with. Good rule of thumb is if you have to ask to remain anonymous, maybe you ought to rethink what you are saying. (Edit: I've thought about this, and there are times where I think people have to be very brave to make comments and do their best to stay anonymous, perhaps in politically oppressive regimes or what not. Perhaps that is what he felt he was doing. But I literally looked for less than a minute and figured out which top american skaters had former Olympians as coaches. It wasn't like he was careful about it.)
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
  23. ioana

    ioana Well-Known Member

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    Alternatively, the author revealed too much information and inadvertently blew the anonymous cover :shuffle:
  24. Justathoughtabl

    Justathoughtabl New Member

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    I know, it's so weird. Johnny has repeatedly talked about the homophobia in figure skating. I remember him referring to judges that are "of a different generation," to the USFS as "very conservative," and also writing in his book about how they tried to get him to stop wearing "feminine" costumes.
  25. Carolla5501

    Carolla5501 Well-Known Member

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    Tell you what, when you decide that your comments can be made without a made up screen name then you have the right to demand transparency.
  26. centerpt1

    centerpt1 Active Member

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    I have lost all respect for Keegan
  27. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    People automatically assume people are straight until proven otherwise and people here gossip all the time about who is dating who in the skating world. But when it comes to homosexuality, all of a sudden people are being "too sexual" or you simply rather not know anything about the skater.

    I think that perpetuates the problem of shaming sexuality and to a deeper extent, shaming homosexuality…as if it needs to be something to hide. About the comment about people needing to not be obsessed with this and focusing on "saving the world"…well, one can do both (and to some people, solving this anti-gay rhetoric is "saving the world" within their communities). Also, one can make a similarly dismissive comment about about a bunch of posters spending a great amount of time obsessing about figure skating.

    I understand many skaters are afraid for a great number of reasons, but I just don't like a lot of these attitudes about not expressing sexuality or being critical of it when it is expressed all the time with heterosexual skaters.
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  28. bronwynsings

    bronwynsings Active Member

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    I'm proud of Jeremy Abbott for taking a stance, though. :D
  29. Andora

    Andora Well-Known Member

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    Speculate away. But acknowledging someone's sexuality doesn't make it sexualised. If someone mentions a spouse or significant other in passing, is that "so sexualised"? No. But once homosexuality comes in to play it is? That doesn't make sense...

    Absolutely.
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  30. RFOS

    RFOS Well-Known Member

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    Except for male figure skaters :shuffle: (and some other exceptions)

    The double standard is unfortunate. But it also interests me that discussing or openly being in a relationship is considered "being sexual." If straight skaters were actually acting sexually or talking directly about sex I think that would be frowned upon too. A lot of assumptions and generalizations are made and the fact that people who are close with someone in what seems to be or is described in a romantic way are automatically having sex (at least if they're above a certain age, below which people would be made very uncomfortable by the thought that they might be) is one that seems to bother few people but does bother me. There are asexual people in the world and some of them want romantic relationships too, but it seems that they and bisexual people are often rendered almost completely invisible.
  31. maatTheViking

    maatTheViking Well-Known Member

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    I this was an interesting article, and an interesting problem.

    I am left with the question of

    a) is the strange that it seems to be as hard to be gay in figure skating that it seems to be in, say, football?
    b) or is the strange thing that it seems strange to me that it is that way?

    I don't think individual athletes (of whatever age) should be 'outed' or out themselves - no matter the sport they should keep private life as private as they want, but on the other hand it should not be a deterring factor for their career if they do mention they are gay.

    I also think it is sad that the men in figure skating have to try to be so 'masculine', it does seem rather odd. I really don't see why I should make any assumption on someone's sexuality based on on their performance - or the number of sequins on their costumes. I also don't agree with the one coach that say European and Japanese 'styles' are more 'masculine' - for instance both Oda and Fernandes doesn't strike me as particularly 'masculine' skaters, or rather they are both pretty artistic and well rounded.

    The coach with the manly-man skater is douche, who ever he is. And I can tell for a fact, that my husband, a straight guy, whenever he watches a little skating with me, likes sequins and sparkly costumes, they are more fun!

    Lastly, I think that the US Figure Skating Association tries to hard for skating to be 'family entertainment', and to muzzle their skaters when talking to the press. On both these are other topics, the polite, boring answers are very annoying. I know some media coaching is a good thing, but the sport really seems stuck in the 50s in the headquarter (and not just on gay issues).

    Don't even get me started in how women figure skaters are supposed to look all pretty princess like..
  32. Fan123

    Fan123 Active Member

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    Excellent point. That's why I wonder why closeted celebrities feel the need to dodge the "Are you gay?" question when there's really nothing sexualised about it. It's like asking "What nationality are you? "
  33. lahaa968

    lahaa968 Active Member

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    It's so, so sad. All of it.

    I can't wait for someone to break the floodgates and compete "out". It's time. Football has done it, skating should too. People like watching honesty, contrived-ness has nothing appealing.
    alilou and (deleted member) like this.
  34. Justathoughtabl

    Justathoughtabl New Member

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    I had to laugh when I saw a photo of the newly named U.S. Olympic team and all the women were sitting with their hands folded in their laps and their ankles crossed. Exact same finishing school pose, all of them.
  35. immoimeme

    immoimeme having a nice day

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    Okay okay! I surrender! I see all y'all s points and can't clearly explain my own. Off to save the planet.....so everyone can skate as they like whee!:)
  36. RFOS

    RFOS Well-Known Member

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    ITA. :respec:

    I am also heterosexual (I have a personal dislike of the term straight) and a low-level skater myself and personally don't have any interest in wearing sequins or sparkles, not for fear of being seen as gay but because I don't like to draw visual attention to myself in general. And I really don't care very much what the skaters I watch wear. I might aesthetically prefer one thing over another but very rarely have super strong opinions about clothing. I have no general preference for or against sequins, sparkly costumes, or more plain costumes for men.

    Most of the questions skaters are asked are boring though, and I wouldn't have exciting answers to them either. I don't bother listening to post-skate interviews if a skater didn't do well because I feel bad and awkward and can pretty much guess what they're going to say when asked about their performances. I can pretty much guess what a happy skater will say too, more or less, but at least it's generally fun and well...happy...to see happy skaters. As far as speaking out on political issues, I can't really blame them for not doing so. I used to be very reluctant to my express my opinions and tastes in most contexts and only very recently started being braver about expressing myself (but not through my choice of figure skating outfits ;)).

    :glamor:
  37. viennese

    viennese Well-Known Member

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    I recommend this story over the Newsweek one, too.

    A much more thoughtful and well-researched story.
  38. 2sk8

    2sk8 Active Member

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    It is Beyond Time to let the Skaters be ATHLETES - regardless of their sexual orientation - from all angles. There should be no need nor encouragement to hide homosexuality OR heterosexuality. Until we (and, apparently, USFS) can realize that sexual choices and orientation (for males and females) is NOT relevant to the sport or athletic ability, nothing will change. Why should any young adult (or less than adult) be forced in to a position to hide their sexual orientation (and do not be kidded in to believing there are not hetero men who have to hide their orientation from gay men in the skating world, if not from USFS) OR to "make a statement" to advance political agendas about sexual orientation. These are personal choices that have nothing to do with athletic ability or results. It si Wrong that Russia has made this such an issue in this Olympic cycle, but also wrong if we use it to force young athletes in to making statements they are not personally prepared to make, whatever their personal choices. Their job: SKATE.
  39. LongTimeLurker

    LongTimeLurker New Member

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    Just once, I would like to see a skater respond to the orientation question with, "Why do you want to know?"
  40. Jun Y

    Jun Y Well-Known Member

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    It's hard to get a grip on the issue at this time and place. Obviously the US or North American social concept of masculinity does not necessarily represent the whole world, especially given the rising popularity of skating in Japan and Korea. I don't think the US and Canadian federations today is nearly as terrified as they were 5 or 10 years ago. Skating federations and ISU have had a tradition of gagging insiders from making any comments that could potentially harm the public image of the sport, and that is not limited to the issue of homosexuality. It's a sport very much sensitive and neurotic about "images," so is it any surprise that the "ruling class" are anxious stirring up controversies in the larger society? Only when the larger society has given the sport permission to be "non-masculine" (whatever that means) will they feel safe to stop gagging their athletes and judges and other insiders.

    I don't think it's fair to portray the entire establishment as a monolith. I'm sure plenty of coaches and judges and officials vehemently disagree with each other about these things over the years and even today. It's unrealistic to expect no coaches, judges, and officials to be homophobic. It is only because of the fear of opening internal discussion that has maintained the illusion of a monolithic official position.

    Figure skating unfortunately has to care a lot more about its "family friendly image" than other sports, because it does have a performance aspect, set to music and couched in dance choreography and judged, in part, for a skater's ability to emotionally affect people. Plus, because skaters can make a living PERFORMING as a professional, when athleticism is no longer as important and when skating is purely a performance. So a federation has a stake in not only a competitive sport but also an entertainment business. How many Hollywood stars are out? The larger society is changing rapidly and most of the old-timers who grew up in the conservative era are still around. It's unrealistic to expect everyone in skating to be more progressive than the world they live in.