Thursday, February 6, 2014

on Sochi

I love the Olympics. I still have memories of staying up until 2 am as a kid, watching the primetime Olympic coverage to the very end almost every night, if I could get away with it. I love the stories, the drama, watching people who've spent their entire lives working toward Olympic gold triumphing or failing, and the beauty and humanity of the entire spectacle. 

I. Love. Me. Some. Olympics.

I'm feeling a bit unsure about them this year, though. As you probably know, Russia has a new anti-gay law that bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors" i.e. "distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations"  Breaking this law can result in hefty fines or jail time.  But in actuality, what this law has done is make it open season on gays in Russia. Hate crimes against gay people in Russia are rampant, are often perpetuated by Russian officials, and the perpetrators of these crimes are not being arrested or in any way disciplined. The gay people they are victimizing are considered the criminals. This, is, obviously, despicable.

Also, last month, another law was being proposed by Russian lawmaker Alexei  Zhuravlyov to strip parenting rights from gay parents who used to be in straight relationships. He says: "In case any parent openly propagates homosexuality and only in this case, if the family splits, a child should exclusively stay with a parent who has heterosexual way of life." I MEAN....What the fuck.

And yet, this place, Russia, where such enormous human rights violations are occurring, is hosting the world's biggest sporting event, where all nations are supposed to come together, put aside their differences, and bond over our shared humanity.

Something's not adding up.

Of course, many human rights groups, governments, and more recently, corporations, are denouncing Russia's laws and calling for a boycott of the Olympics. And a large part of me feels that that's the right thing to do. But what about all of the gay athletes? What are they supposed to do?? They've worked, some of them, their entire lives for the chance to compete in an Olympic Games--how could they just NOT GO??

A few months ago, Johnny Weir, an openly gay figure skater, addressed this question and explained why he feels that athletes, gay or straight, shouldn't boycott the games. Here he is on Keith Olbermann (wearing a Russian military uniform, BY THE WAY):

If you don't want to watch that (like if you happen to find Johnny Weir insufferable...I sometimes find him pompous, and sometimes find him's very confusing), basically he said that it would invalidate all of the sacrifices his family had made for him, and negate his entire life's work, for him to boycott the Olympics, and that this is true for every athlete. He also said that even if people/athletes do boycott the games, the games will still happen, and that not going would give the propaganda more strength. He's saying that, by going, by showing up, specifically as a gay athlete, he will be making a powerful statement. And I get that. But, that being said, Johnny Weir is not actually competing.  He didn't register for the qualifying competition that determined the Olympic team, which strikes me as....odd. If you've spent your whole life as an athlete, why would you not register to qualify for the Olympics???? He will be there though, doing commentary for NBC, but still...weird.

I digress. This post is not supposed to be about Johnny Weir, my bad.

So, my favorite reaction to Russia's terrible politics is that of President Obama, and his decision to send a US delegation with several openly-gay members to the Olympics (including Brian Boitano, who came out publicly as a gay man after being appointed to the delegation--love it), while no one from the president's or vice-president's families will attend. OH SNAP. Read more about this here and here .

Speaking of figure skating (it might be kind of obvious at this point that I really like figure skating?...I really like figure skating, not in small part because it is filled to the brim with gays and I love it), SNL did a great sketch about how things might go if the US tried to make sure that none of the male skaters could be perceived as gay.


The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion put out this great PSA about how the Olympics "have always been a little gay", which, I mean, OBVIOUSLY. It's just 30 seconds of 2 dudes getting ready to luge. Perfection.

So, with all of this said, I'm still going to watch the Olympics, and will probably watch a LOT of Olympics, and will still love seeing the human drama play out and will love seeing people achieve their dreams and will fiercely root for the underdog. But I'll watch it all with a since of...unease. Because a lot of wrong is happening in Sochi.
But this 
Norwegian Curling Team
will also happen in Sochi, and I am SO HERE FOR THAT.
What are your thoughts on all this? Talk to me, lovelies.



  1. For argument sake, I feel conflicted about all the media criticism of Sochi as the Winter Olympics site, and admit to my own very strong (mostly negative) feelings about it.

    Ideally, the Olympics should not exclusively take place in a western democracy every time - that would go against the Olympic spirit and the notion of Olympics as a world sports competition, and that would also preclude several continents from ever hosting the competition.

    In regards to the security concerns, the worst attack ever during the Olympic games was in Munich in 1972 (a western democratic nation that was host of the games), and we are certainly not immune to terrorist threats here in the U.S. either (unfortunately). While Russia feels more volatile at times, we have to have faith that all will go smoothly and remember that the risk of terrorism spreads everywhere, sadly.

    On gay rights, while the Russian law is far from ideal, it's important to remember that multiple U.S. state laws criminalized homosexual sodomy in the not so distant past and that you can still get fired in many U.S. states simply for being gay, and the U.S. military's DADT policy which was just recently reversed is far from ideal. While we have more tolerance as a nation and are heading in the right direction, we still have a lot of fighting to do for the rights of LGBT in our own homeland.

    Personally, I am angered and disgusted at the ways gays have been treated in Russia, and the lack of basic rights they have. It's disheartening to say the least. I hope and pray this changes, and hope and pray that in the not so distant future the LGBT community is able to stand proud in every nation.

    I am proud of the ways that other nations are banding together to show solidarity to the LGBT community. I am overwhelmingly proud of the way our president has given a silent middle finger with his choice of delegation, the choice to sit this one out, the choice to stand tall behind the civil rights he believes in for every human, not just Americans. This says a lot without having to say much. I'm proud of the way our athletes have remained strong and aren't afraid to stay true to their beliefs while all of these heavy issues surround them. It's their time to shine, and to boycott watching them have their moments would take away what most of them have worked for their whole life!

    All of the said, the Canadian luge commercial was pure brilliance, and I look forward to watching America do their thing in Sochi. USA!!!!

    I do feel for the journalists though, as they are the ones who really seem to be getting the shaft in Sochi!

  2. bare for me! my girl says she just wants it to be clean!! LOL