Somewhere Over The Salchow: Having Pride In Skating

After attending my 12th? 13th? Pride celebration here in Halifax, I wrote this Facebook status this morning:

"What I love most about Pride is the fact that it brings out the fun, happiness and kindness in people. When you're at a parade full of cute dogs, right some sexy firefighters, a Kimberly Diamondz and a Rouge Fatale, Elle Noir and those bitchin wings Lee made her, people on stilts, a dog dressed like an airplane, the chicken, bubbles, glitter, smiles and rainbows, it is impossible for that love and warm, fuzzy stuff not to be contagious. Unless you're just a big meanie, and no one likes a big meanie, girl. Pride also makes us look at how far we've come. From Stonewall to marriage equality to rights and funding for trans people to better workplaces and just plain treatment, we've come such a long way. We're not entirely there but we're actually doing really, really well. Even the mayor I certainly wasn't a fan of when he was running made me eat my words (as opposed to my feelings for a change) and showed up at the baseball game in drag. I'm sorry - I think that's awesome. We collectively shouldn't have ever had to go through all of the SHIT like Stonewall that brought us all to this point to be treated like fucking human beings but the collective struggles of GLBT people are something we've all shared a part in coming to. Instead of being mean spirited for the sake of being mean spirited, just by being kind spirited homos, we can make people change their way of thinking on a day to day basis. When people fall down, help them up. Don't walk around rolling your eyes at people you don't know, don't wear white after Annie Lennox's birthday and don't underestimate anyone. And for the love of fuck, if someone is ever hateful towards you because you take it up the chuff and/or like the titties, you tell them to fuck right off and why with a smile on your face girl. And there's so much further we can go: someone can go tell the Westboro Baptist Church people that they need to git, we can throw in our two cents and try to make positive and light hearted suggestions when people in our community are being pretentious douches, we can help or encourage fun and fabulous people to let their light shine and we can be a little easier on ourselves and take pride in how far we've all come as individuals. I didn't see a single person (aside from Airplane Dog) at that parade yesterday that was perfect but I sure saw a lot of smiles. You don't have to be rich to be proud of yourself, you don't have to be cool to rule my world or to have nice clothes, or the education, home or past you necessarily wanted to be proud of yourself. Hell, I've got a million problems and that's fine. Who cares? I do care about my life and am proud of the heaven and hell I've gone through to be who I am. And if someone doesn't like you, who gives a flying fuck? It's their loss. Sorry bout it. Life's too short to worry about what people who aren't in your life anyway have to say about you. I feel like a goddamn potty mouthed Oprah special right now, but you know what? YEAH! That's what I have to say about that. Happy Pride everyone. :))"

While my mind is on the topic and before Pride in the best city in the world is over, I wanted to talk a little about pride in the figure skating community. And I'm not going to sugar coat it. The skating community has and hasn't been kind to "the gays" over the years. Many of the world's top skaters, gay as they may be in their private lives, don't choose to come out publicly until after they've turned professional. Ever wonder why? Read on. In 2009, Skate Canada launched a new PR campaign to make the sport appeal as more "tough" to the masses and caught major flack from national and international media. Debbi Wilkes responded "Anti-gay? Have you seen us? We teach skating, that’s what we do. We don’t pretend to be the gatekeepers of social values, even that one. We have a president who’s openly gay. Gay or straight, that has nothing to do with it." As much as I love Debbi, I don't really buy this one. Barb MacDonald is Skate Canada's Director Of Corporate Communications. In 2009, she also served on the board for "One Way Ministries", one of those evangelical groups that promotes "a cure for homosexuality". Skate Canada's new CEO Dan Thompson comes via Canadian Tire. At a store right here in our city, someone I know was asked to leave the store by a manager there because they were wearing a man bag/murse/satchel and "men don't wear purses". Repeated phone calls to Canadian Tire's head office about this homophobic behavior went unanswered. Speaking of evangelical groups, World Vision Ministries is a big part of Stars On Ice as well and is prominently promoted in all of their shows. Ads for evangelical groups have appeared on Skate Canada's website over the years as well.

For every Rudy Galindo or Johnny Weir in the sport, there is a young man or a young woman who's that deep in the closet they are finding Christmas presents, because these subcurrents of homophobia in the sport, subtle and obvious at the same time, are still there. We have the Olympics coming up in Sochi, and we know now much the Russian government LOVES their gays. In Australia, broadcasters Mick Malloy and Eddie McGuire caught flack (and not Rory Flack) for homophobic comments on air while they were commentating figure skating.  Molloy said that organizers were shocked to learn that one of the skaters at the event being broadcasted was not gay. The next day he apologized by saying: "I suggested that there was a disaster happening at the ice skating rink because organizers had found out one of the male ice dancers wasn't gay. And I apologize for that really sincerely...[cue Johnny Weir taking the ice]...but it definitely wasn't this guy." He also described Daisuke Takahashi's cowboy outfit as "a bit of Brokeback". The U.S.'s figure skating community has its very strong ties to Republican and evangelical groups as well, but it's actually a lot better than Canada surprisingly. Maybe that's because we're stuck with Stephen Harper and they've got Barack Obama. I don't know. I just know that we live in a time and age that if banks, governments and big business can show their Pride and truly celebrate the diversity of the world we live in, skating can gay it up a little more. I've never seen more of a "don't ask, don't tell" sport. If you look on Wikipedia's list of out athletes, there are more out swimmers, football players, tennis players and soccer players than figure skaters. Something doesn't add up. You do the math. At any rate... hell, I want same sex ice dancing damn it!

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