In a Queer Town column on Monday, we examined a few of the disconnects between the life and public image of Olympic ice skater and reality TV star Johnny Weir, who dodges questions about his sexual orientation yet considers himself something of a shoot-from-the-hip rebel.
Some people thought we were too hard on Weir, and others thought we were right on the money. You can decide for yourself by reading that post here.
Cyd Zeigler Jr. of OutSports, a well-read, well-respected gay sports blog, recently caught up with Weir in L.A., and asked the ice skater what he thought about our critique.
Weir, who seems to be thoughtful and intelligent, had this to say:
"What year do we live in?" said Weir. "Is it not 2010? It's not 1910. I think the time for labeling people has come to an end. Everyone needs to move on and live in a way that everyone can live together. Whatever your own personal life is, it doesn't matter. It has no basis on who I am as a person. My sexuality isn't something I keep sacred but it's not something I need to defend. I am so thrilled that GLAAD did come to my defense, but it wasn't only gay groups that came to my defense. For someone to criticize me for not saying yes or no to a question is silly."
Interesting ... and unfortunate.
Unfortunate in the sense that Weir thinks criticism against him for not answering a question about his sexual orientation is "silly." Ricky Martin and numerous other celebrities and athletes took that question seriously when they finally told reporters or the public they were gay.
GLAAD, the media watchdog group also known as Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which is holding its awards show this Saturday with Johnny Weir scheduled to attend, also doesn't think answering such a question is "silly."
On GLAAD's Web site, it states, "Everyday (gay and lesbian) stories -- yours, mine, those of our families and friends -- open the truth of our lives to the people we share them with. In the same way, when the media tell our stories well, people in small towns, big cities and everywhere in-between find windows on our lives that broaden and deepen their understanding of who we are. Same principle -- infinitely larger scale.
"Fair, accurate and inclusive media images shatter stereotypes. They prove that we are connected through common, human experiences. And these are stories that we -- and the media -- have a responsibility to share." (Italics added for emphasis.)
For the record, we think Weir is very talented and not only a world class athlete but a world class artist, and we enjoy watching his TV show, Be Good Johnny Weir, on the Sundance Channel.
And we suspect there's some internalized and institutionalized homophobia in the skating world that's directed at Weir, who exudes a beautiful, homoerotic sexuality on the ice that probably freaks out judges, sponsors, and a host of others ... but that's a whole other story.
With that said, we still believe Weir doesn't fully comprehend, or is denying, the long-term political, personal, and cultural ramifications of not coming out -- which we detailed earlier in the week and in a 2009 cover story titled "The Secret Lives of Queer Leading Men."
We also don't completely understand Weir's statement that his "sexuality ... (is) not something I need to defend."
On the face of it, that's a wonderful, self-empowering stance for a gay man to take, if, in fact, Weir is gay. (Side note: Straight men never talk about defending their sexuality, so that's a
big, gay tip-off right there.)
But how is it possible for Weir to feel the need to not defend his sexual orientation when he has never told journalists what it is in the first place? You can't publicly defend or not defend something that doesn't officially exist.
See how unnecessarily confusing things get when you don't come out?
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It's also interesting that Zeigler writes in his post that Weir "will disclose much of his sexual past in a new autobiography that he is writing, which will come out in 2011."
Sounds fine, but we couldn't help but chuckle and think to ourselves, 'Oh, so that's why he's staying in the closet these days ... if he comes out now, there may be less interest in his book and sex life in 2011."
Whatever the case may be, we wonder if Weir will still offer up the "no labels" argument once the autobiography hits bookstores. After all, one man sleeping with another man is, ah, "gay," right?
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.