Champion ice skater and reality TV star Johnny Weir will soon be spending a very gay weekend in Los Angeles, but just don't label him as queer.
Weir, who may or may not be gay, is scheduled to make an appearance at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards show in Century City on April 17. The event is a major fundraiser for the media watchdog group, officially known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
On April 18, Weir will follow that up with another gay L.A. appearance at a fundraiser for Equality California, the gay rights group.
Weir is clearly hitting the gay power circuit in Los Angeles, which is a bit puzzling to us -- the ice skater has consistently dodged questions about his sexual orientation, insisting it's no one's business.
Sounds like a line pop singer Ricky Martin once used, who finally revealed he's gay a few weeks ago and appeared to regret not coming out sooner.
Indeed, coming out is a personal decision that should be left up to that person.
But Weir's show on the Sundance Channel, Be Good Johnny Weir, has most probably benefited from a large gay following; Weir was recently defended by the Quebec Council of Gays and Lesbians when Canadian radio talk show hosts questioned his gender; and GLAAD has now come to Weir's defense, as Queerty reported, for allegedly being slighted by the Stars on Ice tour for not being "family-friendly."
In other words, Weir has received certain protections and benefits from the gay community, but refuses to be identified with it.
Which seems even more odd since Weir tries to portray himself as a shoot-from-the-hip, straight-talkin' rebel who has no time
for phonies or the status quo, and capitalizes on his "flamboyancy" so he can become a TV star -- the skater regularly dons a blonde wig and plays a female character on his show, and, just recently, viewers watched him mount a massage machine and cry out, "Oh! Daddy!"
It's easy to understand why Weir turns off some gay folks, especially when the ice skater, who seems to be a decent, thoughtful person, says he doesn't want his sexuality to be labeled.
"I don't like to look at boundaries as far as
sexuality is concerned. I don't like to look at things based on a
person's sexuality," he recently told Access Hollywood.
Some of Weir's supporters actually fall for that line, thinking he's some kind of trailblazer, leading us to a Utopian society where sexual orientation will be irrelevant and will no longer cause discrimination.
Yet in most cases, when someone like Weir, a world-class athlete with a TV show, talks about avoiding labels, he's really saying he doesn't want to be labeled "gay" because he thinks it'll hurt his career and his check book.
In an L.A. Weekly cover story, titled "The Secret Lives of Queer Leading Men," Kirby Dick,
an award-winning documentarian who looked into Hollywood's gay closet
when he was working on his most recent film, Outrage, about closeted
politicians, explains, "For A-list actors, there's a real fear of lost income for him and everyone
Which could easily be the case for Weir.
GLAAD, in fact, recently noted that "Weir is extremely involved with his family. He is putting his younger
brother through college, and supports the family financially because
his father's disability prohibits him from working."
The fact of the matter is, the post-gay argument that coming out isn't necessary anymore is something anti-gay politicians and ministers would love to see happen -- we would suddenly become invisible and they could run roughshod over us again.
In the real world, visibility is everything. Gays and lesbians have to come out, whether we like it or not, whether we think it's fair or not, over and over again.
Imagine a world if the gay community never spoke up and came out of the closet in the United States:
- AIDS would have killed many, many more people;
- We would be prohibited from teaching in public schools in California;
- We would not see ourselves accurately depicted, if at all, on TV shows and in movies -- and Weir's show, where he freely shows off a flamboyant flair, would never be allowed;
- We would still be gathering in windowless bars with the police barging in, whacking us with batons, and arresting us;
- We would probably have even more gay teen suicides;
- We would not have any kind of domestic partnership benefits at this country's major companies;
- We would not be allowed to even dance together at gay nightclubs and bars, which was illegal in many cities not too long ago.
The list goes on, and we're still fighting gay marriage, gay adoption, and military bans, among other injustices.
To say we don't need to come out, or we don't want to come out because we don't want to be labeled, is politically naive and, in a real sense, dangerous.
To make matters worse, it's probably not good for Weir as a person, if he is actually gay.
In the "Secret Lives of Queer Leading Men," it's clear that gay and lesbian celebrities have gone through their own personal hells trying to pass for straight, then felt a huge relief when they came out and no longer had to lie or dodge sexual orientation questions. Tip to Weir: Gay actors who came out believed they actually became better performers.
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Who knows? Maybe Weir will come out at the GLAAD awards this coming Saturday. It wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened.
In 1996, Party of Five regular Mitchell Anderson stood onstage at the ceremony and followed through on the impulse to tell the world he was gay. By all accounts, it was quite the scene, but Weir may first want to seek the advice of public relations guru Howard Bragman, who's brought out many gay athletes and celebrities, and advises his clients to plan such an announcement.
With all of that said, if Weir is gay, and he does come out, we'll be the first ones to unconditionally welcome him to the gay community. In fact, we'll be attending the GLAAD awards, and we'd be happy to root him on.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.