Saturday, 27 February 2010

Johnny Weir: Hero

I stopped myself from writing about American figure skater Johnny Weir a while back, mainly because I feared it would quickly descend into me gibbering about how goshdarn beautiful he is, but now I have a better reason to talk about him.

I've loved watching the guy skate since the 2006 Winter Olympics - he's talented, dedicated and a spectacular showman. But he's also got a massive personality too. He carries with him an orbital array of quotes and eccentric actions, which, naturally, the press love. For the not-yet-obsessed, these include Camille, the single red glove he wore for a spell while skating, who was 'blamed' for any mistakes on the ice, his awesome Poker Face routine, his forming part of the inspiration behind Jimmy MacElroy in Blades of Glory, the Peta death threats regarding the fur on his costume, the fact that when asked for his 10 favourites songs of all time, six were by Christina Aguilera, and of course, his famed discretion when quizzed about his sexuality:

"There are some things I keep sacred. My middle name. Who I sleep with. And what kind of hand moisturiser I use...If I was out to please 10-year-old girls and their 45-year-old mothers in Boise, Idaho, I could play the game and be nice and make my voice deeper. But I don’t see the point. I’m not alive for 10-year-old girls and their 45-year-old mothers in Boise, Idaho — or Colorado Springs, Colo."

For Johnny Weir, he is answerable to the public for his skating and his skating alone. And that's exactly how it should be. But apparently at the 2010 Olympic games, interviewers in Vancouver thought it would be fun to prod the lion. Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch reports that journalists suggested (employing the piss-poor caveat of "this may not be politically correct but -") that his costume and body language were to blame for his score, before asking whether Weir's femininity reflected badly on other male skaters (AAARGHH! NOT GAY!!!! Skating isn't gay! Get your gay off me!) and even joking that he should take a gender test.

It's this kind of institutionalised, insecure, casual homophobia and gender bias that can gradually drive people who don't fit the idea of femininity or masculinity to despair. But it's also a question of free speech, and the most touching thing about this nasty, bigoted little situation is the grace with which Weir handles the subject. Just watch this passionate and eloquent press conference.

Because it's not just about a celebrity getting touchy about questions regarding their sex life. It's about children in the 21st century being afraid to be who they are and about parents and the media hammering gay, bi, trans and just plain different children into lying to themselves and living in fear, sometimes for their entire lives.

Johnny Weir is setting an example for kids in a number of areas: hard work, unabashed, unapologetic self-belief, and a masterclass in how to be a genuine star.


Thanks to Lizzie.

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