Queer isn’t an insult. Except yesterday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, my messaging “Johnny Weir is a self-involved queer” was treated as such. The scary thing is, it wasn’t just Olympic figure skater Weir fandom that took offense. Facebook banned me for the expression, and cited the slogan as the offensive, term-breaking message. The experience has left me shaking my head.
I initially responded to Weir’s interview on CNN, where he and fellow queer athlete Blake Skjellerup made refusing to boycott the Sochi 2014 games their official position. Weir believes his “performance and presence of just being there” makes a greater statement than a refusal to participate.
“I am very well-known in Russia,” says Weir. “I’m out and just myself,” says Skjellerup. When asked what they would do to challenge the anti-propaganda law in Russia, Weir says he has spoken and connected with people in a very real way, and he’ll perform and do his best for them.
He believes that being himself and performing is the best thing he can do.
My belief is that is isn’t. My position is that it is selfish.
The issue isn’t about Weir personally. His representation in gossip magazines in Russia isn’t relevant. “I am not a propagandist,” suggests that Weir believes that his life is not overt propaganda. And there we agree. It isn’t. But he says that the Olympics aren’t linked to politics and that it is a time of peace, sport and excellence, and it is there we disagree. The Olympics in Sochi is the perfect stage to send a message, as a gay man and athlete, that the actions regionally are disgusting, perverse and backward. It isn’t a time to remain stoic and to “put on a good show.” This dead queer teenager didn’t want a good show, he wanted his life back.
The reaction from Weir’s fandom proved to me what I already believed: he has devout followers who hang on his every word, who derive some kind of understanding from his thoughts and actions. And yet, with this level of influence, his refusal to do something leaves his networks with the feeling that resistance to change is the ultimate sacrifice. That simply being gay (Weir does not identify as queer) is enough of a statement because he is a “well-known” gay man.
As someone worthy of being in Russian gay gossip rags, and who has platforms like CNN to raise awareness, I implore Weir to make it known that he does not accept the injustices in Russia, and I believe he should do so by raising his voice while he is at Sochi 2014, given that boycott is not an option. I don’t care if he lands the quad. I care about queers being assaulted, being denied basic human rights, and being murdered.
Your gay white male privileged perspective highlights how little we can be affected if the crimes are not committed locally. As someone who has the power and influence to make change, but refuses to do so, their blood is on your hands. If you have the power to make change and raise awareness, you have a responsibility to do so. Because why wouldn’t you.