The Winter Olympics always holds a mysterious excitement for viewers world-wide. Each year brings a new trick, big air and big performances by world class athletes, stunning viewers all around the globe. Although the United States has fallen behind in the official medal count, a few athletes have made quite a splash that even extends up to Vice President Mike Pence.
Who are these athletes? Members of the 2018 Winter Olympics that openly belong to the LBGTQ+ community.
Beyond excellent performances, these athletes increase visibility and speak out on issues that may never reach other countries. For anyone, the scope the Olympics can reach has a magnitude of influence for many Americans, currently struggling with their own sexual identity and watching figure skater Adam Rippon tackle political issues on a world stage is definitive to progress back home.
Rippon found himself in a “he said,” “he said” argument with Vice President Pence before the PyeongChang Olympics which began when Rippon reportedly turned down an offer to meet with Vice President Pence for the reason of his support for conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is a practice where individuals have a certain “behavior” (such as belonging within the LGBTQ+ community) and are treated to change their “behavior,” with the idea that they may perform better within society. Vice President Pence denies he supported conversion therapy during his congress race in 2000.
Rippon found himself at a war of words with the VP, saying, “I personally don’t have anything to say to Mike Pence… I’m very lucky because legislation that he’s pushed hasn’t affected my life at all.”
Rippon understands that he is opening a public discourse against the Vice President at such a high and public level has ruffled some feathers, but Rippon is unconcerned.
“I spoke out because there are people whose lives have been affected… I spoke out for them because right now I have a voice.”
Sports and activism have always had an intertwined relationship and Rippon now finds himself as a hero to many for boldly speaking against Vice President Pence in a political and social climate that is unfriendly. Another athlete that shaped LGBTQ+ history in the PyeongChang is skier Gus Kenworthy who openly kissed his boyfriend on television.
Kenworthy shared an intimate and very normal with his boyfriend before his competition began. NBC cameras caught the moment and the moment has been called a significant moment during the PyeongChang Olympics. The year is 2018 and two men openly kissing on national television is praised as a heroic moment, a brave moment. While Kenworthy and his boyfriend are brave for this action, this shows how far the United States still must go in normalizing LGBTQ+ relationships. This is not the first vocal message to anti-LGBTQ+ PyeongChang Olympic viewers in the United States. He and Rippon took photos together, one where Kenworthy is kissing the cheek of Rippon, where he posted on his personal twitter account. Kenworthy tweeted the pictures with the caption: “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.”
Get used to it. This seems to be the motto the only two openly gay athletes from America in the PyeongChang Olympics are settling on. Since they are the technical freshman class of openly gay winter Olympic athletes from America, they have much they must navigate through. With their headstrong approach of existing in the space that was once unwelcoming and speaking up against voices that may try to remove them from the space, they’re showing they’re not going away. All their work is done in hopes that more athletes will feel comfortable in the new space Rippon and Kenworthy have created. Whether or not these actions will trickle into a greater conversation for the United States surrounding athletes in the LGBTQ+ community has yet to be seen but Rippon and Kenworthy certainly are not going anywhere anytime soon.