Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter Olympics: Don't Ask Don't Tell

The United States military isn't the only place where ones sexual orientation is controversial and closeted. A lead article on, linked to from,addresses the United States top men's figure skater (Johnny Weir)being interviewed by Frank Deford for an HBO special. During the interview,Deford asks Weir, "Do you think the fact that some people dismiss figure skating as gay hurts the sport?" Weir makes a comment on how male viewer perceptions about skater's sexual orientation may impact certain fan interest. But why ask the question. Why not ask, "Do you think some people dismiss figure skating because so few people have ever figure skated". Deford's question was not clearly about male fan interest, future athlete development or athlete capability. However, Deford's line of questioning contributes to or originates from the same thinking that underlies whether a man's sexual orientation hurts his effectivness as a soldier. Homophobia is alive and well in sport, the military and throughout our society. Homosexual men and women participate on all our Olympic teams and not just in stereotypic "gay" sports such as figure skating. The athletic skill, discipline, mental toughness, and commitment to excellence is what makes Olympic athletes special. The athletes sexual orientation is irrelevant. Bringing it into the discussion with Wier is insulting at best and baiting the athlete into discussing irrelevant personal issues. Gay and lesbian athletes have and will continue to win medals for the US, as gay and lesbian armed forces members have defended and died for this country and will continue to do so. Let's leave sexual orientation out of the performance discussion and focus on a person's ability to execute athletic or military excellence and applaud their courage and greatness.

1 comment:

  1. Marshall, congrats on entry to the bloggosphere! I enjoyed reading your comments. Last week I was in Florida for Super Bowl week and was working there with athletes preparing for the NFL Combine. I enjoyed several conversations with players about their thoughts about sexuality, homophobia, and what people in football view as desired, undesired, and unacceptable characteristics. Last year at the Combine an assessment question for a particular player was if he was gay. After making my assessment, I advised the player he might want to mention his past girlfriends more because homophobia could drop his status in the draft. With artistic and more well rounded people who are elite athletes, the question of homophobia is often an issue. A couple weeks ago, I was training a group for the NFL draft and referred to meeting my "partner" at the Combine several years ago, meaning a business partner I was doing the training with, and one of the players got a big laugh from the other players by joking about us being partners. We used this moment to talk about the fact that tough football players have emotions and worries and pressures but are also tough. Certainly emotions beyond anger are suspect and being viewed as tough and cool is strongly valued. It will be incredible when a respected elite football, bsketball, or baseball player leads by being out. Best, Mark Weiner, Psy.D.