Sally Kohn: The Olympic Games at Sochi have been pretty flamboyant so far
Kohn: Despite Russia's anti-gay law, there were many gay-ish moments
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world – and many of their allies – are protesting the Winter Olympics in Sochi because of Russia’s anti-gay law, which basically criminalizes pro-gay speech or propaganda.
As a lesbian, and yes, one who has been known from time to time to propagandize (i.e., write and talk) about how gay people are equal in every sense imaginable to straight folks – and should be treated as such – I feel the Russian law is unthinkably inhumane and offensive. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a reason to boycott the Sochi games and ostracize Russia on the world stage in general.
And so you can imagine my surprise in discovering that the Sochi Games have featured moments filled with gay symbolism. And we’re only a few days in.
5. The pretend lesbians who sang and held hands at Opening Ceremony
The Russian band t.A.T.u. made waves several years ago when they skyrocketed to fame as a young-Russian-lesbians-in-love pop duo followed by the revelation that the stars of the band were actually heterosexual and merely staged the gay thing to get attention. Nonetheless, t.A.T.u.’s Yulia Volkova and Lena Katina achieved pseudo-gay icon status in Russia and beyond. So it was a big deal when they performed at the Sochi opening ceremony and held hands, hopefully a subtle form of protest causing Russian President Vladimir Putin to clutch his pearls. Hopefully.
4. IOC chairman’s speech about tolerance and diversity
Thomas Bach, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee, gave a speech at the opening ceremonies, as such chairpeople usually do. If you watched the speech on NBC, you might have missed the most important part, which NBC claims it edited out because of time, not politics. In the cut portion, Bach says:
“This is the Olympic message the athletes spread to the host country and to the whole world. Yes, it is possible to strive even for the greatest victory with respect for the dignity of your competitors. Yes, yes, it is possible – even as competitors – to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. Yes, it is possible – even as competitors -- to listen, to understand and to give an example for a peaceful society.”
Intentional or not, it was a mistake for NBC to edit out that very important part. This political point needed making.
3. The Canadian bobsled team posted what?
Four men. With beards. And rippling muscles. Wearing nothing but their underwear. Crammed into a phallic-shaped bobsled to pose for a photo. I mean. For the record (and for my lawyer), I’m not saying the Canadian Bobsled team is gay. I am saying this picture is.
2. Blake Skjellerup’s one blade crusade
New Zealand’s speed skater Skjellerup is one of a handful of openly gay athletes competing in Sochi. Skjellerup was able to afford to go to the Olympics thanks to fundraising support from the gay community worldwide and now that he’s there, he’s working extra hard to represent. He’s got his own pin. And this week, Skjellerup won the Internet with this tweet:
Here’s hoping Blake gets the chance.
I’m leaving out the uniforms and gloves that, apparently coincidentally, feature the rainbow colors used to signify gay pride around the world, the campiness of figure skating uniforms – the idea of de-gayed figure skating is so laughable that ‘Saturday Night Live” parodied the idea in its pre-Sochi cold open imagining “Heterosexual Figure Skating Championships” – and the all-male choir in uniforms that could belong to the Village People singing about getting lucky. But this one is priceless.
Because there’s only so much fabulousness you can fit in one essay, and I simply had to make room for this.
1. Thank you, Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion
This didn’t happen at Sochi but is sure inspired by it and is by far the most awesome thing ever so I’m including it here. The Canadians put out this video as a giant homoerotic rebuttal to Putin and discrimination in Russia. It is a wonder to behold. Watch the clip.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sally Kohn.