LATEST PAPER
71° Good Afternoon
71° Good Afternoon
OpinionColumnistsKate Walter

Why skater Adam Rippon’s sexuality matters

LGBT kids need role models.

Figure skater Adam Rippon of the United States

Figure skater Adam Rippon of the United States reacts after completing his short-program routine on Feb. 16, 2018, at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Robert Cianflone

As an older gay woman who came out in 1975, I’m thrilled to see openly gay Olympic athletes camping it up.

I especially enjoyed figure skater Adam Rippon’s refusal to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who has supported conversion therapy and whose anti-LGBT record dates to his governorship of Indiana.

But not everyone agrees with me about Rippon. That’s obvious from conversations on message boards and Twitter. Some people still don’t understand why Rippon has to “flaunt his lifestyle” or “throw it in our faces.” He should just skate and keep his mouth shut, they say.

I disagree. LGBT kids need role models. When I taught at Borough of Manhattan Community College, I met students struggling with coming out to themselves and their families. The more successful people they see who are openly gay, the easier it will be for them to be themselves. Sadly, LGBT teens and young adults (often bullied in school) have some of the highest rates of suicide attempts.

Even in 2018, there are people who still think being gay is a lifestyle or a preference as opposed to sexual orientation you are born with. I try to reason with those people, noting that society assumes you are heterosexual unless you state otherwise. Therefore, it is important to come out.

But it is hopeless communicating with those (like Pence) who think homosexuality is sinful. If I mention that my pastor marries gay and lesbian couples in our mainstream church, they attack her as not being a real pastor. (She is an ordained minister with a degree in divinity.)

Some online posts focus on the fact that Rippon won a bronze medal and not gold. Do they have any idea what level of talent it takes just to get to the Olympics? But even if he had won gold, I’m sure some would prefer he had stayed in the closet.

The level of ignorance and homophobia I’ve read online (mostly from anonymous posters) underscores how much we need openly gay athletes and actors and writers and teachers and firefighters and police and more. We can’t rest just because we have same-sex marriage. We can’t rest when you can be married on Sunday, and fired on Monday.

So thank you, Adam, for being out and proud and opinionated, for winning medals for America and for flaunting it.

Kate Walter is the author of “Looking for a Kiss: A Chronicle of Downtown Heartbreak and Healing.”

Top News stories