Gus Kenworthy, the openly gay Olympic silver medalist and X Games Freeskier who came out last October, recently told Conan O’Brien about his original intention to come out during the 2014 Sochi Olympics amid Russia’s notoriously anti-gay climate.
You may recall that many people contemplated boycotting Russia’s winter games over its laws banning “gay propaganda”. The country even recently considered a law that would have criminalized public displays of affection between gay and bi men — a law that thankfully died on technical grounds.
Kenworthy told O’Brien:
“Leading into the Sochi Olympics there was all this anti-LGBT [legislation] and they had warned people about “if you’re gay or if any of the athletes are gay, like, try not to show it because it’s very unsafe, it’s not accepted.”
You can watch video of their interview below:
“I wasn’t even out, but I was like, ’That’s ridiculous.’ I had a boyfriend at the time and had kinda talked about landing the best run ever and winning an Olympic medal and kissing him at the bottom and that’d be my way of telling everyone, but it didn’t happen.”
It’s too bad, really. An Olympic medalist coming out on a world stage would’ve made a powerful statement, the gay equivalent to when Black medalist Jesse Owen showed up Hitler’s claims of Aryan superiority at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
But if Kenworthy had kissed his boyfriend on the medal podium, he could have faced “disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned” thanks to Rule 50 of the International Olympic Committee’s charter which prohibits any “kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites.”
Rule 50 is especially shitty when you realize that the IOC charter also has something called Principle 6 stating that “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” The IOC has mentioned that this includes discrimination against LGBTQ people, but it certainly hasn’t stopped them from hosting the world games in countries with human rights abuses and anti-LGBT discrimination.
Either way, Kenworthy didn’t go through with his plans, partially because coming out in that way would have simultaneously outed him to his family.
He told O’Brien:
“I’m glad it didn’t actually because I hadn’t told my mom, my dad, my brothers. It would have not only been a shock to the sport and to the Olympics but my family would’ve been like ‘What the hell?!’”
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