Canadian ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver came out as a queer woman during an interview with CBC this past week. The interview was made public on Friday, around the same time that Weaver revealed her truth in an Instagram post. She is one of the first Olympic figure skaters to come out during their career, and she’s been met with much love and support so far.
Weaver says that she has known she was queer for years but suppressed and ignored the truth while she was under the scrutiny of the international figure skating community. She skated with partner Andrew Poje for 13 competitive seasons, but it was only during the recent worldwide shutdown due to Covid-19 that Weaver found herself in an environment of self reflection and was able to come to terms with her sexual identity. In her Instagram post, Weaver said, “For years I really hated a big part of myself, and that took a huge toll on my mental health – especially when the world stopped and the only thing I could do was look in the mirror. There’s nothing worse than hitting rock bottom and not wanting to climb out. Now, after a LOT of work, I can say that I’m proud of who I am – all – of who I am.”
Weaver’s struggles to come to terms with her sexuality are very understandable when you consider how women in figure skating are portrayed. Especially in the ice dancing field, female skaters are often dainty, feminine-looking, graceful artists wearing outfits that range from edgy and sexy to elegant and delicate. As we saw with Tonya Harding, skating judges don’t always respond well to stereotype-breaking athletes. Harding was more overtly athletic and edgy than most female skaters at the time. She was gritty and had an “unstable” personal life, which apparently bothered skating judges, while her competitors were perceived as more refined and charming. Even though Harding’s career was several decades ago, it seems that not much has changed.
As Weaver pointed out, it’s illegal to be anything but heterosexual in many parts of the world, and there are figure skating judges who hail from those parts. It’s not unreasonable to think that some of these judges could be biased against LGBTQ+ athletes. Openly pansexual American figure skater Amber Glenn wrote, “And you don’t know what the judges’ personal beliefs are. You can hope that everyone is tolerant. But now that I am out, a judge could have a preconceived notion of who I am before I even step out onto the ice.” Figure skating is a sport where people judge people, unlike sports like hockey or tennis where goals or points are earned independently. This adds an entirely new factor for closeted LGBTQ+ athletes to consider.
In their own homes, though, both Kaitlyn Weaver and out American skater Amber Glenn have been met with positivity and love. “Everything was so positive,” says Glenn. “I was truly worried about getting some hate or some naysayers, (but) every conversation I had was super positive.”
In fact, two other figure skaters came out on the same day as Weaver, and all were met with love. Paul Poirier was on the digital cover of Glory magazine and gave an interview about his experiences and hopes for the future of gay athletes in the sport. The publication of this interview was the first time he has openly talked about his sexual identity. American skater Jason Brown did the same in a post on Instagram Friday, saying “I never questioned my own sexuality or even thought much about it because it didn’t matter. I am who I am, and have always been fortunate to be surrounded by people who made me feel like that was enough.”
Kaitlyn herself responded to these public discussions with an overjoyed Tweet. “OMG is today International coming out day for figure skaters????? Love you @PaulDPoirer & @jasonbskates! Who else is ready? We’re here with open arms! #lovewins”
With this kind of attitude, let’s hope this is the beginning of a great movement of acceptance throughout the international figure skating community. Let love win!
Image courtesy of Wikipedia/Kaitlyn_Weaver