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A Model for 2014 Olympians

Jim Burroway

August 13th, 2013

Nick Symmonds is a straight ally and a middle distance runner who is in Moscow right now for the World Track and Field Championships. He took the silver medal in the men’s 800 meters, and told R-Sport (which is part of RIA Novosti, Russia’s state-owned news agency) that he was dedicating his win to his gay and lesbian friends back home. RIA Novosti said his statement made him “the first athlete to openly criticize Russia’s controversial anti-gay law on the country’s soil.”:

“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” he told R-Sport after running a 1:43.55 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”

…”I respect Russians’ ability to govern their people,” he said Tuesday. “I disagree with their laws. I do have respect for this nation. I disagree with their rules.”

Symmonds had earlier said that he wouldn’t criticize Russia during the games.

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Timothy Kincaid
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

I have a new hero

TampaZeke
August 13th, 2013 | LINK

That beats the hell out of the article he wrote for runnersworld.com last week. I hope he’s rethought some of the things he said in that article; particularly the thoughtless comparison to being a polite dinner guest who didn’t lecture his host on how to raise their kids.

Victor
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Hey, TampaZeke,

This is actually precisely what he said he would do. He said he would not be criticizing Russia there, that he’d just dedicate his win to his gay and lesbian friends.

So, presumably, his comparison of visiting someone who is disciplining their children still holds. Even as that parent is allowing another child to kick and abuse the lgbt child.

Andrew
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Oh, hey – cool, this article wasn’t written by Tim, does that mean that comments won’t be deleted by the editor?

I am seeing a LOT of threads internationally – I have very close friends in the leadership of GLISA (and yes, the OutGames just finished up the other day – congrats to all!).

I see many gay or gay-supportive peole pushing for what I can only describe is unrealistic boycotting of the Sochi games. I see people who did not live through the last round of boycotts (’80, ’84) suggesting that athletes should basically throw their life’s dreams into a trashbin to suit their personal sociopolitical point of view, and even to make it sound easy. All of which strikes me as remarkably naive, selfish, and short-sighted.

I’ve even seen someone commenting that all the gay athletes should march into the Olympics as their own “country”

Even assuming that the IOC, which won’t even allow rainbow pins, would ever permit such a thing… how does this play out in the context of recent political gains? Doesn’t this look a lot like, well, ingratitude, and a lack of patriotism?

Doesn’t this disregard the fight by so many to do the opposite — that is, to gain their full citizenship in their native countries and all the rights they’re entitled to. They should bail on their country now in order to make a grand entrance? How does separation strengthen our message? How does it protect our athletes (Munich anyone?)? How would that play on TV during the frankly nationalistic coverage of the Olympics?

I think we find the answer with Mr. Symmonds here – and in this, I find this article incredibly helpful (and have referenced it in many other places.

Great pickup, Jim, and one that I think speaks to an issue of great controversy within gay and gay-supportive communities right now. I’m really hoping that we can find a way to support our athletes, and find ways to express support for LGBT Russians this summer. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.

Andrew
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Speaking of the OutGames.

How is it possible that we have an obtrusive posting on the details of the medical treatment being provided to a staffer at an anti-gay advocacy group, but we didn’t see ONE ARTICLE on the OutGames – an international sports event with over 5,000 athletes from over 100 countries?

I have serious questions about the objectivity and what I can only describe as obsessive interest on the part of some concerning intimate and possibly HIPAA-protected details of the lives of their advocacy counterparts. I believe it has, and will continue to, impact the quality of commentary here, and negatively impact the reputation of this thread.

Timothy (TRiG)
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Doesn’t this look a lot like, well, ingratitude, and a lack of patriotism?

Ingratitude for what? I’m not clear on what you’re saying there.

(And I’ve never seen the point of patriotism anyway.)

TRiG.

TampaZeke
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Victor, he actually did criticize Russia in Russia so I think he reconsidered his earlier statement.

Andrew
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Tim, the question of ingratitude is ill-founded, but a could follow naturally in the mind of some outside our community in the context I described – the Olympics have nationalistic overtones, and it often bruises feelings when athletes compete or even march with a country other than their own in the opening. In what I described, if all the gay athletes to refuse to march with their own country in an event with nationalistic/patriotic overtones at the same time that they are claiming their rights in those countries, it could be seen / spun as a slap at their own country, rather than as a slap to the Russians – it’s unfortunately open to interpretation, and badly timed.

But thank you for posting, since your viewpoint, or the narrowness of it, and requirement that others share it or be muzzled is very much at question here.

I question why you are meddling in the details of the private lives of anti-gay activists (and demanding that people here support you in that or be silent) a the expense of covering a massive 2-week international gay sporting event. It manages to be both creepy and oppressive at the same time, which is a neat accomplishment.

Victor
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

TampaZeke,

You’re right. I shouldn’t have been reading the post late at night.

Victor
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

If anyone is wondering about the effect (in Russian) – it’s been minimal. Currently, only one Russian-language news source inside Russia has a very short piece about it. The other publication is in Russian from Armenia. Both cite foreign-language publications. The Russian news site does not have the piece even on its sports page, while the (marginal) Armenian publication does. (While there are almost 400 English-language news stories about it as of now. Per Google News.)

Andrew
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Victor, the internal Russian homophobia – at least to me – appears to be a campaign of xenophobia and nationalism that is intended for internal consumption. If so, they aren’t going to publicize anything that doesn’t further the actual aim – to solidify support internally through what amounts to picking on scapegoats.

Publicizing this article does nothing for Putin, so I don’t expect to see it go anywhere internally. There’s nothing to be gained by it. They aren’t really invested in this conflict, it’s merely a means to an end.

Victor
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

You’re right as far as Russian sources that are officially connected. However, there are also independent news sites and influential Russian-language sites in the Ukraine and the Baltics (and, to a degree, Israel). As far as I know, Google News indexes Ukrainian and Baltic ones, too. However, they don’t seem to come up through Google News search. On the other hand, at least some smaller sites are reporting it.

Andrew
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Victor – that is really cool information. And what do we know about the anti-gay constructs going on in other Eastern European nations? If Russian homophobia is rooted in nationalistic xenophobia, what’s going on in the remainder of the old Soviet bloc? Why are gays suddenly the objects of scrutiny, and why are they losing out so badly elsewhere?

Andrew
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

(no, seriously, that’s a question… i’m trying to out how it’s all working out there.

Victor
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Whatever is going on in Russia does affect nearby nations. However, in the Baltics – as they are in the EU – there is free press, and in Ukraine, there are as many papers as there are opinions. (Well, maybe that one is an exaggeration.)

They’re losing out so badly everywhere for the same reason that gays were losing out in the US even two decades ago. Not many people are out even to their families. Many people – if not the vast majority – do believe gays are pedophiles. And they definitely espouse the view that gays want to recruit their children… So, the politicians are not just acting out of fear of Putin or something. Many of them believe this in earnest.

If you are asking about “que sera?” I’d guess that Ukraine won’t adopt a similar law – they want more open access to the EU. The Baltics will likely either be stopped or will have to come up with ways of soft application of such laws (I can’t remember which one of the three already has something like that…).

Victor
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

And, not to forget, but what we have in Ukraine and the Baltics are evangelical and charismatic churches trying to spread their message – including the anti-gay part. (In fact, the big group in Ukraine, “Love against homosexuality,” was founded and is run by a Protestant of some kind – sorry, I don’t remember which; mind you, the guy is now, I believe in his 30′s, and is still single! Yes, I am implying what I am implying.)

In Ukraine, these churches and groups regularly organize “family marches” (against homosexuality).

Victor
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

BTW, the “vkontakte” (equivalent of facebook) group “Straights for Equality” (Альянс гетеросексуалов за равноправие ЛГБТ) – this is a legitimate group, which participated in protests – has a link by one of their activists to an Armenian news site, which according to his translation says that the Russian Ambassador in Yerevan (capital of Armenia) has invited heads of (I assume) companies, which operate in Russia, to discuss pulling sponsorship of newspapers, which he considers as furthering “homosexual propaganda.”

news source:
http://hraparak.am/news/view/38261.html

Straights for Equality:
http://vk.com/straights_for_equality

Victor
August 14th, 2013 | LINK

Sorry for multiple posts. I meant to say “(I assume Armenian) companies…”

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