The exciting 2018 Winter Olympics concluded last month. As a huge figure skating fan and an adult skater myself, I spent way too many hours in front of the television this February. And as a diversity and career development consultant with a deep expertise in the LGBTQ workplace and marketplace, I was thrilled to see the positive coverage and celebration of our out gay Olympians.
Most notable among the American athletes were figure skater Adam Rippon, whose brilliant long program in the team event helped secure a bronze medal for the USA in the Team Figure Skating event, and skier Gus Kenworthy, who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Olympics and then a year later came out publicly as gay on the cover of ESPN magazine. And from Canada there is pairs skater Eric Radford, who won the bronze medal with his skating partner Megan Duhamel.
So why is this important? I feel it sends five very important messages to struggling LGBTQ youth and others to boost them in their life journey. Here are the five:
1. Embrace who you are. It is important to feel positive and good about all the aspects of yourself that make you uniquely you. That is one of the important messages of diversity and inclusion — that each and every person s unique, and we should each celebrate our own distinct combination of diversity attributes.
2. You are good — there is nothing wrong in being gay or queer. It is so sad that some faith traditions, certain politicians, and even some families propagate the lie that being queer is sinful, wrong or defective. This can destroy a young person who is struggling to find their place of belonging in the world. Our gay Olympic athletes showed us that they are wonderful, good, accomplished people fully enjoying their lives as well as their Olympic experience.
3. Don’t set limits — you can achieve and excel. These athletes, who are among the best in the world, did not buy into the lie that being gay was a defect that would hold them back from achieving great things. LGBTQ people can win gold medals, run companies, be accomplished musicians and actors. Queer kids, like anyone else, should feel free to pursue any career and hobby for which they have passion and talent, with no limits. It is important to connect with positive supportive people like British Skeleton gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold, a straight ally who wore rainbow laces to show her support for LGBTQ atheletes.
4. Find and focus on the supportive community. In addition to being embraced by the media (Adam Rippon became the media darling of the Olympics with his sparkling, fun personality and poised interviews,) these gay athletes got their share of hateful, nasty tweets and online posts. It is so very sad that there are still so many people who feel the need to judge others and put others down because they are different from them. Instead of getting thrown off by the haters, it is important to find and develop relationships with the supportive community. No one needs hate. Ignore and discard it.
5. Do what you can to share positivity with others. The infectious enthusiasm of the out gay athletes brought joy to their fans. Even Adam Rippon mentioned all the positive feedback he received from people struggling with their sexual orientation who were uplifted by Adam’s appearance at the Olympics and on television. By being who he is and expressing it with such elegance and positiveness, Adam profoundly helped so many others in their life journeys.
I do know of a few well-meaning people who say, “why does this person need to be so public about being gay?” The answer? It is because it is who they are, and by fully embracing themselves, they empower others to celebrate their diversity, enjoy life to the fullest, and contribute their best to the human family.
info: Stan Kimer is a career development and diversity consultant with Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer and has expertise in corporate LGBTQ diversity strategy and training. In his spare time, he also trains as an adult competitive figure skater. Visit totalengagementconsulting.com to learn more.
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For more about out gay figure skaters, as well as other sports figures and issues, read: