It isn’t often we get to watch our own in action. Making up five or so percent of the population means that for LGBTQ members to be at the top of their field in a world that still doesn’t really want them is a rare sight. While I admit I know absolutely nothing about figure skating, or in fact the entirety of the Winter Olympics (other than the environmental policies of this president means you should enjoy the Winter Olympics while snow still exists), I was enthralled to watch Adam Rippon skate and jump and pirouette and do very cool ice things to music last week. Even moreso because he spoke truth to power in a way that isn’t easy for our community, even though we are as welcome in the U.S. as we have ever been.
Rippon turned down the opportunity to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, a notorious anti-gay bigot whose entire career has been spent trying to make our lives harder. At face value it seems great, and it is, but it is worth acknowledging that it can’t have been easy for Rippon to do. The U.S. sent 242 athletes to South Korea and 241 of them were prepared to meet with the vice president. Rippon’s rejection was up front and public and he knew there would be blowback. And the reason I so enjoyably watched Rippon skating the other night is because I knew he did exactly the right thing.
What makes Rippon so respectable is that he showed our community at large that we don’t need to accept anything less than 100 percent of what we want. Rippon refused to kowtow to traditions and accept a career bigot’s well wishes because it is unacceptable that the vice president is still allowed to serve in a public capacity when our public existence is something he has sought to vanquish. Rippon was not going to let nationalism get in the way of preventing someone who doesn’t fully respect him as a human being seek public approval by pretending Rippon is a U.S. athlete and nothing else.
We have spent decades pretending to be something else in order to gain public acceptance, but it was when we got aggressively in the faces of people, and in courtrooms, and in legislatures, and in elections, that we began to move the line. We refused to back down as a community. Rippon is an absolute vestige of that. We do not need to accept the status quo. Just because a gay-hating man was elected vice president does not mean we need to have that presence in our lives, no matter the public pushback. And you can bet the conservative half of this country is currently enjoying a massive boner about how we don’t accept divisive viewpoints.
Our viewpoint is that we should be treated as full members of society. The vice president’s point is that people should be able to throw us out of their places of work if they decide they hate us. Yet WE are accused of being unreasonable.
Rippon won a gold in my books. Tell power to sit the fuck down if it isn’t going to include us.