July 2, 1984– John Garvin Weir. In February 2014, I was in my fourth month of cancer treatment. I don’t know if you kids are savvy to the ways of chemotherapy & I hope you never have to experience this wonder of the medical world. I did lose 50 pounds on the amazing cancer diet, but it left me without strength, appetite, libido or interest in the subjects I love the most: TV, books, films, music, whiskey, shirtless male film stars. I was on a morphine drip & I initially I thought the drugs were making me hallucinate because each day I would turn on the TV to catch the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia because I have always have had a grade A Olympic fever, & there on my screen were Johnny Weir & Tara Lipinski all dressed up in the craziest outfits & giggling their way through some sort of skating commentary. I felt like I was off my rocker. It could not possibly be real.
The 2-time Olympian Weir spent each day of those Winter Olympics in Russia hurling fairy dust & sequins at Vladimir Putin’s homophobic face while announcing the figure skating for NBC. I thought that it might all be a dream as the transcendent couple babbled on about flutzes, death spirals & camel-toes while providing the very best possible fashion show.
It seems nutty to me, but Figure Skating’s gay angle is rarely publically discussed in the sports world or its commentary & it has been complicated long before Weir. Who would have guessed that there were homo skaters? Weir didn’t come out until he had left the sport. So when Weir, who at the time was married to a man of Russian descent, was on TV behaving as flamboyantly gay as he pleased in Sochi, his implied political message was as brave as it was fun.
When Weir competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver BC, he was made to endure many derogatory comments about his implied gayness & even the question of his gender. Some sports analysis speculated that Weir did not receive a medal even with excellent technical scores, losing points because costume & music choices, & his on the ice attitude. Weir responded:
“I’ve heard worse in bathrooms. I don’t want 50 years from now more young boys & girls to have to go through this sort of thing.”
But he wasn’t always so forthright. In 2006, Weir stated:
“I don’t feel the need to express my sexual being because it’s not part of my sport & it’s private. I can sleep with whomever I choose & it doesn’t affect what I’m doing on the ice.”
In January 2011, he changed his position:
“With people killing themselves & being scared into the closet, I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story. In a sexual way, I’m gay.”
In his memoir Welcome To My World (2011) Weir says:
“I’m not ashamed to be me. More than anyone else I know, I love my life & accept myself. What’s wrong with being unique? I am proud of everything that I am & will become.”
About the controversy about his decision to work at the Sochi Games rather than join a boycott:
“I risk jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement. I’m not a politician & I don’t really talk about politics. You don’t have to agree with the politics, but you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.”
“It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been gay my whole life. I don’t need to break any laws or wear a rainbow pin to show people that I support gay rights. I think I’ll do that just by being in Sochi and supporting our people there & know they are not alone.”
“The gay community has not reacted well to me because some people think it’s my responsibility to be an activist. They’re expecting me to hate Russia because I haven’t been given equal rights in Russia. If it’s good enough for Elton John, it’s good enough for me. Every country’s going to have its issues.”
Weir has provided some of his own choreography & designed his own skating costumes, & has designed ice dancing costumes for Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov, plus costumes for skaters Oksana Baiul & Yuzuru Hanyu. In 2010 Weir started his own fashion label, Be Unique. He has appeared in fashion spreads for Vanity Fair, & Vogue, & walked the runway in shows for the fashion label Heatherette. He has been a terrific, smart & entertaining guest judge on World Of Wonder’s own RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Weir is a World Competition medalist & 3 time USA National Champion. I enjoyed getting to know him from the TV show Be Good Johnny Weir. If you are still a bit icy about him, check out the documentary Pop Star On Ice (2008).