Unfortunately It’s All About Hate and Ignorance…

I touch briefly on a very important (to me at least) issue that I take seriously in Chapter Twenty-Three of my FanFic ‘A Force of Nature: Part II’.  This story is one of my eight ‘Criminal Minds’ related FanFiction stories that focus on the character of Spencer Reid.  The story is posted on my page at FanFiction.net.  The issue is the treatment of gays in sports, and also in life in general. 

We hear about tragic incidents such as the murder of Matthew Shepard; a twenty-one year old gay man who had his whole life in front of him.  Matthew was murdered October 7, 1998 by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson for no reason other than he was a gay man.  I do not believe I need to go into the details of this wonderful young man’s brutal murder to get the point across his tragic death stands as an example of the homophobic idiocy of a segment of the population.  Matthew’s parents Judy and Dennis have attempted to make sense of their son’s death by creating a foundation in his name.  Judy has also written ‘The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed’; a book about her son’s life and death, and the changes she believes have come about since people found it acceptable to show up at her son’s funeral with signs containing hateful slogans such as  ‘God Hates Fags’ and ‘Fag Matt Burn In Hell’.  The same group also showed up at a hearing for Russell Henderson carrying signs with similar slogans, but was met by peaceful counter demonstrators. 

Despite the morons who claim Matthew deserved to die because he was gay, I remember a number of Wyoming residents coming forward in an attempt to let the world know not everyone who lived in the state where Matthew was murdered were of the same opinion.  Matthew’s own parents stated their son would "emphasize he does not want the horrible actions of a few very disturbed individuals to mar the fine reputations of Laramie or the university."  Dennis Shepard reportedly relayed through Wyoming governor Jim Geringer, that he did not want his son’s death to become "a media circus" and that "we should not use Matt to further an agenda."  Personally I feel like crying every time I think of this young man’s tragic death.

Matthew Shepard is only one example of a gay or lesbian person who was attacked, beaten or murdered simply because they were gay.  It happens far too often in the United States.  Or course it happens other places as well; for example two teenage boys were recently executed in Iran for the ‘sin of being gay’.  However, I can speak far more knowledgeably regarding what I observe in my own society and the encounters I have online and in everyday life. 

There are three recent incidents that have prompted me to finally write this Blog.  Neither of these incidents resulted in any physical violence; they involved verbal insults, homophobic slurs and the questioning of an athlete’s gender.  I would like to state at this point in time questioning a person’s gender is not the same as questioning whether a person is gay or straight.  The questions of whether a person is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-gender, or even a cross dresser often get lumped together.  However, they are not the same issues, and should not be treated as if they were.  Most gay people are neither trans-gender nor cross dressers; and people who are cross dressers or trans-gender are not necessarily gay.  In fact, most cross dressers are not gay. 

I would also like to point out words can often do as much damage as physical violence can.  Verbal assaults and insults can leave scars that last for years if they go away at all.  Scars of the psyche or the soul can be more damaging than physical ones.  Using the questioning of a person’s gender or sexuality against them for any reason is simply never acceptable period, and should not be tolerated in our society. 

The anonymity of the Internet has certainly made it easier for individuals and groups to spew their hate by feeling safe hiding behind ‘fake’ or ‘anonymous’ e-mail accounts and screen names. These sorts of people are too cowardly to spew their hateful vitriol to people in person to their face; therefore they hurl their insults ‘anonymously’ and refuse to accept any criticism of their opinions without going into attack mode, or disappearing and/or changing their online ‘identity’.

My first example took place on July 31, 2010 in a minor league baseball stadium.  Brent Bowers, manager of the Golden League Edmonton Capitals, stormed the field to argue with the umpires over a close call during the first inning of a game between his team and the Orange County Flyers.  The crew chief that day was thirty-four year old Billy Van Raaphorst, a California resident who also happens to be gay.  Van Raaphorst had ejected Bowers from a game the previous day; and had warned Bowers and some of his players regarding their heated objections in the current game.  It is at this point Bowers tirade against Van Raaphorst began.  Bowers referred to Van Raaphorst several times as ‘a faggot’ and a ‘fucking faggot’ among other things; and demonstrated by bending over and grabbing his ankles how he thought the Umpire ‘took it in the ass’.  After Van Raaphorst calmly walked away Bowers continued to hurl insults at him until the plate Umpire ejected him from the game and escorted him off the field.  The game continued without further incident.Brent Bowers was initially fined $500 and suspended for two games over his tirade.  However, Umpires across the Golden Baseball League threw their support behind Van Raaphorst and protested, threatening a work stoppage and refusing to officiate games over what they saw as a slap on the wrist.  The league toughened its penalty to a $5000 fine and suspension for the rest of the season, and Bowers ultimately resigned.

This incident, while certainly not reflecting well on Brent Bowers, is an example that sports is one of the holdouts in acceptance of gays within their ranks.  While some athletes such as Steve Nash of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, and recently retired MLB baseball player Ken Griffey Jr. have said they would have no problem playing against or being teammates with openly gay players; athletes willing to make such public statements of support are still few and far between.  It’s sad that in the year 2010 anyone would find an outburst such as Brent Bowers tirade against Billy Van Raaphorst in any way acceptable; but some people didn’t have that much of a problem with it.  Some people have stated if Bowers had hurled a racial slur at Van Raaphorst his punishment would have been initially harsher, as would have been the reaction to it within the sporting press.  Even the author of one of the articles I used as a reference indicated he initially was uncomfortable with comparisons between the struggle for equality of gays and lesbians and the struggle for equality of racial minorities.

My other examples both involve the same person; figure skater Johnny Weir.  As a longtime fan of Mr. Weir, it is frustrating for me to constantly see that the first thing he is often asked is about his sexuality.  Weir is not publicly ‘out’ in the sense he is not particularly open in discussing as he puts it ‘who I sleep with’; however at the same time he has never denied anything either.  It’s sad that this intelligent, good-looking, articulate, loving, caring and talented young man has so many articles and interviews about him focus first and foremost on his sexuality.  It’s unfortunate these writers and interviewers are missing so many other interesting aspects of this outstanding young man’s life and personality; such as the fact he taught himself the Russian language, he also speaks French, or that he helps support his family and helped put his younger brother through school, when they focus so much on his sexuality.  Unfortunately this is unlikely to change any time soon.

I could go on forever regarding how I personally, from a fan’s perspective, feel Weir has been treated by figure skating establishment over the years, but that’s not my objective here.  My objective is to get across how much hate and how many slurs he has had to deal with over the years.

When he returned from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, Weir was deluged with hate mail and e-mail using lovely descriptive words such as pussy, disgrace, faggot, princess, queeny, retarded, stupid, queer and as he put it ‘many other lovely things, so try to be more original at least’.  That people found it appropriate to send anyone this sort of garbage, let alone a twenty-one year old young man whose worst crime was being a free spirit and not winning an Olympic medal, is beyond my comprehension.  And for some people, it only went downhill from there. 

Whatever else a person may think of Weir, or think they know about him, he does not deserve the venom that has been thrown at him from some quarters.  No one does.  It is beyond my comprehension that anyone finds it in any way acceptable.  One of the reasons I brought Matthew Shepard into this Blog when it was really meant to be about Billy Van Raaphorst and Johnny Weir is because that young man’s horrifying death is a tragic example of what can happen when hate is carried to an extreme. 

A few months ago I was discussing some Johnny Weir videos on YouTube with some other users.  Most of the comments were positive, or at least related to Johnny’s skating as opposed to his sexuality.  However, at some point a user made the comment Weir should be killed because he is gay.  Naturally the comment was not well received and was flagged and reported by a number of people, myself included.  Somehow Matthew Shepard’s name was brought up, and I stated I cried every time ‘I thought about that poor young man’.  Some poor excuse for a human being then posted these exact words ‘Shepard got what he deserved and so will Weir’; and another poor excuse for a human being posted ‘Shepard got what he deserved’ without mentioning Weir.  All of the offending comments were deleted relatively quickly by the users, whether at YouTube’s suggestion or of their own volition I can’t say.  However, they were not flippant remarks or idle threats, they were genuinely disgusting remarks. 

Soon after these incidents some of us started to get harassed via messages posted at our YouTube channels.  I was told more than once that both I and Johnny Weir were ‘queers’ and other wonderful little remarks like ‘Stupid faggot, burn in hell!’  By the way geniuses, I’m a woman and I’m not gay, but even if I were, so the hell what?!  A few of my friends asked me why did I not get rid of the messages and block the assholes.  I stated I had reported and blocked them, but was leaving the messages up as an reminder of how stupid people really can be.  And like I always say, If you don’t like something, don’t watch it!  Why devote so much time and effort to commenting on or attacking something you profess to not like or respect?  Leave the rest of us alone and let us try to enjoy it!

Johnny Weir has a reality show called ‘Be Good Johnny Weir’ on the Sundance Channel.  The first episode of the show was actually a documentary movie titled ‘Pop Star On Ice’ which initially premiered in New York and was subsequently shown at several film festivals across the United States.  There is one scene where Johnny and his friend Paris Childers are watching some commentary about Weir by a skating analyst and Childers remarks he can’t believe the comments are being made about a guy in his early twenties (Weir was either twenty-one or twenty-two at the time.) by the commentator.  He then asks Johnny "How old is this guy anyway?

I wanted to give some context of what Johnny Weir has had to endure over the years to those who may not know him as well as I and some of his fans do; however I can’t possibly cover it all here.  Therefore I am going to skip ahead to the Vancouver Winter Olympics in February, 2010.  Johnny Weir finished sixth at the Olympics, and a lot of people do not think he deserved that placing.  Many of us, and not just Johnny’s fans, believe he should have finished higher; however, again, that’s not what this Blog is about.  A few days after the men’s figure skating had concluded, broadcasters Claude Mailhot and Alain Goldberg of RDS, a French-language sports channel in Quebec, mused on air if Weir was unfavorably judged during one of his ‘typically flamboyant routines because he wore a semi-see-through pink and black outfit’.

~~

"This may not be politically correct, but do you think he lost points due to his costume and his body language?" Mailhot said.

Goldberg responded that Weir’s mannerisms might hurt other men competing in the sport. "They’ll think all the boys who skate will end up like him," he said. "It sets a bad example."

The pair joked that Weir should take a gender test like female South African runner Caster Semenya was forced to undergo after stirring up speculation that she was really a man. Mailhot suggested Weir should compete against women.

~~

There is video of this conversation during Episode 109, which is the 2010 Season Finale of  ‘Be Good Johnny Weir’.  The above remarks ignited a storm of controversary, and though Johnny initially found out about them when Dorothy Hamill came to interview him for ‘Access Hollywood’ while he was shooting photographs for ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine; the remarks soon were all over the place.  Dorothy can also be seen in Episode 109 of ‘BGJW’, and in the show and the actual interview shown on ‘Access Hollywood’ she is visibly upset and close to tears.  Weir had already addressed some mocking comments made by Australian broadcasters Eddie McGuire and Mick Molloy regarding his sexuality in an interview with an Australian television station when he first found out about the remarks made by Mailhot and Goldberg.

Weir’s initial reaction is summed up in his remarks to Hamill, "Every little boy should be so lucky as to turn into me," Weir told Hamill. "And that’s all I have to say about that."  And that was all he had to say about it for a while; however he continued to be asked about it, and finally, several days later, and more than six days after the men’s figure skating competition had concluded, Weir conducted a press conference to address the comments made about him. 

More than one hundred journalists from around the world attended Johnny Weir’s press conference.  He sat on the stage with only his agent Tara Modlin by his side and addressed the comments and took questions from the journalists without the aid of notes or any other assistance.  With pride and dignity he calmly responded and dealt with slurs and comments no one should have to deal with.  A few weeks later while introducing Weir at an Equality California fundraiser, EqCa Executive Director Geoffrey Kors stated that Weir’s response to the Quebec broadcasters comments had been ‘magical’.  Again, footage from the EqCa event, the press conference, and of the Quebec broadcasters may be seen in Episode 109 of ‘Be Good Johnny Weir’.  There is also a shortened version of the press conference, and two sources for watching the entire press conference available.  Both sources may be found in my Blog ‘Johnny Weir, A Man Amongst Men’.  The video of the EqCa appearance is found on the same Blog, as is an interview with Weir conducted on the red carpet of the recent GLAAD Manhattan event. 

The entire press conference was twenty-seven minutes long and because of its length I won’t address everything said here; however I do highly recommend following the link to my Blog and watching the entire press conference, or at least the two and a half minute long shortened version.  While some people would have been visible angry, and certainly Weir must have been upset; he didn’t ask for the broadcasters to be fired, or for any action to be taken against them.  He simply hoped for them to have learned something from what they said and the reaction to it.  I can’t imagine anyone reacting as well, and with such class and dignity as Johnny Weir did to these comments.  Despite the fact he doesn’t know these men personally, what they said about him had to have hurt.  How could it not?

One of the best things that came out of this ugly mess was this beautiful quote from Johnny Weir (said at the press conference):

‘Out of ugly, I think the most important thing to do in life is to make something beautiful."

–Johnny Weir

 

Though I could go on endlessly (haven’t I already?) regarding what Johnny Weir has had to deal with over the years, and even what he’s had to deal with since Vancouver; I only have one more thing to mention.  Johnny Weir and Olympic Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek have traded a few barbs over the years, especially the last three years or so.  They are close in age, and basically came up through the ranks of both junior and senior levels of figure skating at the same time.  Johnny Weir has leveled a few digs at Lysacek, and Lysacek has leveled a few digs at Weir.  Neither of them has done it in a vacuum, and with a few exceptions one has often been responding to something the other said. 

However, having said that, a few days ago on August 7, 2010 Evan Lysacek crossed the line.  He said four little words that will forever taint anything he could possibly say afterward for a lot of fans.  In response to a stupid question from a fan on Twitter, who was at the time going by @TahitianFantasy, but who later changed her name to @BahamaEscape and now to @MidnightInFiji (A Springfield), asked Lysacek this question:

‘Hey Evan, is Johnny Weir really a guy? hard to tell from the photos I’ve seen LOL ;)’

To which Evan Lysacek replied: ‘verdict is still out’.

At first glance it doesn’t seem like much.  However, look again, and think again.  The question from @TahitianFantasy is clearly asking Evan Lysacek whether Weir is really a guy; and on top of that is done in a joking manner.  This Tweet sat on Lysacek’s feed for five hours, until he came along and decided to answer it.  Of all the questions he could have picked out to answer, he picked out this one.  Lysacek knows about the hurtful comments made about Weir’s gender in Vancouver; not to mention the additional comments made about his sexuality, and he could easily have avoided answering this question altogether, however he chose not to ignore it and deliberately picked it out to respond to.  Because of the comments in Vancouver, and the history between Weir and Lysacek, this can not possibly be written off as a flippant or joking remark.  Questioning Weir’s gender was not funny for Mailhot and Goldberg, and it isn’t funny for Evan Lysacek either. 

For around twelve hours fans of both Lysacek (who currently has 57,911 Twitter followers) and Weir (who currently has 64,538 Twitter followers) sent Lysacek questions about his Tweet and asked for explanations and hopefully an apology.  Finally they received an answer, but it was’t the one we expected.  Lysacek first tried to claim the Tweet was sent from a ‘fake account’; a Twitter member who has/had an account EvanIysacek (using a capital I instead of a T).  The EvanIysacek account is a parody, and since the owner quickly responded and distanced himself from the remark this explanation did not wash for Lysacek. At this point he began to claim he was hacked.  This also did not go over well with a lot of fans, and it was actually pretty stupid when all the facts are looked at.  Evan sent the Tweets claiming he was hacked from his ‘official’ Twitter page, and this was all while the offending Tweet was sitting ON his ‘official’ Twitter page right underneath his explanations.  ‘Twittergate’ as some fans have come to call it has been documented brilliantly in the Blog Olympic Gold Medalist Shows His True Colors with screen caps and timelines.  If you read this, and I hope you do;  you will probably understand why this was such a big deal and you will also see a mountain of evidence that makes it next to impossible to believe Lysacek’s Tweet came from anyplace other than his ‘official’ account, or that he was hacked.

Some fans are completely convinced Evan Lysacek was genuinely hacked, and others do not see why this was all such a big deal.  It was a big deal because Evan Lysacek answered a stupid, insulting question with a stupid insulting remark knowing what Weir has had to deal with in the past; and then tried to blame it on someone else.  When blaming it on someone else did not work, he then tried to claim he was hacked. What’s even worse is that the person who sent the question in the first place did not understand why it was such a big deal.  At first she ignored it, and when people started calling ‘her’ on it and not just Lysacek she tried to push it off by saying she didn’t like Weir.  She thought it was okay to ask an insulting question about him because she ‘doesn’t support him’.  In addition she has no idea what the difference between gay, gender, sex, trans-gender and so forth is.  She even went as far as to tell me she ‘didn’t know Weir was gay’ when she asked the question.  And that makes it all okay?  Is she seriously telling me she was questioning the gender of a man who she thought was straight?  As if it was okay to question Weir’s gender regardless of whether he is gay or straight.  

Two or three days after the Tweet Lysacek sent an ‘apology’ out on his Twitter.  However, even his apology was lame.  Nowhere in his apology did he say ‘I apologize…’ or ‘My apologies…’, and he also did not apologize to his own fans, many of whom were deeply hurt by the whole mess.  And no Evan, you’re right, you can NOT apologize enough! 

What was Johnny Weir doing while all this was going on?  Nothing.  Once again he responded with class and dignity and said nothing.  He went on about his daily life; working, training, interviewing and made no comment whatsoever because he does have class and dignity.  And good for him!  His wonderful parents Patti and John Weir raised both their children properly, and trust me, it shows!  As my friend ‘Binky’ said:

‘So he can look at your appalling little tweet, crinkle his nose at its foul aroma, and then step gracefully aside and sail right on past it up there on the high road, choosing not to dignify it with even the slightest bit of his attention.

And if somebody has the bad manners to ask him about it, he can simply smile, shake his head slightly, and respond, with grace and class (look ‘em up…) and a look of genuine pity on his beautiful face…’

Other sources for ‘Twittergate’ info:

Misfit Mimes Blog: I Don’t Evan

Misfit Mimes Blog: Oh I See He Decided to Go With Multi-Part Option D

One last thing; I promised my readers at Fanfiction.net an explanation for why I made a point of mentioning the ‘hockey players’ in Chapter Twenty-Three of my story ‘A Force of Nature: Part II’.  Episode 109 of ‘Be Good Johnny Weir’ covers the time between the U.S. Nationals Figure Skating Championships in January 2010 and the Vancouver Olympics in February 2010.  It also covers some of the happenings in the first few weeks after the Olympics.  Anyway, near the beginning of the episode Johnny is training at his rink and he is getting ready to leave.  He tells us he has to ‘go brave the hockey players’.  He then tells us that ‘last week they called me Johnny Queer’, and goes on to say they made blow-job gestures at him.  You see him nervously walking out of the rink carrying his skate bag and you can’t help wondering if he’s worried about another encounter with the dumb jock hockey players.  Until we saw that scene a lot of Johnny’s fans hadn’t made as much of a personal connection with what he has had to deal with on a daily basis for a number of years now; the slurs, the comments, the gestures, etc.  One of my friends said, "I never thought about him having to deal with it in his personal life."

He does have to deal with it in his personal life, and it’s sad.  It’s sad for him, it’s sad for Billy Van Raaphorst, and it’s sad for the millions of other people out there like them.  A lot of people out there should be ashamed of themselves, because all these people deserve better.

~~~~~~~~

For More Information Please Check Out the Following Websites: 

The Advocate Online

GLAAD.org

GLAAD on Twitter

Equality California

Outsports.com

Flameout.org Home Page

Out Magazine

Matthew Shepard:

Matthew Shepard Foundation

A Matthew Shepard Memorial Page

Flameout.org Matthew Shepard Page

Johnny Weir:

Gender Test THIS (Olympic Champion Shows His True Colors)

MisfitMimes Blog: I Don’t Evan

Misfit Mimes Blog: Oh I See He Decided to Go With Multi-Part Option D

Misfit Mimes Blog: Guuuuuurrrrrrlll!

Johnny Weir: A Man Amongst Men  (My Blog with video of Vancouver Press Conference)

Outsports.com – Evan Lysacek Questions Johnny Weir’s Gender

Johnny Weir’s March 2006 Blog  (Describes Some of the Slurs He Has Endured)

Sundance Channel’s Johnny Weir Page

French Broadcasters: Johnny Weir Should Take Gender Test

Quebec Gay and Lesbian Council Calls on Broadcasters to Apologize

Complaints Filed Against Homophobic Sportscasters

Billy Van Raaphorst:

Manager Out After Anti-Gay Rant Against Umpire

Ump’s Ordeal Shows Sad State of Sports

Minor League Manager’s Outburst Toward Gay Ump Was All About Hate

Read More About Manager Bowers

Caps Manager Accused of Anti-Gay Rant

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1 

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