Friday, August 2, 2013

"Should Anything Happen to Me..."

Johnny during his last visit to Russia, in November 2012. 
Read about his harrowing experience during that trip 
in the column he wrote when he finally got home—
a story he was forbidden to tell, but which he did anyway, 
with the same fierce courage that now fuels him 
to challenge Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws 
by standing with the LGBT community in Russia 
and by refusing to censor who he is. In explaining 
his opposition to an Olympic boycott, 
Johnny told WNYC radio Thursday that the athletes’ 
“presence at the Olympic Games in Sochi 
will be far more influential than our absence.” 

Photo © the wonderful Arthur Lookyanov.

UPDATE: Johnny appeared on CNN Saturday morning along with out New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup to address the anti-gay crisis in Russia. Both athletes do NOT favor a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, saying that their presence makes a far greater statement of solidarity with the Russian LGBT community than would their absence. 

CNN video link.

So yesterday Johnny addressed the anti-LGBT crisis in Russia for the third straight week in his column for the Falls Church News-Press. In his latest and possibly most powerful entry yet, he answered those critical of his previous week’s column, in which he spoke out against a boycott of the Sochi Olympics. 

Some excerpts from his latest:

It has been brought to my attention that I value gold medals and dazzling performances more than human rights and lives ... For the record, there is no medal or performance that is worth a life. My stance is simply that a strong pro-LGBT presence in Sochi will only help to show how backward and out of touch the Russian government’s laws are. 

[I]t has been said that I am pushing for our athletes to compete in Sochi for completely selfish reasons. While the opportunity to compete in another Olympics is self satisfying, I was also thinking of the rest of the US team and their struggles and years of dedication to lose the opportunity of a lifetime when throughout history, sporting boycotts accomplish very little politically. A much stronger statement is to represent a country who does back the LGBT community, and represent them well. 

I must also note, that despite some posters’ opinions, I currently do not have a sponsor and should I qualify for the Olympics in Sochi, I will not earn one dollar for my efforts.

[A]nother Holocaust could be imminent. Boycotting Russia may seem like the best way to help, but I firmly believe that boycotting would also lead us to boycott the people we are trying to protect. I believe that should our presence not be felt in Russia ... it will anger the Russian government that their $50 billion spectacle of an Olympics was ruined and they’ll immediately turn fury on those who seemingly caused the humiliation, those we tried to protect.

Aside from our presence being a positive thing for the LGBT community in Russia, and possibly helping to open the eyes of Russia’s lawmakers, the attention that will be placed on these issues will be priceless.

As of writing this column, I have to add that I’ve nothing but respect for both sides of this debate. Should we or shouldn’t we? There are valid arguments from both camps ...

I would like to remind all those who are following my opinion on this story, I will proudly go to Russia and be myself and should I be arrested, I won’t cry, I will stand as strong as I possibly can to show that we are equal and normal in every sense of the word. I want to state that these are not empty promises or claims.

If you haven’t yet read this column in its entirety, please go do so now. I’ll wait. Because if there’s one thing I really can’t stand in this or any debate, it’s people who willingly forego the opportunity to avail themselves of information that is right in front of them so that they can remain inexcusably ignorant even as they shout their uninformed opinions to the world. (Yes, I know: Welcome to the Internet.)

Which brings me to a little kerfuffle I had with Harvey Fierstein yesterday.

UPDATE: In the time since this post was first written, the always-controversial Nikolai Alexeyev has continued to fight for LGBT rights in Russia in the ways that he believes are best. However, troubling comments have been made by him recently that are highly objectionable to many people, including myself, and have raised concerns. This post has been edited accordingly. Please feel free to do your own research on the Russia LGBT crisis and to draw your own conclusions. In addition to objective news reports, thoughtful, broad-perspective resources, in my opinion, include bloggers Scott LongRichard Smith, and Nelson Garcia.

You may recall that Harvey penned an impassioned op-ed in the New York Times recently on Russia’s LGBT crackdown, which I linked to here on the blog. I found his call to action compelling, and I applauded his uncompromising statement of his beliefs. Harvey favors boycotting all things Russian, including the Olympics, and has intensified his efforts to bring the world on board with his view since his op-ed was first published.

As is clear from his own writings, Johnny takes the opposite view: that boycotting the Olympics would be ineffectual, and that it is a much stronger statement for LGBT athletes to show up in Sochi as out and proud as possible. 

Among many who agree with Johnny are fellow out Olympian Blake Skjellerup; gay Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis, who has partnered with All Out and Athlete Ally to encourage athletes to “speak out, not sit out”; Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler; Patrick Burke of the You Can Play Project; University of Michigan coach Charley Sullivan; this awesome guy writing for SB Nation; and this equally awesome guy over at Daily Xtra, who wants everyone to show up and wrap Putin in a Pride flag (I hope he means literally as well as metaphorically. I’m totally on board with this.)

Yesterday brought this exceptional anti-boycott piece also, which includes this quote from 1968 Olympian John Carlos, whose black-gloved fist raised in protest of South Africa’s apartheid policy remains one of the most indelible Olympic images:

The bottom line is, if you stay home, your message stays home with you.

And newly published today are this excellent article from the Baltimore Sun: “Commentary: Why boycotting Winter Olympics in anti-gay Russia isn’t the right move—gays and lesbians have always changed minds by being counted, not sitting out,” and the equally persuasive, “Make Olympics in Russia the Gayest Ever.”

But most importantly, actual Russian LGBT activists who still remain in Russia, fighting for their rights and for their lives as we speak, also agree with Johnny, as discussed on Monday’s blog. Chief among them is Nikolai Alexeyev:

So you might imagine my dismay at this tweet yesterday:

I’m #NotClearOn how being willing to travel to Russia to stand with the LGBT community there, knowing full well that you risk arrest, deportation, and possibly worse merely for being who you are, qualifies as “chilling self-absorption.” 

And the utter irony here is that the author of the article to which Harvey linked, “How Do We Stop a Modern-Day Hitler?,” actually quotes Johnny and agrees that a boycott isn’t the answer:

[W]e need to fight homophobia at the core in which it thrives: ignorance. ... Don’t boycott the games—“gay” them up. Ask for all nations supporting marriage equality to carry the rainbow flag with their nations flag. Ask all athletes with LGBT friends, family, or relations to come out and wear a flag, and, most importantly, tell their stories.

So, as you can see from clicking on the tweet link, I and several others implored Harvey not to judge Johnny so harshly without taking the time to read Johnny’s most recent words on the subject, and we linked to Johnny’s column. 

My point was not to try to force Harvey to agree with Johnny’s view, of course (nor to bombard him into oblivion with tweets and links, though there’s a fine line there...), but rather to ask him to simply take the time to become fully informed and, despite their differences, to offer Johnny the same respect that Johnny holds for those who disagree with him, as he noted in yesterday’s column.

Anyway, so then I had other stuff to do, and a few hours later when I returned to my desk, I found that Harvey had actually tweeted me back:

In reading his Twitter, I see that Harvey apparently prefers to side with pro-boycott activist Masha Gessen, who is based in NYC, rather than with Nikolai in Russia, for reasons unknown to me (please see this thread on Johnny’s Facebook page, in which Nikolai offers some backstory. I sent this link to Harvey also. To be clear, I have no quarrel with Masha in any way and respect her activism and her right to her opinions).

And then I found that Harvey had also posted his characterization of Johnny publicly on Harvey’s Facebook page, and allowed commenters to bash Johnny with enthusiasm. And name-calling.

And then I discovered that, rather than entertain any facts that might conflict with his disdain of Johnny, seemingly without fully understanding what Johnny’s position is, or why he holds it, Harvey had simply tweeted his ever-so-slightly condescending tweet at me—

—and then he blocked me.

IDK if he blocked others who had tweeted info at him on the same topic.


What have we learned today, Squidward?

While, in the scheme of things, this is a very small incident, I learned to my sadness that Harvey Fierstein is apparently more invested in his own grandiose view of himself and his opinions than in understanding the basis for another’s view, or in listening to those who are truly in harm’s way in Russia and helping them in the ways that they have said would actually be helpful.

And yet he calls Johnny self-absorbed.

In a separate post on his Facebook page, Harvey quotes Masha’s argument that having “strong and beautiful” LGBT people show up in Sochi “parading the rainbow flag” is “worse than useless” and does nothing to impact the government of Russia, wherein the real problem lies. That is exactly the point of the White House petition that Nikolai also is promoting: to impact the Russian government—which it has already done (see Nikolai’s Facebook. I especially love this post. And then please go sign the petition if you haven’t already).

Yet Harvey tweeted the petition link exactly once, then later tweeted: “You don’t change things by convincing a politician or two. You change the world by changing the minds and hearts of the population.”

But that directly contradicts what he just quoted on Facebook: “[I]t is the Russian government and not the Russian public that we need to address.”

However, it does put him in agreement with all those noted above who, like Johnny, do not favor a boycott because it takes away exactly that opportunity: the chance to change people’s hearts and minds by BEING THERE.

So Harvey’s opinions fluctuate from one moment to the next. I’ll give him that; it’s a deeply complicated crisis. And I realize feelings are running very, very high as the atrocities only seem to get worse. 

But attacking others without basis isn’t really helpful.

OK then.

Dear Harvey: You disappoint. Without facts/context, you pre-judge and name-call; then you refuse to take into account any info that conflicts with your prejudice. Your unwillingness to even consider—and your lack of respect for—both facts and others’ viewpoints leaves me little respect for you.

For whatever reason, you’ve decided to target someone who is different from you; you broadcast your uninformed view about that person; and you cling to the willful ignorance in which that view thrives rather than allow your heart and mind to perhaps be changed through a journey into a brave new world of information.

All I can surmise is that you don’t seem to want to know anything that conflicts with your own pre-formed opinion. You appear satisfied to hold to your prejudice despite others’ pleas to listen, to read, to ponder, to acknowledge that you might, in fact, have been mistaken in your negative assessment of another human being. 

In fact, your behavior seems faintly familiar.

Oh wait....

I am far too passionate about 
supporting the community on the ground 
rather than to watch from the sidelines ... 
Should anything happen to me, 
please notify my mother and my husband.

Johnny in Sochi 2014 gear.
Photo © Arthur Lookyanov. 
See his album from Johnny and Victor’s 
November 2012 trip to Cup of Russia here.

According to his column
Johnny hopes to travel to Russia this October, 
pre-Sochi, to perform in St. Petersburg, a trip that likely 
will include, as it usually does, meeting with fans 
and friends, some of whom are LGBT.

Johnny is very much in demand this week 
as media outlets grapple with covering 
the ever-more-alarming situation in Russia, 
its harmful impact on the Russian LGBT community, 
and its potential impact on the Sochi Games. 
ICYMI, here are some of the appearances he’s made thus far:

From TMZ Live. Johnny’s portion runs 
from about 16:35 to 21:35.
Video link.

From WNYC-FM radio interview.
Audio link.

From ABC World News with Diane Sawyer.
Video link.

Longer ABC piece from Good Morning America.
Video link.

In addition, he did another excellent radio interview with NPR’s Here and Now today. He also was scheduled to appear on CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer yesterday, but it was postponed to this evening’s broadcast. 

Bonus pics!! Victor and Johnny with famed 
violinist Edvin Marton, who performed at 
the husbands’ Great Gatsby birthday party last weekend. 
Photo © Florence Gallez. 
See her whole amazing album 
on Facebook or on Google’s Picasa.

And ICYMI: Enjoy nearly 400 pics from 
the husbands’ party by pro photographer 
Next Edition Studios! 
Facebook album is here
Flickr gallery here.

NEW!! The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund 
has announced that this special skate boot 
Proceeds from the auction will be split, 
with 50 percent going to DVLF 
for their general philanthropic fund, 
and 50 percent to Johnny’s training fund. 
Bid now—the auction ends August 9!

Please continue to contribute to the newly established 
Johnny & Victor Weir-Voronov 
Scholarship Fund for LGBTQ Youth
also administered by the Delaware Valley 
Legacy Fund. The DVLF is the nonprofit 
organization who recently honored Johnny 

as one of the very first inductees into the National Gay 
and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame TODAY, Aug. 2, 
in Chicago! Though he was unable to attend 
the ceremony (see media blitz above), 
we want to congratulate him again on this 
well-deserved award! 

Quiet photo essay of exclusive black-and-white pics 
paired with Johnny’s quotes from his 
Exclusive photo © David Ingogly.

Johnny’s latest column for the 
Falls Church News-Press.
His columns are published every Thursday 
in the “National Commentary“ 
section—don’t miss a single one! 

updated calendars, in case you missed out on buying yours 
in January! The new 12-month version runs from 
July 2013 to June 2014, while the 18-month version takes you 
from July 2013 all the way to December 2014.

A number of Johnny’s auction items have been relisted
which means if you missed out the first time around, 
you’re in luck: It’s not too late to own a piece of Weir Gear! 
Go check it out and see what treasures you could take home!

Patti has posted a message 
on Johnny’s Comeback Gift Fund website, 
with her thoughts on 2013 Nationals 
and what lies ahead for next season. 
Please go read it now!

Please alert absolutely everyone you’ve ever met 
to “like” and follow the new 
on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr
Because he should be on all the things. 
With or without ice. 
But definitely with Viacheslav.

Landing quads and kicking ass!
Read his comeback statement 
and the update on his website!

Please click to vote for Johnny 
once a day as “Best Sportsman”
Because he retweeted Luisa Lotka 
to tell us he wants us to! 

Need to see Seasons 1 and 2 all over again? 
Watch episodes online anytime on Logo!
Please be sure to check in with GetGlue
anytime you’re watching the show... 
or thinking about watching the show.... 
or wishing you were watching the show....

At last: Pop Star On Ice is now available on DVD!
Order yours today from the Pop Star On Ice website!

Johnny tweeted:
“Buy my single,’Dirty Love’ via iTunes.
Tell all your friends to as well. The more copies sold
takes me one step closer to making a video! №1!”

You know what to do.
Please buy the song from Johnny’s website,
or just click the “Buy” button on the player
at the top of the blog!

Hey, Welcome to My World also is available
as an eBook! More info on Johnny’s website!

copyright 2013 / Binky and the Misfit Mimes / Lynn V. Ingogly / all rights reserved


Atomic Wife said...

MM: You are really in the trenches on this issue and providing excellent coverage as a result!! Kudos to you and thank you for your passion and keeping us all informed!!

PumaJ said...

Binx, I love that you are such a stalwart defender of Johnny.

One thing I've learned after 44 years of being an out lesbian & being active on & off in the LGBT political activist communities during those years is that, there are always going to be disagreements about how to best proceed against discrimination. I always feel saddened & disheartened when anyone in the community snipes at someone else in because of disagreements between points of view. Polite disagreement & discussion is a good thing, but the snarkiness that sometimes occurs, stinks.

I see Mr. Fierstein's Twitter comment about Johnny to be a quite boorish example of snark within our community. We have enough nastiness that comes at us from outside our community, we don't need to do it to each other.

All of that being said, this isn't the first, nor will it be the last time that someone makes some rude & snarkish comment about Johnny. This is something that he sadly, has lots of experience dealing with. I applaud him for standing his ground & being so articulate in his responses. Go, Johnny!

Anastasia said...

Thank you, MM, for keeping track and making us aware of all the happenings.

It is telling that Harvey Fierstein is following 0 people on Twitter. Although I am sure, he accesses his timeline, it indicates his mindset and his purpose on social media: to promote his message and not to gain information or engage with others.

What is always disappointing to see and yet it is all too common, especially in online discussions, is that people who have been marginalized, bullied, called names, etc. have internalized this narrative to the point that they often unconsciously spit it out onto others. They become the perpetrators and continue the vicious circle without realizing it. We can only model what we know unless we become aware enough to change.

On a more positive note, if the laws were passed after the Olympics, hardly anybody would hear about them and few news channels would even discuss it. In a way, all this debate happening right now has benefits of keeping the focus on the issues.

aaaack said...

Differences of opinion are healthy in a healthy society. Johnny embraces that and gives opinions that show much wisdom.

I am glad that Johnny takes the position that he does for continuing participation in the Olympics. The last thing LGBT in this or any other country need is a backlash of resentment by heterosexual athletes for not being able to compete after training for a lifetime. What I want to see is all the foreign athletes wearing the rainbow in the closing ceremonies to show their support of their Russian LGBT sisters and brothers.

Also, I think that LGBT athletes need to compete and to be out in the open to show the world that they are healthy, hardworking contributors to their respective countries and that their hopes, needs and dreams are very much parallel to that of all other non-LGBT people.

It is the brave high school and college kids coming out of the closet to their friends, relatives and classmates that is changing the dialog about LGBT here in America and bringing acceptance. Young Russians deserve to be able to do the same without fear.

the berry fairy said...

I'm mostly the lurker type, but having enjoyed your great blog for quite some time now, I want to thank you, MM, for your writing and your informed opinions on this matter.

Over the past few weeks I've asked myself if and how I could help the Russian LGBT community, it has been a matter close to my heart, and so I really appreciate the way you have presented various points of view here.

Although I don't always succeed, I have promised myself not to read most comment threads on the internet any more because the insults and disrespectfulness (and also stupidity ;-)) there just make me upset and sad.
I rarely see the world in black-or-white, and so I can't understand the total unwillingness of many online commenters to even consider another's view on a difficult problem that of course has many aspects and not only one solution.

What I mean to say is, without this blog I problably wouldn't have gained the dimension of insight into the matter that I feel I have now, and that has enabled me to form my own opionion (in peace, without having to read stupid hateful comments :-)).

I have also enjoyed reading the comments above, and feel like I have really gained something by hearing all of your thoughts.

Thank you so much.

Binky and the Misfit Mimes said...

Thank you all for your comments, and thank you, berry fairy, for coming out of lurk mode to share your thoughts—you totally made my day! :)