Finally tracked down Boitano's actual statement, or at least the actual statement sent to that particular website. Given the fuss that everyone's been making, I expected it to be a very gay speech gayly recounting his exceedingly gay gayness, couched in official language. Nope. He mentions it once, near the end.

Boitano was apparently in Europe when the names of the delegates were officially announced. I half wonder if he didn't do the same thing the rest of the planet did, which was read that and be vaguely perplexed at his name not being highlighted as one of the athletes who was openly queer. That press release reads quite plausibly as something written before he'd even realized there were still people on Earth who hadn't gotten the memo. He may not have made any statements before now simply because he thought everyone would get the hint without it, and he didn't want to encourage the press to be nosy bastards about who he was actually dating.

Notably, the San Francisco Chronicle's blog did specifically mention that he was gay, and in a tone that strongly suggests that they did not think this was going to be a revelation. Boitano lives in SF and has done for decades -- his press profile for the 1988 Olympics says so, so he's been there at least that long. It's also got a lot of interesting ellipsis. An apartment in San Francisco proper, at 24, on the income of a competitive skater? Dollars to donuts he either had a roommate or a "roommate" that went unmentioned. And if you ever wondered how the hell he wound up on Food Network, there you go.

There are a couple of comments on the OutSports article that allege that figure skating as a sport is homophobic. I suspect that is overstating the case. Going strictly from my own observations, the skating community seems to deal with their GLBT segment in much the same way the theater community used to: Everybody knows, nobody cares, but they fear negative reaction from people outside of the group. They want to protect their own, so they don't talk about it explicitly with outsiders.

One of the more telling incidents was down to some last-minute housing shuffling at the 2010 games in Vancouver. Apparently, Tanith Belbin and Evan Lysacek had been dating, but had broken up sometime before the Games, and Johnny Weir had earned the wrath of PETA for something or other and opted to stay in the Olympic Village where they couldn't get in to hassle him while he was competing. They all asked for singles, but the only rooms left were one single and one double. It made (stupid) headlines when they ended up putting Lysacek in the single, and Weir and Belbin in the suite. I've seen Weir quoted as saying he didn't think they'd allow him to room with a girl, and Belbin as saying it was the only logical arrangement, which leads me to conclude:

  • American housing for the Olympic Games is still generally segregated by sex. This isn't down to the IOC; they allocate housing block by block to the participating nations, and the national teams determine who bunks where.
  • Someone involved in the housing roster thought, for the obvious reason, that it was not a good idea to assign a pair of exes a suite together.
  • Someone involved in the housing roster thought, for whatever reason, that it was also not appropriate to stick Weir and Lysacek together in that suite. I suppose it's possible they loathed each other, but separating overnight housing by sex is very ingrained in American culture, and if you push the matter, someone will invariably begin bleating that they do it this way for the safety and comfort of someone who might be subject to unwanted sexual advances -- usually women are seen to be in danger from the men, but it's an argument you also sometimes get from straight guys who are uncomfortable rooming with gay men. (I have no idea what Lysacek thought, I hasten to add. Nobody appears to have asked him anything.) If the only issue was that Weir and Lysacek were threatening to be horrible divas, I would expect them to put the lady in the single and tell the two primodon skater boys to suck it up.
  • The same someone from the previous two bullets thought that letting Weir and Belbin room together was the easiest valid solution. Remember, they're the ones in charge of the housing -- if they thought this was also an unacceptable combination, they could have shuffled other skaters around until they had an answer that wouldn't make anyone clutch their pearls.
In short, Americans are paranoid that someone, somewhere might be thinking about having sex. This housing arrangement would never have happened unless basically everyone involved was already aware that Weir was, as my friend Spider says, queerer than a football puck. And we thought some dude and some chick, neither related nor married, splitting a two-bedroom suite for a couple of weeks somewhere in Canada was news because this is the US, and our national age is fucking twelve.

Probably more relevant to the original topic, Boitano is prone to hugging anybody handy when he glides off after his program, including other figure skaters. News people like to film this, because it allows them to pretend they care about athletes as human beings. No one seems to be dismayed by it. He never made any particular effort to "act straight", so far as I can tell; if this gave any of the other guys the heebie-jeebies, they don't let on. The figure skaters (and their coaches and choreographers) in general behave much more like the performing artists I hang around with than a lot of the other athletes do.

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