I pestered the library into giving me a book called "Inside Edge" by a sports reporter who apparently spends a great deal of time hanging out with figure skaters. I've a bunch of thoughts I really want to write out completely (I have SO MANY OF THESE half-done. I need to take a week and finish all my damn book reports), but I am gratified to find that the community shakes out about how I thought it did: Nobody cares who's queer, the rivalries rise and fall with professional pressures, and some of these people are pretty cool in ways nobody ever tells you about when they're doing Official Biographies.

There are a lot of gay men in skating. One of the author's chapters, in fact, is about how many skaters, coaches, and other assorted persons involved in the sport have actually died of complications of AIDS. (The book was written in the mid-90s somewhere, when this was still something you didn't announce even in private -- the euphemistic equivalent of having cancer in the 1950s.) It's generally not a secret among other skaters. People have stories, scrapbooks, candid photos of young men twined around each other at parties, curled up together on sofas. 'Oh, that one was his boyfriend at the time.' It's prevalent, probably to the point where some of the men who otherwise wouldn't have indulged idle curiosity do. One of the coaches mentions that Michael Weiss was the first straight boy she'd taught in twenty years of working.

No names are used. I get the feeling that some of them would be willing to put up with what coming out might do to their lives, but none of them are willing to put up with what it would do to their scores. A lot of judges are notorious for judging skaters instead of skating. It's not restricted to the men; Nicole Bobek is brought up a lot as someone whose 'fuck you' to authority killed her chances at advancing even when she was skating well. Christopher Bowman was allowed to get away with some fairly terrible things, on the other hand, because he was a well-known skirt-chaser. Rudy Galindo is known to the public for speaking up about his homosexuality, but apparently known more among the skaters for being a petty, vindictive diva. Kristi Yamaguchi used to pairs skate with him until it got to be too much.

There are straight male figure skaters. Several have serious opinions on the homophobia among the regulatory body for their sport. Kurt Browning has a lot of them, and most of them boil down to, 'These men are my friends, you fucking leave them alone.' Nobody seems to listen to the straight men speaking up for the gay men, and nobody seems to listen to the women at all.

Comments