The week-long Johnny Weir show–otherwise known as the Men’s Figure Skating at the Olympics–has come to a close and the press is still wondering, as Josie Cotton once put it, “Johnny are you Queer?”
Watching the twitter and Facebook frenzy over Weir’s performance in the free skate, it was as if every gay guy (and their gal pals) watching were reliving junior high school gym and being picked on because they were too effeminate. The gays were rooting for Weir–who flatly refused to discuss his sexuality while donning a red crown–and the commentators were baffled by what to say about Weir.
Gawker’s sports website Deadspin has been keeping track of how Weir is described in the international press and its funny (and strange) to read. “Flamboyant” appears to be the adjective of choice. My favorite was from the Vancouver Sun
Euphemist: Vancouver Sun
Choice descriptions: “eccentric … that small and sparkly subculture … sequins and chiffon and tied with a pink corset … his Shetland-Arabian pony, My Blue Shadow … flamboyant, outspoken … an aspiring fashion designer … listens to Lady Gaga and Edith Piaf”.
Over at Outsports, Jim Buzinski wonders whether Weir’s coyness about sexuality is actually fueling homophobia, especially in a sport that is desperate to shed its gay image.
But since Weir is not “publicly gay,” everything he does or says is fair game, since he might be an effeminate straight guy (and no one ever cries “heterophobia”). If Weir came out using the mainstream media’s standard, he would no longer give people the cover of saying they’re just speculating as a means to mock and deride him. They would be held more accountable by a wider range of people.
Buzinski and Cyd Ziegler Jr. are on the record in saying that Weir is gay, suggesting “you need to check the prescription on your contact lenses” if you can’t tell he’s gay and that “whether or not Weir says the words “I’m gay” to a reporter, he is the outest, proudest man in sports!”
It’s a strange game we play, as journalists, figuring out how to describe people in the glass closet. Weir has succeeded, for at least this week, in being allowed to play coy about his sexuality from the “out and proud” set without it raising bigger questions about why some people are allowed to be openly closeted while others are criticized for doing the same thing.
But how should the press–mainstream and LGBT–handle people like Weir (and Adam Lambert, pre-Rolling Stone coming out interview)? Is calling him “flamboyant” really just code for “queer.” What if he really is, well, flamboyant? And would him coming out stop the press from using language that Buzinski calls homophobic?