Personally, I blame Dinah Shore. There are only seven out gay Olympians participating at the Winter Gams in Sochi, and all seven are of the fish variety. With an estimated 2,500 athletes participating at the Games, you’d think that number would be a bit higher. And include a male figure skater or two. But then many gay Olympian wait until after the Games to take that big step out of the closet, and of the 23 openly gay competitor at the London Olympics, 20 were lesbians ( 10 of whom won medals, the same number as won by the gay-loving countries of Jamaica and Iran). Maybe it’s that the gay boys are so visibly gay, if not openly so, so there’ no real need for them to announce to the world what it already knows. Or maybe it’s just that since everyone assumes any woman interested in sports is a lesbian, those that truly are feel the need to set the record straight. So to speak.
Regardless, that we are represented by at least a few Olympians counts. So here are the gals you should be cheering for at Sochi:
Olympic veteran Ireen Wüst is a Dutch speed skater who won gold medals in both the Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Olympics;
Cherly Maas is a Dutch snowboarder who also competed in Torino in 2006;
Barbara Jezeršek is a Slovenia cross country skier who also competed at Vancouver in 2010;
Sanne van Kerkhof is a Dutch short track speed skater who also competed in 2010 at the Vancouver Games;
Anatasia Bucsis is a Canadian speed skater who also competed at Vancouver in 2010;
Daniela Iraschko-Stolz is an Austrian ski jumper who is competing in the Olympics for the first time at Sochi; and
Belle Brockhoff, an Aussie snowboarder, who is also a first-time Olympian.
Not that the Russian will be cheering them on of course, ‘cuz Putin says Russia hates gays. Which is why last night’s opening ceremonies featured the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, the 19th century composer who is a household name across the world for works including the 1812 Overture, his Romeo and Juliet composition, and the ballets Swan Lake the Nutcracker, and who despite the Soviet’s suppression of his history of homosexuality, is widely known in post-Soviet Russia as a lover of rainbows. Tchaikovsky’s letters and diaries, as well as the letters of his brother Modest – who was also immodestly gay – make clear his sexual orientation. As does his intimate relationship with his nephew Bob.
So that’s one gay Russian that Putin is proud of, and since we’re fielding seven openly gay athletes at Sochi, to be fair to Papa Bear, here’s another six:
You can’t get more lovingly dour than Nikolai Gogol, the Ukrainian-born Russian humorist, dramatist, and novelist, whose novel Dead Souls, and whose short story The Overcoat, are considered the foundations of the great 19th-century tradition of Russian realism. Gogol scholars say that his “emotional orientation” was homosexual, and that understanding that is the key to much of his work.
Oh wait, you can get more dour than Gogol ‘cuz there’s always Ivan the Terrible, the Tsar of all the Russias in the 16th century. It’s a shame travel to Thailand wasn’t easier in those days ‘cuz it is reported that Ivan was attracted to young men in women’s clothing. The Russkies love Ivan T so much they are seeking his canonization, but his homosexual leanings are a big barrier to the Russian Orthodox Church agreeing to his sainthood.
Papa Bear made sure his Opening Ceremonies last night had plenty of ballet ‘cuz if there is one thing the gays hate it’s ballet. But if there is one gay the Russians love it’s Vaslav Nijinsky, who has been called the greatest dancer of the 20th century. Nijinsky’s body was legendary, with short, powerful legs that performed amazing leaps, and long slender arms that captured a feminine grace. He was a controversial character who pushed the boundaries of what was permissible in ballet, including references to homosexuality and masturbation.
Ballet was the male figure skating of its day, and the Ballet Russes was its men’s diving locker-room thanks to its founder Sergei Diaghilev. Sergei also invented the modern day casting couch, which at the Ballet Russes was reserved for male dancers. A lover of Nijinsky’s ‘talents’, he booted Vaslav from the company when Nijinsky married a beard in 1913. Diaghilev was openly gay and was described by the composer Nicolas Nabokov as “perhaps the first grand homosexual who asserted himself and was accepted as such by society”.
‘Sergei’ was the Stereotypical Gay Male Name of its day much as Jason is today. And last night Papa Bear also gave a nod to another Sergei, Sergei Eisenstein, whose ground breaking use of montage and symbolism has influenced generations of filmmakers. The Battleship Potemkin director was married twice in response to political pressure, but his marriages were never consummated. His unexpurgated diaries, published as Immortal Memories, are filled with accounts of his infatuations with many young men, including his assistant, Grigori Alexandrov, and his drawings, exhibited during the centenary of his birth, include many illustrations of homosexual activity.
You’d think with the plethora of gayness exhibited at last night’ Opening Ceremonies that Russia loves it gays. And it does. But just its dead ones. Which, if Papa Bear has his way will soon include all of the living ones too.