Skater Johnny Weir is caught in a bind. An openly gay skater who competed in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, he is being criticized by a segment of the LGBT community for not calling for a boycott of the Sochi Games because of Russia's anti-gay propaganda policy. But Weir insists that the sacrifices one must make to become an Olympian far outweigh the political concerns of one group.
"I've come under so much hate and scrutiny from within my own LGBT community for my views on the Olympics,"Weir told Reuters. "But as somebody who watched my parents sacrifice everything so that I had at least one chance of making the Olympics, I could never boycott the Olympics whether they be in Pyongyang (North Korea), in Uganda, in Iran or Mars. I would have competed there because my whole life has been about going to the Olympics. Being gay isn't something that I chose, being gay is something I was born into. But being an Olympic athlete was something that I chose and something I worked hard for and I'll see it to any necessary end."
To some activists, that may smack of placing the self above the group. But Weir sees it differently: activists seeking to boycott the Games are missing the larger picture.
"The entire Olympic team is not made up of LGBT people," he said. "It's people who've sacrificed their livelihoods, it's people who've sacrificed their parents' finances and health and sometimes even marriages to get that one chance at glory. As an athlete who's lived it, I could never turn my face to that. While equality is necessary all over the world, the Olympics is not the place for me to make a stand."
In contrast to many connected with the Olympics, Weir said he sees the Olympics " strictly as a sporting event and not a political event."
Weir is not competing this year; injuries and age kept him from qualifying. He will still be in Russia, however, and hopes his presence and his example will serve as both inspiration and a clearing of misconceptions. Still, he knows no matter what he does, people will be dissatisfied with him.
"Those who want me to be more gay than I am are going to be disappointed and those who want me to be less gay than I already am will be disappointed," Weir said. "My statement is simply being there and being gay and showing the world and the Russian government that there is nothing weird or wrong with me, and that there is nothing weird or wrong with the LGBT community in your country, so we shouldn't be treated as pariah(s)."