To be an Olympian, an athlete must be brave, bold and focused in the face of adversity. To win, an Olympic champion stands out from competitors by giving the best possible performance in a stress-inducing, pressure-cooker atmosphere, all the while making it look as effortless as possible.
This year's true Olympic champion is Johnny Weir.
He is not competing at these games, but his cool, steady, unique work as commentator make him a winner. Mr. Weir has overcome great obstacles to do his work at the Sochi Olympics. As an openly gay athlete chosen by NBC to commentate on figure skating in a notoriously anti-gay country, he has had to endure incredible scrutiny. In addition to anti-gay rhetoric, he has received criticism from some in the LGBT community for not supporting a boycott of the Sochi games. Ignoring the negative comments from all sides, Weir sashays to work each day in the most amazing of outfits. He has described himself as "Elton John's fanny pack," and "gay as they come," and his wardrobe has not disappointed.
He has eschewed the drab, traditional male commentator sports coat in favor of far more outrageous sartorial choices: skin-tight leather leggings, a bright pink coat, Prada bag, pearl necklace, lipstick, a hair braid headband and so on. In a word, he is FABULOUS. Each day he reports to work as if he is walking the runway. It takes real balls to be so awesomely flamboyant in this environment. His clothes are a shield against all criticism, and a provocation. Go ahead and make fun of me, his wardrobe proclaims, and let's see who has the last laugh.
Weir chose to support the athletes rather than a boycott. And by doing his work as an expert commentator with competency and panache, he is proving that being gay -- flamboyantly, fabulously gay -- is okay. Protestors have called him a "clown." But he is a hero. To all the gay kids in Russia who have been denied exposure to homosexuality, his vivid presence and confident, assured demeanor speak volumes. To little queens everywhere, he is a beacon of hope that your "gayness" will not prevent you from getting ahead.
In America, this past week's focus has been on the NFL and how they might handle one gay football player in the future. But the American athlete who is really breaking down barriers is Johnny Weir. If some homophobic football players are threatened by the likes of a Michael Sam, can you imagine if they encountered "Elton John's fanny pack," in the locker room?
Recognition also must be given to NBC for picking Weir to commentate at these games. He was chosen for his expertise and experience. Not only has he competed at the Olympics and knows figure skating in and out, he also has a renowned passion for Russia. NBC chose the best person for the job. They allowed him to be true to himself, rather than trying to mold him into a typical, humdrum "sportscaster."
The press has been mostly kind to Weir, calling him a star and eagerly awaiting his latest quips and outfits. They enjoy watching him thumb his nose at critics and at Russian anti-gay policy. There are those who continue to slam him, such as Louie Verrecchio in Renew America who writes that gender non-conformity is "a particular form of child abuse," and that Johnny Weir is "an icon of the popular culture's Hell bent determination to undermine the objective truth about marriage and family, as well as the God-given characteristics that make us either male or female." But Mr. Weir is seemingly impervious to it all, focused and driven to do his best work.
So, you go with your bad-ass self, Johnny Weir. I, for one, am proud to have you represent the LGBT community in such a high-profile way. You do your job admirably, effortlessly -- and fabulously. A genuine champion.