Belle Brockhoff, Australia, Snowboarding
Cheryl Maas, Netherlands, Snowboarding
Barbara Jezeršek, Slovenia, Cross-Country Skier
Sanne Van Kerkhof, Netherlands, Speed Skating
Ireen Wüst, Netherlands, Speed Skating
Anastasia Bucsis, Canada, Speed Skating
These six openly gay athletes are the reason I will be watching the Sochi Olympics.
Before I continue, there are a few things that must be said in the name of full disclosure. I am an open member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. I sit on the management committee for Kulanu Toronto, which represents Jewish members of the LGBT community in Toronto. Nothing I say here is to speak on behalf of any organization of which I am currently or have ever been a member.
In 2013, the Russian Federation adopted a law against “homosexual propaganda.” This prohibits “promotion of the homosexual lifestyle” to Russian children including such symbols as the rainbow flag, and published works containing homosexual content, which — as it turns out — may include Canadian bobsledder Justin Kripps’ personal website containing a photo of himself and three teammates posing in their underwear next to their sled. All four men identify as straight.
Make no mistake: the international community’s exposure to Russia’s way of life is a mere fraction of the day-to-day surveillance that Russian citizens have unfortunately become so accustomed to. Russian President Vladimir Putin as an “elected” (a word which should not be taken too literally) dictator. He rules his country with an iron fist and would not hesitate to eliminate any threat to his power.
That said, Sochi offers the world an opportunity to voice their grievances and cheer for our openly gay athletes. When Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis takes her place on the Olympic oval, her very presence will be an act of protest. She will stand on her skates for equality and for Canadian values. I, for one, will not let her protest go unheard.
I understand why there are those who feel a need to boycott the Olympics. But to them, I say, such actions will not fix Russia. Moreover, the actions of the Russian Federation are not the responsibility of the athletes present.
Please do not let these athletes’ sacrifices be for naught. Watch them compete. Root them on. And in the case of six incredibly brave women — hear their protest.