Johnny Weir responds to commentators who questioned his gender, example he sets

Johnny Weir held a press conference Wednesday in Vancouver to address remarks made by two veteran sports commentators during the Olympics suggesting that his fabulousness (our word) is a bad example of, and for, male figure skaters and joking that he should undergo a gender test. If you speak French, watch a clip here. We’ll detail the comments, which have a Quebec gay rights group contemplating filing a complaint with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, later.

Weir began by joking that he grew stubble for the press conference to show that he’s a man, but his tone quickly got serious. As you’ll hear him say in the two clips we’ve embedded, he’s not asking for an apology. He says he believes in free speech and wouldn’t want these men fired for expressing their opinion. (“I’ve heard worse in bathrooms and whatnot about me,” he quipped.) He just wants them to think before they speak — and to imagine the damage they could do to people like him and to generations of children whose parents may not give them the same freedom and support his did if they think their child will only be ridiculed for being who he or she is. “I would challenge anyone to question my upbringing and question my parents’ ideals and feelings about bringing up me and my brother, who’s completely different from me but taught very much the same way that I was,” Weir said. (The conviction in his voice during that statement had to have made his parents as proud as any medal he could’ve won.)

There’s a reason he’s calling attention to the situation: “Even my gender has been questioned. I want that to be public because I don’t want 50 years from now more young boys and girls to have to go through this sort of thing and to have their whole life basically questioned for no reason other than to make a joke and to make people watch their television program,” he said. He summed up his message —  “I hope more kids can grow up the same way that I did and more kids can feel the freedom that I feel to be themselves and to express themselves” — and his belief that the concepts of masculinity and femininity are old-fashioned. “There’s a whole generation of people that aren’t defined by their sex or their race or by who they like to sleep with. I think as a person you know what your values are and what you believe in, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

According to The Canadian Press, Claude Mailhot of the French-language RDS network began by saying, “This may not be politically correct, but do you think he lost points due to his costume and his body language?” Alain Goldberg responded saying Weir’s femininity may reflect poorly on other male figure skaters.”They’ll think all the boys who skate will end up like him. It sets a bad example.” Goldberg is also quoted as saying, “We should make him [Weir] pass a gender test at this point,” and Mailhot then joking that Weir should compete in the women’s competition. The two broadcasters later issued an on-air apology.

How do you think Weir handled the controversy? I say beautifully. For once, the focus went beyond the superficial “You can’t say that on TV!” headlines to make the media stop and examine the meaning and effect of what was said. Weir understands it’s not just children who have to have self-confidence, but also their parents. If Weir speaks in high schools after the Olympics — and he should — I hope parents are encouraged to come to the assembly. I think his controlled, articulate passion might actually reach them.

More Olympics coverage:
EW’s Olympics hub
PopWatch on Ice: figure skating recaps and commentary
Olympic Studs of the Day: Honoring the athletes that keep us glued to the TV
Olympic Songs of the Day: The music that motivates Team USA

Comments (228 total) Add your comment
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  • aitzko

    SO excellently handled. Not only is he a talented athlete, but he’s also an articulate and well-spoken young man. Bravo Johnny!

    • AcaseofGeo

      He handled THIS controversy well but he needs to ditch the fur and it sure wouldn’t hurt be stop being such a flame. So while he could’ve been a hero, he comes off as disingenuous.

      • edwina

        the fur is faux, according to other news reports.

      • Lizzie

        He can wear a crown of fur. Please. Frak PETA. They would kill 1000 human babies to save a rat. I lost respect for them a long time ago. Johnny Weir came off a hero.

      • Emma

        He should be as “flaming” as he wishes. He’s an amazing athlete and a lot of people like fur. If I could afford it…luckily for the animal kingdom I’m broke.

      • Will

        So I’m assuming from your use of the word “flame” that you learned nothing from the article or the clip.

      • AcaseofGeo

        uhm, watch the clips again, look at his pics with crowns of roses. “flame” is an accurate term; its not a bad term, it just “is” a term. He asked for all this trouble when he said he didn’t give a damn about animals.

      • siriusly

        Way to miss the point.

      • um

        maybe people should think before they type aswell

      • Joel

        I give not one tiny little @#!! how “flaming” he is. He’s a darn fine athlete and a great skater – keep going, Johnny. We love ya.

      • Allison M

        Way to entirely ignore everything he said.

      • L.T.

        He can be anything he wants to be with talent and grace like that. What Johnny Weir is saying is we have to be careful what we say because everytime we say something hurtful about a person who is different there is a child who is listening and they die a little too if they are different!

      • Jay

        Great hate statement “stop being such a flame” You are a complete douche bag! I can’t stand narrow-minded bigoted A-holes like you. Why don’t you stop being such a prick?

      • Wrong

        Flame is a derogatory term. You saying it isn’t a ‘bad’ term doesn’t make it so. I guess calling you an A**hole isn’t a ‘bad’ term either then.

      • hrr

        And all the medieval knights who won jousting tournaments and were crowned with flowers were “flamers” too, I guess.

        People are stunningly ignorant today and there is no excuse for it. They should read a book occasionally instead of spending their time watching junk TV and texting until their thumbs fall off.

      • Jefferson

        Johnny Weir should be every bit as flaming or macho or anything in between as he wants.
        I’m a straight man who likes football and big trucks and naked chicks. Does Johnny’s demeanor make me uncomfortable? Yes. But I understand 100% that that is my own problem, and my own issue to overcome. Johnny Weir (or anyone else) should not change for me, or for anyone. He should only ever be true to himself (as should we all). Anyone who can’t deal with that is the one who needs to change, by opening their mind and heart.

      • Listen Again

        So what you’re suggesting is that he conform to an image *you* think is acceptable. If he’d done that, I’m guessing he’d never have gotten where he is today.

        Have fun in mediocre land.

      • michele

        So it’s ok to be homophobic and denigrating to someone because they wore fur? Is it ok to be racist, sexist and so on to anyone if they dare to wear fur (ie don’t share YOUR personal views on fur?) Get over yourself, that’s a moronic stance to take. And not that it should matter, but the rose crown was something given to him by a fan in the stands…not part of his skating costume. It’s sad how many backwards thinking narrow minded people there still are in this country.

      • Goodness Me

        Hey there, AcaseofGeo, it’s not “flaming” you misused, it’s “disingenous”. Here’s the dictionary definition:

        lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.

        He was completely sincere, completely frank about who he is. His honesty and articulate manner, his dignity and refusal to either submit to or condemn his critics spoke volumes. He is not the problem. The announcers were the problem.

        Here’s an exercise for you: Take your sentence “… and it sure wouldn’t hurt be stop being such a flame” and instead of ‘flame’, put ‘black’. Or ‘Jew’. Or ‘American’. You see how offensive your logic would be with those? It’s the same thing.

      • AZKay

        Often “flaming” is entertaining and charming. Not everyone is so close-minded.

      • the big no

        It’s not yours or anyone’s place to tell an Olympic athlete how to behave. If he is gayer than Liberace on Halloween that’s his business, not to mention his right as a human being and as an American.

    • me

      By the way, the crown of roses he sported is an inside joke from his russian trainers since in eastern european countries at the end of the school year the student with the highest marks from each class gets “first price with a crown”. I’ve been crowned 4 times in my life (before highschool when cutting class became more appealing) and never saw ppl be embarassed by having their picture taken with a crown of roses, daisies or any other flower they liked. I teared up a bit actually bc the crown means to his team and trainers that he is a winner despite not getting a medal.

      • Fridge

        Thanks for the inside info–that’s actually really cool knowing what the inside meaning to the crown of roses is. I think Johnny is fantastic–he’s comfortable with who he is and doesn’t feel the need to be labled or put into any one particular category. I think the reason he has so much controversy surrounding him is becuase he can’t be put into anyone category, he doesn’t allow that for himself and I think that’s great. Too bad there’s so many narrow minded people out there.

      • s marie

        That’s interesting. I didn’t know about that. I thought he looked adorable with the crown of roses! :)

      • Staple

        Thanks for that information. Now the crown makes sense. Actually, I thought his costume was lame, but not because of the way he is. I judge all of the constumes in figure skating…I just didn’t like his. But he’s pretty adorable though isn’t he?

    • S’magic

      Aitzko, you spoke literally what I was going to post.
      Bravo, Johnny!

  • J.B.

    If you watch Be Good Johnny Weir it is clear that is he is very close to his parents and his parents LOVE him dearly. His mom wants him to be who is is, without having to change to conform to anybody’s expectations. It is really great.

    • Clara

      Did he win a medal?

      • Zoe

        No, he came in sixth. IMO, having seen both his short and long programs, I believe he was underscored on both. Even the commentators said the same after the scores were announced. Weir had beautiful jumps and incredible grace, while the 4th and 5th (and the 3rd?) had significant stumbles. Just my opinion of course–not an skating expert by any means!

      • erf

        He didn’t win one for skating,but he certainly deserves one for this.
        What an amazing,beautiful family
        Johnny must be blessed with.Btw,the
        picture in the home page is so cute! Like his ‘do :)

      • erf

        He didn’t win a medal for skating,
        but he certainly deserves one for the classy way he handled this.What
        an amazing,beautiful family Johnny
        is blessed with. Always love watch-
        ing him! Go,Johnny! :)

      • Emma

        It’s true; everyone but Lysacek and Plushenko in the top 5 fell on at least one jump. I hate this small-minded world sometimes.

      • L.T.

        I am not American, I still believe technically, Johnny Weir should have had a medal. The judges obviously closeted GAYs underscored him… Because Johnny is doing something they obviously hope they were able to do and to be so comfortable and so unafraid of people’s judgement. BRAVO to me he is a HERO!

      • L.T.

        This also just shows how much of an Olympic Champion he is!

    • amj

      I really respect Johnny alot. He is a wonderfully articulate individual who knows who he is and is not ashamed of anything that he is. He sends a great message about loving yourself and accepting others. I did however know that some controversy would come due to his costume choices, it was inevitable that a reaction would ensue. He is as beautiful an individual as he is a skater. His jumps are graceful and amazing.

      • kittenharrington

        yes’ he should of had a GOLD mrdel but he was casted out and scornd for his sexuallity witch was wrong ,il’legal to discriminate againast an athlete because of there gender. i beleave that these tow ignorant cowards should be FIRED.canadian press claudmailhot and allan goldberg who is the ont that said that, jhonny weie should take a gender test is so dorogatory
        and discriminatory and he should be fired and suide along with cloud mailhot, jonny weir should sue them and sue for the right to his gold medel.
        jhonny your were fantastic on that ice and you erand that gold medel so go after it. there opology was not enogh as it camt too late after the damage they did was done.
        jhonny weir is awsem.

  • Fatima

    Bravo. One of the best celebrity responses I’ve ever read. Hope he gets everyone thinking.

    • Big Walt

      Man, how “flamboyant” do you have to be to be too flamboyant for figure skating?

    • vbrekkidd80

      I agree he did very well and was very tasteful about it without being rude or condescending.

  • dawnselya

    Fierce, Johnny! You’re more of a man than those two will ever be!

  • eponymous

    Awesome! Utterly awesome!

  • Q

    This is outrageous. After Johnny’s amazing performance in the long program, I foolishly hoped he wouldn’t have to defend himself against this kind of garbage anymore. I admire his willingness to calmly address this; clearly his grace on ice is nothing compared to his grace as a person.

  • Rio

    This is a great example of a true man – someone who knows who he is and doesn’t have to put down others or act tough to convince people he’s manly.

    • Ashley

      I think that is one of the main reasons i have so much love and respect for him. he is who he is and he is not afraid to show it to the world. he is more of a man then half the guys out there. i wish all of the skating community took him more seriously.

    • Breeze

      Beautifully put Rio!

    • Ambient Lite

      Second that. He’s amazing.

    • CatBoreal

      Hear Hear!

  • green sleeves

    He addressed it wonderfully. RDS needs to respond and make clear they find those comments unacceptable as well, not just sit back and wait for a complaint to made against them. (Unless they already have, in which case, my bad.)

    • Vaguiner

      This totally evekod a memory for me from my early childhood, also about mixing paint! We had these pieces of wood stuck together and were told to paint them I happily swirled all the colours together on one of the pieces. Then for some reason the teacher (student teacher?) plopped herself down and painted the other piece RED. The whole thing. She just slopped the paint on and let it drip down the sides, ruining my piece of artwork. I didn’t ask for her help and I didn’t want it. My parents still have that thing in the basement and every single time I see it it makes me see red so to speak. *end rant* Um, so yeah, I totally feel your pain.

  • ruth

    I’m impressed. I’m really not such a fan of his skating style, but I’m impressed by how he expressed himself here.

  • Phoebe

    Good for him. Great response to obnoxious idiots.

  • Joseph T

    Job well done! His parents must be very proud

  • dan

    is that a man or a woman?

    • davey

      More man than you could ever dream of being! Go Johnny!

    • Janet

      You are just looking for attention. I hope people don’t give it to you.

      • Clara

        and yet you just did

    • Edmonton Girl

      Real men are not threatened by the sexuality of others, Dan – you don’t need to say any more. We have you figured out.

  • SaraJ

    EW, thank you so much for this. Best thing I’ve read today.

  • Emma

    I really hope he continues to skate. He is the most beautiful skater (male or female) I’ve ever seen. I only started watching figure skating because I loved him in Torino. I’m crushed he won’t be doing Pokerface but at least there’s still the World Championships!

  • Meli

    Weir showed incredible class and grace by saying he doesn’t want anything to happen to the commentators for what they said.

    I, however, don’t possess that same level of class and grace. What they said was deliberately shameful, deliberately meant to provke and wound instead of just stating an opinion, and the French people should express their displeasure at such rampant homophobia and gay-bashing by refusing to watch any broadcast in which these commentators appear.

    • Meli

      Besides, it’s not Johnny Weir’s fault that he outskated Brian Jourbert because Jourbert is lazy and pouty, didn’t want to train and didn’t want to seek advice on how to improve (if you believe the assertions of the head of the French Figure Skating Federation). Maybe that’s why these commentators decided to target Weir.

      • Meli

        Sorry, it’s actually spelt J-O-U-B-E-R-T. But ‘lazy’ and ‘pouty’ are correct.

      • Breeze

        Actually, these are French-Canadian commentators, so they would be protecting Patrick Chan – not that I really want to point out that the commentators were Canadian (sigh)…

      • Big Dave

        Well, they comment for a French-Canadian network. Alain Goldberg is French, not French-Canadian (very different accent).

      • ks

        Yes BIG difference

      • Edmonton Girl

        No kidding, Breeze – what a couple of boneheads. Oh, well – they only made themselves look bad.

      • T

        I think alot of French-Canadians are more concerned with their “Frenchness” and not necessarily with the Canadian part, in my experience at least. I heard Montreal has wanted to ceceed (however it’s spelled) from Cananda at one point. Tolerance doesn’t seem to be their strong suit in that part of the country. That said, those two commentators are total morons or to be more French about it, douches. I loves Johnny Weir before the Olympics and love him more now. He is a true class act.

      • V

        Unfortunately T, I think you should check your facts about Montreal before you start typing about them… Montreal doesn’t not want to separate, the province of Quebec does, and trust me when I say, not all residents of that province would like that to happen. I agree that was the commentators said at the end of that clip was ignorant however, if you listened to it at the beginning, one of them was saying that he has no problem with the way he looks, dresses, acts etc.. it takes all kinds of people to make up our world… however they feel that it doesn’t help the steretupe of figure skating. I agree it doesn’t excuse what they said, but I think we you listen closer, one of the announcers was saying that it’s Johnny’s right to be who he is.

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