A Rant: Figure Skating, The 2014 Olympics, Stereotyping and Prejudice

My mother meets 6-time US ice dance champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have an excellent chance to win an Olympic gold medal

My mother meets 6-time US ice dance champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have an excellent chance to win an Olympic gold medal

I have included a slew of hot links for you to check out in this blog! Do use them!

Sometimes I need to write a personal blog and rant a little.

One of my favorite past times is attending national and international figure skating competitions as a fan. I love both athletics and art / music, and the sport of figure skating uniquely combines both. The top skaters train for hours per day both off and on the ice, and they need to be in top physical shape to perform the difficult routines that includes jumps, spins and intricate footwork sequences. And the skaters need to perform these physically demanding tricks on ice while skating to music and looking nice.

The 2014 US Figure Skating Nationals in Boston were particularly exciting since this was the key competition to help name our 2014 Olympic team going to Sochi, Russia. The men’s competition was a thrilling showdown between 3 time (now 4-time) national champion Jeremy Abbott, last year’s champion Max Aaron and a brilliant young skater Jason Brown. Associated Press published a great article about the competition which I read on line. But very disheartening were the online comments that people posted. I was disgusted that nearly half the comments were speculating about the sexual orientation of the skaters with derogatory hateful comments about gay people, and about how figure skating is really not a sport… comments like “what is so difficult about dressing in pretty clothes and prancing around on the ice.”

I got to meet a leading woman skater and Harvard student Christina Gao, and the new 2014 US mens silver medalist Jason Brown at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last summer.

I got to meet a leading woman skater and Harvard student Christina Gao, and the new 2014 US men’s silver medalist Jason Brown at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last summer.

And now my two key points:

1. If I were a hiring manager and looking at candidates’ social media postings, I would never hire any of these people who posted these derogatory comments. First, anyone who is this outspoken about their irrational prejudice and stereotyping of any group would be unable to function in a diverse workplace team and would instead hinder teamwork. Second, people who make statements (like figure skating is easy and not a sport) about which they know nothing, could wreck major damage to work projects by providing faulty information and jumping to conclusions before studying data and facts, or providing customers invalid information. Those macho dudes (yeah – I know I am now myself stereotyping – see my blog on stereotyping) would probably collapse on the ice and die after 15 seconds of doing what elite figure skaters do in complex 4 minute programs.

2. The 2014 Olympics have been overshadowed by some Russian leaders’ draconian positions on gay and lesbian people and their human rights. (See my blog from last fall on this, “The Psychology of Bullying.”) I commend some very positive developments from the US in addressing this Russian issue. First, President Obama’s move (link) to include a number of very respected out gay and lesbian former athletes and Olympians to the American delegation to Sochi demonstrates to the Russians (and the world) that truly enlightened leaders value all contributions from all groups within society. And second, I commend one of our top women skaters, Ashley Wagner, for her vocal support of the LGBT community (link to article) in a most articulate and mature manner.

To close this blog, here is a special treat – a link to the phenomenal long program delivered by one of my personal favorites Jason Brown. Not only is he an outstanding skater, but a fine young man and a role model for treating all fans with respect and kindness. Congratulations to Jason, Ashley and all the other fine men and women figure skaters who will be representing the USA in the 2014 Olympics!

My annual discussion on “DADT” and LGBT diversity progression in the US Armed Forces

Major Daniel Toven and Johnathan Taylor at the Main Post Chapel, Ft. Bragg.  (Elizabeth Frantz, Fayetteville Observer

Major Daniel Toven and Johnathan Taylor at the Main Post Chapel, Ft. Bragg. (Elizabeth Frantz, Fayetteville Observer)


I have written blogs about the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” within the US Military for the past three years. Actually, I did not intend to write another blog on this subject, but then I always seem to get some new exciting news around the annual anniversary of DADT’s repeal. (This repeal came in late December 2010 … see links later in this blog.)

I started my consulting practice in the Fall of 2010 and one of the first events I attended was a business matchmaking session which seeks to promote business between large corporations and government agencies with small entrepreneurs. Some representatives were there from the nearby Ft. Braagg US Army base in Fayetteville, NC. I introduced myself as a diversity consultant and trainer with a deep expertise in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), and mentioned that DADT may soon be repealed and that many military and support business would likely need some training on how to respectfully interact with out LGBT people. He rolled his eyes as if to be saying “Not in my life time!” And then just a few months later DADT was indeed repealed. Here are the links to my two original blogs at that time – part 1 about why this was a good move for our military, and part 2 about the training and work needed to productively move forward.

In January 2013 I provided an update (link) that showed mostly positive progress, like studies that proved that morale in our armed forces had not declined as many of the repeal detractors had forecast. But there was also some isolated examples that showed that training was still needed; a military spouses group here in North Carolina denied membership to the wife of a female Army lieutenant colonel married legally in New York.

The ruling of the US Supreme Court in late June of 2013 declaring many parts of DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act) unconstitutional further opened the military establishment up to recognizing the same-gender marriages throughout the country. Another major milestone was reached last month in North Carolina when Major Daniel Toven married his boyfriend Johnathan Taylor at the Main Post Chapel at Fort Bragg on December 21, 2013. Unfortunately, because North Carolina has a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriages, the event was officially a “blessing ceremony” and the two legally wed in the District of Columbia. However, I applaud the US military for being more open and permitting this ceremony on base. (Link to article from the Fayetteville Observer.)

Let’s hope that this positive momentum continues in the US Armed Forces and even spreads to some areas in our country that still do not offer LGBT citizens their full equal rights.