Five Key Messages on The Importance of Out Gay Olympic Athletes

The two out 2018 American Olympians Gus Kenworthy (left) and Adam Rippon

NOTE: Links to additional blogs about out LGBT sports figures and issues are at the bottom of this blog.

The exciting 2018 Winter Olympics just concluded. As a huge figure skating fan and an adult skater myself, I spent way too many hours in front of the television this February. And as a diversity and career development consultant with a deep expertise in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) workplace and marketplace, I was thrilled to see the positive coverage and celebration of our out gay Olympians.

Most notable among the American athletes were figure skater Adam Rippon, whose brilliant long program in the team event helped secure a bronze medal for the USA in the Team Figure Skating event, and skier Gus Kenworthy, who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Olympics and then a year later came out publicly as gay on the cover of ESPN magazine. And from Canada there is pairs skater Eric Radford who won the bronze medal with his skating partner Megan Duhamel.

So why is this important? I feel it sends five very important messages to struggling LGBT youth and others to boost them in their life journey. Here are the five:
1) Embrace who you are. It is important to feel positive and good about all the aspects of yourself that make you uniquely you. That is one of the important messages of diversity and inclusion – that each and every person in unique and we should each celebrate our own distinct combination of diversity attributes.

2) You are good – there is nothing wrong in being gay or queer. It so sad that some faith traditions, certain politicians and even some families propagate the lie that being queer is sinful, wrong or defective. This can destroy a young person who is struggling to find their place of belonging in the world. Our gay Olympic athletes showed us that they are wonderful good accomplished people fully enjoying their lives as well as their Olympic experience.

3) Don’t set limits – you can achieve and excel. These athletes, who are among the best in the world, did not buy into the lie that being gay was a defect that would hold them back from achieving great things. LGBT people can win gold medals, run companies, be accomplished musicians and actors. Queer kids, like anyone else, should feel free to pursue any career and hobby for which they have passion and talent, with no limits.

It is important to connect with positive supportive people like British Skeleton gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold, a straight ally who wore rainbow laces to show her support for LGBT atheletes.

4) Find and Focus on the supportive community. In addition to being embraced by the media (Adam Rippon became the media darling of the Olympics with his sparking, fun personality and poised interviews,) these gay athletes got their share of hateful nasty tweets and online posts. It is so very sad that there are still so many people who feel the need to judge others and put others down because they are different from them. Instead of getting thrown off by the haters, it is important to find and develop relationships with the supportive community. No one needs hate. Ignore and discard it.

5) Do what you can to share positivity with others. The infectious enthusiasm of the out gay athletes brought joy to their fans. Even Adam Rippon mentioned all the positive feedback he received with people struggling with their sexual orientation who were uplifted by Adam’s appearance at the Olympics and on television. By being who he is and expressing it with such elegance and positiveness, Adam profoundly helped so many others in their life journeys.

I do know of a few well meaning people who say, “why does this person need to be so public about being gay?” The answer: it is because it is who they are, and by fully embracing themselves, they empower others to celebrate their diversity, enjoy life to the fullest, and contribute their best to the human family.

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See my other blogs about out gay figure skaters as well as other sports figures and issues:

Seven Fabulous “Out” Gay Men of Figure Skating

Seven More Fabulous Out Gay Men of Figure Skating (and One Bisexual Woman)

Russia, LGBT Rights and the Psychology of Bullying

Fortunate is the NFL Team that Drafts Out Gay Football Standout Michael Sam!

Football, Bullying and LGBT Diversity – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Five Important Ramifications of NBA Pro Basketball Player Jason Collins’ Coming Out

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Blog author Stan Kimer, in addition to training as an adult competitive figure skater himself, is a career development and diversity consultant with a deep expertise in corporate LGBT diversity strategy and training. Please explore the rest of my website (which includes my own figure skating page) and never hesitate to contact me to discuss diversity training for your organization, or pass my name onto your HR department.

Four Distinguished Black Business Leaders and a Fantastic Book!

NOTE: Some links to related blogs dealing with race and racism at the bottom.

As a diversity and inclusion consultant, even though my deep area of expertise is the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community, I know it is critical to educate myself and support other key areas of diversity including race. The struggles of black-owned businesses and professionals are still very real and present and need continued attention.

One wonderful organization I occasionally participate with is the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA – link), conceived in 1970 to help Blacks coming into the corporate sector, largely for the first time, share experiences and insights to help make the journey easier. See my 2014 blog about their “Leaders of Tomorrow” Program.

On February 2, 2018, the Raleigh-Durham chapter of the NBMBAA hosted a panel discussion with four distinguished business leaders:
• James Sills, CEO, M&F Bank
• Michael Lawrence, CEO, NC Mutual Life Insurance Company
• Isaac Green, President & CEO, Piedmont Investment Advisors
• Joseph Sansom, past chairman of M&F bank and on their Raleigh Advisory Board.

Some of the key points made during the panel discussion included:

• Many black-owned businesses like the ones represented on the panel were founded as a necessity when the enterprises of the day would not serve black customers.

• M&F Bank realized the importance of “owning” vs “renting” and provided loans for mortgages in the early 1900s to blacks.

• Supporting community banks, businesses and community is important for the vibrancy of a community.

• With desegregation came a great deal of mergers and acquisitions of these black owned businesses which has been both good and bad for the black community. For example, in 1970 there were 45 black-owned insurance companies and now that is down to under 20.

• One dynamic of leading a black owned business is the opportunity to call the shots instead of being on the outside looking in.
In addition to attending this panel, I recently read a fantastic short (only 108 pages) powerful book titled “Listen In – Crucial Conversations on Race in the Workplace” by Allison Manswell. This unique book is written as a novel, but contains subsections of useful business tools as it follows the journeys of 5 black professionals who are close friends. The book also addresses the intersection of the black community with generational, gender, religious and gay diversity.

The USA will be a stronger country and our economy more robust as we continue to understand the issues of various minorities within our national fabric and take action to support and nurture all businesses and professionals.

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Related Blogs:

In “Sexism, Racism and the Dynamics of Power,” I examine the power dynamic as critical when we discuss the societal and workplace issues of sexism, sexual harassment and racism.

“Divided We Stand – Racism in America from Jamestown to Trump,” reviews and summarizes a fascinating and important book by David R. Morse that chronicles the many forms of racism present within the USA from our founding days up to current times.

• Though a good number of white people believe that the racial discrimination of the past is eradicated, the black community for the most part, as well as statistical realities, would indicate otherwise. See “Facing the Truth – Racism Still Persists in the USA.”)