The media went wild when Adam Rippon, of Clark Summit, Pennsylvania announced that he would be one of the three men selected to participate in the Winter Olympics in figure skating. Adam Rippon is also openly gay, making him the first openly gay man to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
While this is a huge step for the LGBT community who needs visibility and representation especially during a time where homophobic politicians hold office, the media has done little to normalize it.
Upon the announcement of Rippon on the team, the media mostly focused on his sexuality rather than his athleticism, even going as far as asking him personal questions about his political beliefs that have nothing to with his career as a figure skater or his time in the Olympics.
Of course, we all know that Vice President, Mike Pence, is wholeheartedly anti-LGBT, a supporter of conversion therapy and business discriminating against gay people on the basis of religious opinion. Mike Pence is attending the Winter Games, representing the U.S. and usually plans to meet up and congratulate U.S. athletes after their run.
Pence’s agent apparently reached out to Rippon to “clear the air,” however, Rippon denied the offer on the basis that he didn’t feel a meeting would be appropriate before the Olympics. Rippon had also told media that he didn’t want his Olympic run to be focused on his opinions about Pence.
A month ago he had stated that he disagreed with the Trump Administration's view on LGBT issues. He said, “ I have no problem with what I've said because I stand by it, but I think right now the Olympics are about Olympic competition.”
Media has also been obnoxious in its focus on Rippon’s sexuality.
Asking questions like, “What is it like being a gay figure skater.”
The issue with this question is that it implies that his sexuality has an effect on the quality of him as an athlete.
It acts as if his sexuality is the most important part of his identity when that is not the case. His ability to skate well does not correlate with his feelings towards men. Gay is an adjective, like blonde or pale. It is a part of what separates him, but being blonde has no impact on how a person skates.
It isn’t new for the media to focus on a person’s status as a “minority.” Media tends to love to focus on a person’s race or gender hoping to find a wholesome story about a person’s struggle. What is it like being a black politician? What is it like being a female athlete? One would think these questions asked by news people are genuine, but really they’re searching for an interesting story. Something to get good ratings. They’re using these peoples struggles to get views instead of caring about what these people bring to the table in their field based on their own skill unrelated to an adjective society uses to define them.Rippon is more than just his sexuality, and he knows that. He’s comfortable with who he is. On Twitter, he said, “I was recently asked in an interview what it's like to be a gay athlete in sports. I said that it’s exactly like being a straight athlete. Lots of hard work but usually done with better eyebrows.”