An openly gay US swimmer has written an appeal for the world to not vilify Russia before the Sochi Winter Olympics and to Russian President Vladimir Putin to “lay off the literal bully pulpit” and “treat everyone with grace, compassion, and respect.”
Richard Alther, writing for the Huffington Post, both condemned the Russian anti-gay law, but also criticised the vilification of Russia, saying it is not the only country with anti-gay laws.
He wrote: “As much as a world leader, you are an international celebrity as a proud, buff dude. Millions who admire sportsmen have seen photos of you shirtless. There have been shots of you sitting tall in the saddle, commanding your steed, taking your well-deserved break from staggering responsibility.”
He goes on to say that Putin is “downright hot”, comparing him to Daniel Craig in James Bond, and saying he is better looking than Germany’s Angela Merkel, or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“How wonderful that the Russian city of Sochi is hosting the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, a monumental declaration of the importance of physical fitness, all the more enhancing of your own self-esteem. You obviously concur that the human race is not propelled forward by couch potatoes. It is a sterling moment for Russia and your role at the helm, political differences aside. Athletic achievement is something that we can all celebrate.”
He emphasises that he wants to be recognised for his sport, rather than his sexuality, saying: “Now, we’re not asking to wear pink Speedos in the pool or basket-prominent leotards on the track and field. We simply want to strut our stuff (sound familiar?), which is sheer, bloody perseverance and skill at our sport. We want our family and friends to wave us on. OK, one or two could possibly, unintentionally, be wearing a Queer Nation T-shirt, now a violation under your law.”
Alther then notes some examples of homophobic slurs people made in condemning the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this year, saying that it is “scapegoating”.
Continuing, he says that he sometimes finds it difficult to believe that “so much of the globe is mired in the Middle Ages” because he lives in Vermont with his husband, and that their daughter has children too.
He concludes: “Loosen up. Lay off the literal bully pulpit. We all know you’re a macho man, which can be cool. Show that it takes a real man to treat others — meaning everyone — with grace, compassion, and respect.”
He insisted that the legislation only bans the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” and argued that there was “no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities.”
The Russian President signed the widely-condemned legislation into law in June. It has caused an international outcry, particularly because the 2014 Winter Olympics is set to take place in Sochi in February. This caused calls for a boycott of the Olympics, and of Russian vodkas.