Next year's Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia, and come on the heels of Russia enacting horribly repressive laws that basically criminalize homosexuality. The laws are among the most punitive in the world and a giant step back for gay rights. Against this backdrop, gay Winter Olympians will have to consider how open they want to be.
New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup, who is openly gay, says he won't change who he is should he qualify for the Games. He told the website Vocativ:
"I was in the closet for a long time and who I am now is who I really am and who I always will be. I'm not going to tone down or change who I am just because I've gone to a different country. If that gets me in trouble than so be it."
Skjellerup said he plans on wearing a rainbow pin that was on display at the 2012 London Summer Games. Such an act would run afoul of Russia's new anti-gay law, which allows the government to jail foreign tourists for 14 days before kicking them out. Given the intense media coverage of the Olympics, it's hard to imagine the Russians doing anything to an openly gay Olympian, yet the risk is still there.
Despite the law, Skjellerup does not support calls to boycott Sochi, saying, "Just being myself is far more important than not being there."