U.S. Figure Skating has again snubbed openly gay former U.S. champion Rudy Galindo for their Hall of Fame (video of his amazing championship 1996 performance is below). And some are wondering how many different prejudices have come into play this time. For the Mexican-American, openly gay skating champion who publicly disclosed he has HIV, there are certainly reasons to wonder. Gwen Knapp was in San Jose at the championships last weekend and talked with Galindo about the prejudice he has faced over time:
When he missed on the Hall of Fame vote again this year, failing to top 50 percent for the third time, Galindo felt some of that rejection all over again. He rarely turned serious during his 15-minute chat with reporters, but he spoke quietly and carefully when asked whether he suspected bias.
"It always comes to the forefront when I don't get nominated or selected to do something. 'Is that why?' " Galindo said. "That was my whole life growing up in amateur skating. (Not being) the All-American boy. But times have changed. ... Still, it's always in the back of my mind, so I can't say no."
Ann Killion at Sports Illustrated adds:
Off the ice, Galindo was a breakthrough figure for skating. He is Mexican-American, raised in a trailer park in San Jose and struggled financially over the years to keep skating. Shortly before his '96 performance, he came out as a gay man - a revolution in a sport where homophobia remains closeted still. In 2000 he announced he was HIV-positive.
Galindo deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Skating officials were so certain that he would be elected, they planned how to handle and market the event. But he failed to get the required 51 percent of the votes.
Throughout his competitive career, Galindo struggled to be accepted by the figure skating powers. So there's good reason to speculate that the old guard still doesn't want to acknowledge his accomplishments.
While figure skating is a stereotypical "gay" sport, the homophobia there is well-documented. Resentment about the stereotype rains down from the mostly straight people running the sport. Four-time U.S. champion Scott Hamilton has not held back at times when talking about gay people. From our friends at Rainbow Ice:
It is clear from [his] book that Hamilton has attempted to do some soul-searching on the issue. "'Homophobic' was an accurate description of my feelings toward gay men," he wrote (p. 192). "I used to joke about the lifestyle, partly because I had spent the previous 16 years fending off the cruel humor directed at me. 'Fairy,' 'sissy,' 'faggot,' I had heard them all." Hamilton's story is a clear example of how homophobia affects U.S. male skaters regardless of their personal orientation.
From Hamilton's general tone, it is difficult to imagine that he will ever be fully pro-gay, but he makes an effort. His final words on the subject (p. 194) deal with the fact that in skating, all things boil down to the essentially personal and honest nature of the sport: "If your sexuality is an important part of your makeup and you want to show it on the ice, then go for it. Do what makes you happy. Some people will like it, and some won't."
Even as recently as 2010, homophobia showed its ugly face by keeping Johnny Weir from an Olympic medal.