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Lorrie Kim Cracking Open the Closet Door in Male Figure Skating

(This story was published in 2001).

Lorrie Kim's Web site, Rainbow Ice, is a must for any figure skating fan. It deals with ``lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered issues in the sport.'' It is extremely thorough, yet fair, with a complete list of out elite and adult skaters. Kim, a bisexual woman, started the site as a labor of love, but it is quickly becoming a ``must bookmark'' for anyone who loves the sport. We asked her to write about how she got started and how the site has evolved. Also, take the Rainbow Ice Poll on who is the hottest skater.

By: Lorrie Kim

I was an activist and journalist for LGBT issues for years before I was a figure skating fan.

It fascinated me that this overwhelmingly femme sport, with many clearly gay participants, was so profoundly in the closet that I wanted to tell them the news about the Stonewall riots.

You've never seen so many adult men, fully gay in their private lives, convinced not only that coming out would destroy them -- but that the presumably clueless public would be shattered if they knew.

At the same time, I found that the straight women who make up most of skating fandom did not know how to discuss gay issues. They wanted to protect closeted skaters, so their only tactic was a well-meaning but tight-lipped, "We don't talk about that here."

I wanted to introduce the clear guideline that it is acceptable to discuss a skater's sexual orientation, if it has been acknowledged publicly in reliable media.

So there needed to be a list of skaters who were out, and reliable references (more reliable, anyway, than "everyone knows") to confirm that they are out publicly and legitimately. Rainbow Ice started originally to fill that need. To my knowledge, no closeted skater has ever contacted me, although I have approached some myself.

The site went live on July 15, 1998. I also wanted a way to trace the progress of gay acceptance in the sport. There was some hope after Rudy Galindo came out in 1995 that many others would feel free to follow suit.

That has not happened at all -- many seem content to leave Galindo out there in the cold, bearing the brunt for all of them. I think they all owe Galindo flowers and a public thank-you.

For the most part, the site has had little controversy. The only real concern to date came in late 1998, when the great Canadian champion Brian Orser was outed by a vengeful ex. Although the news was all over the Canadian papers and a matter of public record, a few fans contacted me privately asking that I leave him off the site, since he was outed against his will (and was clearly pained about it).

If Rainbow Ice were an accountable news source, I would have kept Orser on the site, with apologies to the offended. But it's just my own private kingdom. I had mixed feelings about the issue. I was deeply frustrated by what I still think of as Orser's internalized homophobia.

On the other hand, he is the one person whose artistry first drew me to this sport, and he is universally respected as a man of true goodness and kindness. And my site isn't intended to hurt anyone. So, I took Orser off. Out of sentiment alone, not in accordance with any journalistic standards. I put him back on when he made his first public statement owning his gayness.

The response from readers has been very positive. Along the lines of "it's about time there was a site like this." I've gotten a couple of people saying they think it's bad for the sport to discuss gay issues, but I think that's happened exactly twice, and the people were speaking in good faith. Both times, I responded in a polite, friendly way, explaining why I put up the site.

Mostly, fans seem happy to be able to point to my site when the millionth clueless person asks, "Is such-and-such skater gay?"

Ultimately, I maintain this site for skaters and fans who love the sport as I do, and hunger for an understanding of its LGBT history and culture -- perhaps with an eye to where they might belong within it. I maintain it for the heroes in the International Gay Figure Skating Union, who celebrate from within an imperfect world and an imperfect sport.

Sadly, I maintain it in honor of the many current and former skaters whose careers and sometimes lives have been damaged by homophobia. And for the astonishing young skaters coming of age now, who take being out for granted as much as the learning of their jumps and spins.