Timothy LeDuc wants the whole world to know he’s gay.
The world-class pairs figure skater came out publicly with a whisper only a year ago, yet even as he and his partner, Ashley Cain, have taken aim at this year’s Nationals and a shot at the Olympics, being out and proud has been at the forefront of his mind.
For LeDuc, being an out gay athlete with a national profile is important because of the struggles so many LGBTQ youth still experience today.
“We still live in a country where I can be fired in some places just for being out,” he told Outsports with Cain sitting beside him in full support. “We live in a country where 40% of the homeless youth are part of the queer community. Young queer people are more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts.
“Every queer person who has the means to be out should be out.”
LeDuc barely had the means to be a figure skater just a few years ago. Having competed for years as an amateur skater, the grind of the sport had taken its toll on his bank account. Figure skating is an expensive endeavor, where athletes have to pay for ice rental, coaching, training, travel and a host of other expenses.
He left competitive amateur skating in 2014 and signed a two-year contract with Royal Caribbean, which has a number of ships with permanent ice rinks.
As time marched on the high seas, LeDuc felt more and more that he had left the competitive aspect of the sport too soon.
“I felt I had more to give,” he said. “I wanted to push myself to be the best skater I could be, and I felt I hadn’t accomplished that.”
So he returned to pairs skating and, at the suggestion of U.S. Figure Skating, connected with his new partner, Cain.
LeDuc had previously experienced homophobia when trying to find a partner, even hearing the mother of one of his potential partners tell him he needed to stay in the closet if he wanted to skate with her daughter. One potential female partner even worried that he wasn’t the “kind of gay” who might drop her out of weakness.
Despite the outward appearance to some, figure skating still has strong roots in a very conservative American base.
For Cain, LeDuc’s sexual orientation wasn’t ever on her radar.
“At the end of the day it comes down to skating ability,” she said. “Our personalities gel well, and I think that’s more important than anything else. When he’s out on the ice he’s able to be exactly what he wants to be, and he doesn’t have to hold anything back.”
The duo clicked, and in 2016 they began competing together. Coached in Dallas by Cain’s parents, they finished third as a pair at Nationals last year and fourth this year. They are one of the alternates for the Winter Olympics this year and will be considered if the team of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim are unable to compete next month.
The early success of this duo, who have been skating together for less than two years, has some people anticipating big things for them beyond 2018. While some gay figure skaters have, in the past, expressed fear that coming out might jeopardize their scores, LeDuc and Cain aren’t having any of it.
“I am so fortunate to have people who have come out before me to pave the qay to make it easier for me to be out,” LeDuc said. “People like Rudy Galindo, Eric Radford and Adam Rippon have changed the perception of people being out during their amateur careers.”
The idea of there being a gay figure skater may not be a foreign one to the American public, yet there are precious few who have, during their competitive careers, come out publicly. While Johnny Weir flirted with the idea, it was only after his final Olympics that he confirmed he’s gay. Rippon and Radford will be the first two publicly out figure skaters at the Winter Olympics when they head to South Korea next month.
“It may not be groundbreaking being a gay figure skater, but I want to use this platform I’ve been given in the most positive way I can,” LeDuc said. “I know there are young boys and girls who need someone to voice who they are. I’m hoping some young boy or girl can watch me on TV and think, “OK maybe it is OK to be gay, maybe it is OK to be myself.’”
You can find Timothy LeDuc on Facebook.