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Adam Rippon gets sassy

Out figure skater makes history en route to Winter Olympics, rips Mike Pence

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Adam Rippon, gay news, Washington Blade

Gone are the days of figure skaters not coming out until years later a la Brian Boitano. Adam Rippon is making his Olympics debut this year. (Photo courtesy Rippon via Instagram)

Adam Rippon’s selection to the United States Olympic Team marks the first time an openly gay American man has qualified for any Winter Olympics. Originally from Clarks Summit, Pa., he has been based in Los Angeles for the past six years. He is coached by Rafael Arutyunyan and trains with Ashley Wagner and rival Nathan Chen.

Rippon had success early on in his career becoming the first junior man to win back-to-back world junior titles in 2008 and 2009. At 28, his skating career has soared since he came out publicly in October, 2015.

The Blade caught up with Rippon before he left on Feb. 5 to represent the United States at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The opening ceremony is tonight (Friday, Feb. 9). The games run through Feb. 25. The men’s short and free programs are Feb. 16-17.

READ MIKE PENCE CONTROVERSY STORY HERE:

Then he directly addressed Rippon tweeting, “@Adaripp I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you. I am proud of you and ALL OF OUR GREAT athletes and my only hope for you and all of #TeamUSA is to bring home the gold. Go get ‘em!”

LOS ANGELES BLADE: Let’s start with the beginning of your short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships which also served as the final criteria event for selection to the U.S. Olympic team. You lined up on the side of the rink instead of the middle, struck a bitchy pose and glared at the camera. Johnny Weir called you the sass master.

ADAM RIPPON: I told my choreographer that I needed it to be in your face and fun. I also wanted it to be bitchy which is why I stared right into the camera. I practiced that look in the mirror a thousand times.

BLADE: Halfway through that same short program, you skated up to the judges and held up your finger as if to say, “Hold on, watch this.” Bold, ballsy and the crowd loved it. What was the thought process behind that move?

RIPPON: I wanted to do something that my younger competitors would be too intimidated to do and I have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team as the oldest rookie since 1936. I’m super excited.

BLADE: This was your third attempt at qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team. What is it like to achieve one of your dreams?

RIPPON: To realize that goal after three attempts is incredible. I considered retiring after not making the team in 2014, but I felt I had more to give as an athlete. I would never know if I didn’t try and I have been focused on being my best.

BLADE: You have had your share of injuries including a broken foot one year ago. At Skate America in November, you dislocated your shoulder in your free skate attempting a quad lutz. You stood up, popped your shoulder back in place and landed eight triples to win the silver medal. What the hell?

RIPPON: I have been using the mentality that nothing is going to get in my way. I had dislocated my shoulder in practice a few months before and wanted to cry blood and throw up. Everyone said it wouldn’t hurt as much the second time, but they lied. After I moved it back in place I made eye contact with my coach and saw doubt. I thought, if he thinks I might stop then I am absolutely not stopping. I am going to take it one step at a time and keep going — do it three times if I have to and show those bitches.

BLADE: Right before that shoulder incident, you had a little run-in with the referee. She made you clean up bugs off the ice right before you skated. Weirdest thing ever?

RIPPON: That was one of the most bizarre things ever in an international skating competition. I had picked up a huge wasp while I was warming up because I knew if I skated over it, it was going to be crunchy. Right when I was starting my program she blew the whistle at me and called me over like she was Judge Judy. Really, are we really doing this right now? I know she doesn’t think I am going to do some rink maintenance.

BLADE: You ended up skating around with a tissue, cleaning up bugs.

RIPPON: I told her I would do it if she gave me an extra 30 seconds. That can’t ever happen again. I was trying to focus on my skate. I skated back over to my coach and he shoved me really hard which snapped me back into it. The shoulder happened next.

BLADE: You won your first U.S. national title three months after coming out in October of 2015. Since that time, your skating has been more powerful, consistent and confident. Is there a parallel?

RIPPON: Completely. My success as a skater and coming out go hand in hand. Figure skating is a performance sport and I wear my skating on my sleeve. In years past I didn’t really know who I was, so when I came out I felt like I was representing myself. The stories I was reading about other athletes coming out helped me to realize nothing was going to change. You can be an out gay athlete and be successful, even more than before.

BLADE: It’s common in elite figure skating to have adoring teenage girls watching your every move. In your case, the LGBT community has also hitched their wagon to your star. What do you think of your status as a gay icon?

RIPPON: Hitch your wagon to a star, it will take you far (laughing). Sometimes we feel unrepresented and I think it’s important to stay visible. I follow the careers of other LGBT athletes and I know that it comes with backlash. I am fully embracing all of it. I consider everyone in the community to be my brothers and sisters.

BLADE: Do you feel their presence?

RIPPON: I feel their presence. There have been so many different people coming forward to engage with me and I am comfortable with it. I’m glad that I shared my story and that it is resonating with people.

BLADE: You have said in the past that your skating outfits are an expression of your personality. Your two outfits at U.S. Nationals featured leather, sheer fabric and sparkles. Any surprises for Pyeongchang?

RIPPON: I am getting together with my costume designer, Braden Overett, to make some minor changes and Olympify them. I usually just tell him I want to skate in something slutty. It takes my mind off the competition because I can’t believe I am wearing it. It takes a village and he is one of the villagers.

BLADE: You recently shot down the rumors that you wear butt pads during your competitions with the following statement: “There’s been a lot questions to whether I compete with butt pads on and I’d like to set the record straight and let it be known that no, it’s just my real butt. Thank you for your interest, comments and concern. Love you.”

RIPPON: People were defending me saying the pads helped when I fall. I also heard things like, “What a beautiful performance, are the butt pads really necessary”? I mean c’mon, I’m wearing very thin pants out there. I thought it would be funny if I addressed it directly. Yes, I have the butt necessary to make it to the Olympics.

BLADE: Because of your sport, music must be a big part of your life. What is on your personal music playlist right now?

RIPPON: I love music. It’s something I work out to and its part of my sport. On the personal side, I like EDM (electronic dance music) — David Guetta and deadmau5. I also like all the gay staples — Beyoncé, Astrid S, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey.

BLADE: What are you hoping to take from your experience in Pyeongchang?

RIPPON: It has always been my dream to be an Olympian. I can’t wait to walk into the opening ceremonies and also to see the Olympic rings on the ice for the first time. Then it’s down to business. I’m going to zero in on what needs to be done to have the best skate of my career.

BLADE: Are you ready?

RIPPON: I am ready for this opportunity and grateful for this opportunity. I feel powerful on the inside and the outside.

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Applause & criticism for Coach Staley’s trans-inclusive stance

“If you’re a woman, you should play. If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports… you should be able to play”

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South Carolina Gamecocks women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley. (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News Today)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — If not for a conservative transphobic blogger, this moment should be a celebration of NCAA women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley and the women of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

On Sunday, they concluded their undefeated season with a decisive win and a championship title. But when Staley faced reporters before that big game, Outkick’s Dan Zakheske asked her an irrelevant, clickbait question about transgender women in sports, referring to them as “biological males.” 

Staley could have ignored the question, or stated she had no opinion, but instead the legendary coach offered a crystal clear endorsement of trans women competing in women’s sports, something outlawed in her home state of South Carolina for girls in kindergarten through college. 

“I’m of the opinion,” said Staley, “If you’re a woman, you should play. If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play. That’s my opinion.”

Zakheske clearly wasn’t satisfied with that declaration of allyship and Staley swiftly cut him off. 

“You want me to go deeper?” she asked. 

“Do you think transgender women should be able to participate,” he started to say, when the coach stole the ball and took it downtown on a fastbreak. “That’s the question you want to ask? I’ll give you that. Yes. Yes. So, now the barnstormer people are going to flood my timeline and be a distraction to me on one of the biggest days of our game, and I’m okay with that. I really am.” 

Staley is herself a Hall of Fame player a leading voice for diversity. 

Reaction to her comments were swift, from LGBTQ+ rights organizations, athletes and inclusion opponents. 

“Coach Staley simply spoke the truth that trans women are women and should play if they want,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a post on Instagram. “All of us can take a page from Coach Staley’s playbook as a sports leader and as a person of high integrity guided by faith, compassion and common sense.” 

A White House pool reporter revealed President Biden called Coach Staley Sunday evening to congratulate her and the Gamecocks on their championship win. But it’s not clear if she and the president, an outspoken supporter of transgender rights, discussed her remarks on trans athletes. 

A number of Black leaders in the LGBTQ+ movement applauded Staley for taking a stand. 

“Coach Staley has always been a trailblazer, but she’s also shown that true leadership is about advancing justice and equality for everyone,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson. “By expressing her full-throated support for transgender athletes’ inclusion in sports, she’s sending an important message — our shared humanity matters. 

“Coach Staley showed courage and vulnerability, in choosing to answer the question and make a powerful statement of support for trans people on one of the biggest days and biggest stages in sports history,” said Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in a statement. “Not only does that make her a leader we can all aspire to like, it makes her a class act. She has etched her legacy in the history books with her play, her coaching, her heart and her smarts.”

In congratulating Staley on her championship title victory, Dr. David J. Johns, the CEO and executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, also commended her for “her unwavering advocacy and support for transgender people in sports.” 

“In a time when transgender athetes face unjust scrutiny, discrimination and exclusion from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, her courage to speak truth to power and in support of inclusion and fairness sets a powerful example for us all, and is a testament to her integrity and compassion.”

The NBJC leader was referring to Monday’s announcement by the NAIA, the governing body of athletic programs at small colleges nationwide, voting 20-0 to essentially ban trans women from competing with other women beginning August 1, as ESPN reported.

“It is a shocking and devastating development that the NAIA, an organization that has done so much to open doors, is now slamming those doors shut on transgender athletes,” said Sasha Buchert, Lambda Legal’s senior attorney and director of the organization’s nonbinary and transgender rights project. 

“Instead of standing up in support of transgender young people, the NAIA has simply turned its back on them — permanently depriving them of the benefits of competition. Would that they had the courage of victorious University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, who didn’t miss a beat in clarifying that transgender women should be able to play.” 

However, praise for Staley’s stance was not universal. 

Riley Gaines, failed former college swimmer and paid shill for the anti-inclusion organization, Independent Women’s Forum, called Staley “entirely incompetent or a sell-out” on Fox News. “Personally, I don’t think she believes what she said.” 

Gaines has turned her fifth-place tie with out trans NCAA champion Lia Thomas into a career as a crusader against inclusion and a former advisor to the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Val Whiting, a former Stanford University and professional women’s basketball player, tweeted her strong disagreement with Staley. “A lot of my basketball sisters feel differently but trans women do not belong in women’s sports. It’s not fair nor safe for biological women. There has to be another solution for trans women to be able to compete athletically besides having them compete against biological women.” 

Zaksheske’s Outkick colleague, anti-trans pundit David Hookstead, also went all-in with a transphobic post. 

“Dawn Staley says she supports men who identify as women competing against real women in sports. Her view could literally destroy women’s basketball forever. Why won’t more people stand up for women?”

Hookstead then boasted that Staley blocked his account. 

South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace retweeted Zaksheske’s account of his interaction with Staley, calling her support of trans athletes “absolute lunacy.” That in turn won praise from Caitlyn Jenner, who retweeted Whiting and posted her thanks to Rep. Mace, along with this comment: “There is nothing complicated about this issue!” 

What is complicated is that Jenner has never explained why she has competed with cisgender women in golf ever since her transition almost a decade ago. 

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Olympic swimmer Sean Gunn comes out to the world as gay

Years after being out to college teammates: “I was really lucky that everyone was so amazing & wanted me to be happiest version of myself”

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Olympic swimmer Sean Gunn (right) with his boyfriend near his home in Cape Town. (Gunn/Instagram)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — It’s the end of summer here, and Olympian Sean Gunn is reflecting on his life in the pool, dating and coming out, thousands of miles and several years away from where he is now. 

Now 30, the Zimbabwe native has a boyfriend and a career that does not include laps. But in 2016, Gunn was attending college at the University of Kentucky.and part of relay teams that broke school records. This week he told a reporter that was also where he finally accepted that he was gay. 

“I left home when I was 18 years old to go live, train and study in the USA,” Gunn told Outsports about his time in Kentucky. 

“Initially I was not out at all, I dated girls for the first few years. I had some really great relationships with girls over the years and really loved them.” 

In fact, one relationship was long-term, he said. “But after that ended, I dated a guy in the U.S., which all my friends and team knew about.”

Gunn said he received no blowback. At all.

“My team, and everyone who did know, was very supportive and happy for me,” said Gunn. “I honestly don’t think anything really changed at all. If anything, friendships just became better. I think in my head I built it up for so long, and I was terrified that the way they acted or treated me would be different. But I was really lucky that everyone was so amazing and wanted me to be the happiest version of myself.”

Gunn decided to wait to tell his family back home in Africa. For almost a decade. 

“Unfortunately I only came out to my family and people back at home much later in life,” he said. “Although I haven’t had one bad experience since coming out, I guess I just struggled with it for way too long. 

“As someone who did struggle with coming out and only did come out at 27 to my family, it makes me so happy to be surrounded by friends and family and so much love, and am really grateful for them all.”

Gunn competed in the 100-meter freestyle at the Rio Summer Olympic Games in 2016, and set a national record in the event: 50.87 seconds. His 200-meter freestyle national record from earlier that year remains unbroken. 

“I honestly loved every second of the whole experience,” Gunn told Outsports. “I had dreamed of going to the Olympics since I was a little kid, and the whole time I was there I had to keep reminding myself that this is real life.

“Knowing how much it took for me to get there has been a solid reminder to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to and set me up well for life after the Olympics and after a swimming career.”

Now, he said he prefers running to swimming. And enjoying life, as the seasons are about to shift from summer to autumn in South Africa. 

“My life really is in such a good space right now, and I have so much to be grateful for! I’m getting older, but I’ve never felt younger, fitter and happier, which means the world to me!”

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Jenner sides with transphobes against trans girls on Long Island

“I consider myself a trans person, I am still genetically male – I am biologically male there’s nothing I can do to change that”

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Caitlyn Jenner endorses Nassau County's transgender athlete ban during a press conference. (Screenshot/YouTube)

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Caitlyn Jenner flew from Malibu to New York this week to join her fellow Republicans in their nationwide quest to keep transgender girls and women from competing in sports with other women. 

“Let’s stop it now while we can,” said the Olympic gold medalist, at a news conference carried live by Fox News Channel. 

Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman organized the event so that Jenner could speak in support of his February executive order banning trans athletes at more than 100 county-owned facilities. 

“Trans women are competing against women, taking valuable opportunities for the long-protected class under Title IX and causing physical harm,” said Jenner without providing supportive evidence of her claim. Jenner said the ban would defeat “the woke agenda.” 

Her comments drew praise from former NCAA swimmer and paid shill Riley Gaines, who represents the Independent Women’s Forum and has also worked with the failed presidential campaign of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on his anti-trans athlete platform.

“If the left wants to fight this battle on this hill, it’s a losing battle,” said Jenner. “We will win the battle.” She claimed she spoke on behalf of women and girls, contradicting her past statements in support of trans girls competing according to their gender identity and despite the fact she herself still competes in women’s sports.

Shortly after the ban was announced last month, New York State Attorney General Letitia James and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, both Democrats, denounced it and accused Blakeman of “bullying trans kids.” 

James called the order “transphobic and deeply dangerous,” and argued that it violates the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The State A.G. challenged it in court March 1 with a “cease and desist letter,” demanding that Blakeman rescind the order, saying it subjects women’s and girls’ sports teams to “invasive questioning.”

As the Los Angeles Blade reported, Blakeman’s legal team countered with its own lawsuit on March 5, claiming her cease and desist letter violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Not only was the executive order legal, but we had an obligation to defend it,” Blakeman said Monday. 

The order has also been challenged by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit last week on behalf of a women’s roller derby league based in Nassau County that welcomes trans women and would be barred from using the county’s facilities by Blakeman’s executive order.

Just days before the Long Island news conference, Jenner joined Olympian Sharron Davies, who also campaigns against trans inclusion in sports, for an conversation with a British newspaper, The Telegraph, which has been outspoken against trans inclusion. 

They recalled that in their day, tests to determine sex were mandatory in order to compete, and Jenner said she has been “pushing” for sex tests to return to sports, decades after sports organizations around the world abandoned the practice because they were unreliable. “If they continue down this road, it will be pretty much the end of women’s sport as we know it.”

“I can still hit a golf ball 280 yards,” Jenner continued, not mentioning she plays from the ladies’ tee. She did however opine about not being “a real woman,” acknowledging that many trans women disagree with her view. 

“They keep saying, ‘Oh, I’m a real woman, I’m a real woman,’ and I’m going, ‘No, you’re not,’” said Jenner. “I will use your preferred pronouns, I will treat you as a female, you can run and dress and do whatever you want, I have nothing against that, it’s fine, but biologically you’re still male.”

She added: “​Let me explain – I am biologically male, OK? I’m XY. There’s nothing I can do to change that. If you believe in gender dysphoria, and I think most people do realize it’s not a disease, it’s a mental condition, just like some people are left-handed and some people are right-handed, it’s kind of the way you’re born and I’ve dealt with it my entire life.“

“I consider myself a trans person, I am still genetically male, I changed all of my ID right down to my birth certificate so technically yes, I am female, but on the other hand I know I’m not.”

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Banned trans golfer Hailey Davidson: ‘Hate & bigotry will never win’

The NXXT Women’s Pro Golf Tour announced a policy banning any competitor who is not “a biological female at birth”

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Out transgender pro golfer Hailey Davidson being interviewed by Good Morning Britain. (Screenshot/YouTube Good Morning Britain)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Out transgender pro golfer Hailey Davidson is pushing back against a policy change announced Friday by the Florida-based mini-tour, NXXT. From now on, competitors must be “a biological female at birth” in order to participate. 

“Effective immediately, I have been removed (banned) from the next 3 NXXT tournaments that I had already signed up for and been approved to play,” said Davidson in a post on Instagram. “They changed their policy mid season, after signing me up already and being 2nd in the Player of the Year race.” 

The three-time winner from Scotland has played nine times on the tour this season.

According to a statement by the tour’s CEO, Stuart McKinnon, the change underscores the organization’s commitment to “maintaining the integrity of women’s professional golf and ensuring fair competition.” NXXT Golf issued that statement on International Women’s Day.

“As we navigate through the evolving landscape of sports, it is crucial to uphold the competitive integrity that is the cornerstone of women’s sports,” said McKinnon in the statement. “Our revised policy is a reflection of our unwavering commitment to celebrating and protecting the achievements and opportunities of female athletes. Protected categories are a fundamental aspect of sports at all levels, and it is essential for our Tour to uphold these categories for biological females, ensuring a level playing field.”

Davidson said the policy change in her social media post was discrimination, adding that the decision denigrates cisgender female athletes as well as trans athletes. 

“You know what really bugs me is that people think I win just by showing up,” she wrote. “This is such a slap in the face to ALL female athletes being told that any male can transition and beat them regardless of the life of hard work those women put in.

“You think you’re attacking me, but you’re actually attacking and putting down ALL other female athletes.”

She concluded with a vow: “You can scream at me, threaten me, throw insults at me, and even ban me BUT I will ALWAYS get back up and keep fighting to the very end. Hate and bigotry will never win.”

Davidson also posted a message for the women she had planned to compete against: “I hope those NXXT players who are now in the top 5 are still able to earn those Epson Tour exemptions they were promised and continue to be reminded of in the previous couple of tournaments.” 

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UFC star targets Bud Light in latest obscene anti-LGBTQ rant

UFC President Dana White defends Sean Strickland’s right to publicly say: “They force feed your kids fucking pride flags”

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ean Strickland goes off on reporter questioning his past anti-LGBTQ+ comments: 'Go Fuck Yourself' (Screenshot/YouTube MMA Junkie)

LAS VEGAS — For the second time this year, mixed martial artist and UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland is attacking the LGBTQ+ community, this time in a social media post aimed at criticizing the UFC’s newest sponsor, Bud Light. 

The last time was January 17 in Toronto, ahead of a championship fight, as the Los Angeles Blade reported. Strickland launched a vulgar tirade in response to a reporter’s question about the fighter’s public homophobic comments.

“The world’s not buying your fucking bullshit you’re fucking peddling,” Strickland told Canadian sports journalist Alexander K. Lee. “The world is not saying, ‘You know what? You’re right. Fucking chicks have dicks.’ The world’s not saying that. The world’s saying, ‘No, there are two genders. I don’t want my kids being taught about who they could fuck in school. I don’t want my kids being taught about their sexual preference.’”

On Monday, Strickland went back to the well and posted a new transphobic and homophobic message on X, the platform that was once Twitter. 

“I’m so sick of these cunts,” Strickland said. “Even budlight. I’m the definition of America… yet I’m the bad guy because I believe in two genders? I am the majority.

“They force feed your kids fucking pride flags. 

“I just wanna fight back a little…”

It wasn’t clear what might have sparked Strickland’s latest rant, or his subsequent retweet of a graphic image, showing a woman with male genitalia reaching for a pack of Bud Light.

UFC announced a sponsorship deal worth more than $100 million to make Bud Light its official beer four months ago, as Mediaite reported. In an interview with Tucker Carlson, UFC President Dana White claimed Bud Light was “way more aligned” with its critics than they think.

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White has so far maintained his stance that his fighters are free to say whatever they want. 

Despite his acknowledgement that he previously embraced neo-Nazi ideology, the 32-year-old fighter has received support from conservatives, including former President Donald Trump. Strickland posed with the GOP frontrunner in Nevada following his primary victory last month.

Although the vast majority of responses to Strickland’s rant were supportive, he also received some criticism. 

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Out gay figure skater Colin Grafton shares his story and his dream

“I’m proud of my sexual orientation and I want to let other people know that they should be proud of every part of themselves too”

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Colin Grafton (Photo Credit: Colin Grafton/Instagram)

LONDON, UK — For a second year, Boston native and professional figure skater Colin Grafton is carving up the ice on British television’s “Dancing On Ice,” and now he’s doing it as his authentic self. 

“I told my closest friends. I told the people around me and I eventually told my parents,” Grafton, 32, recalled in an interview with PinkNews, in which he discussed coming out as gay. “I was maybe 24 when all that happened. I know there’s a lot of curiosity about my sexual orientation and my love life, but I never actually came out to the public,” said ITV personality. 

“I guess this is me announcing it to you guys.”

Grafton, who has been skating since he was 7, reflected on how watching Tara Lipinski win an Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Winter Games inspired him to pursue this career. But being a male figure skater was “really tough” in the 1990s and 2000s, he told PinkNewsUK.

“I remember feeling so nervous at various points in my childhood,” said Grafton. ”I’d be skating and the hockey players would come and bang on the side of the rink and shout words. That was something all male skaters had to deal with back then. It wasn’t easy but all of it made me stronger because I took it and focused everything on my sport.”

Grafton’s focus catapulted him to competing for Team USA, winning a bronze medal at the Junior U.S. championships in 2012, with his former partner Kylie Duarte. The memory of those who taunted him only fueled him to work harder. 

“When somebody tells you, you can’t do something, or somebody makes fun of you, just prove them wrong.”

Grafton ended his competitive career in 2013 and transitioned to professional skating, leading several European tours, and even becoming a coach. Then came the Covid pandemic.

“I feel very fortunate about the fact that I’ve been able to kind of dabble in so many different areas in the professional world, but tour life is quite hard, all the travel and being away for so long,” he said. “So, when ‘Dancing on Ice’ came up, I jumped on it.” That was in 2023. 

The program is broadcast Sunday nights on ITV’s Channel 3 from studios in Bovingdon, a village in Hertfordshire about an hour northwest of London. During that first season, Grafton made history being paired with “RuPaul Drag Race” star The Vivienne, the first drag performer on the show and the first time “Dancing On Ice” featured a same-sex team. They made it all the way to the finals, finishing in third place.

“Being a part of that representation, being a part of that team, it was just wonderful,” he said. “The support we got from everyone was just fantastic. If I’m honest, I didn’t really understand the impact that it would make in the end.”

And at the conclusion of last season, Grafton finally found time to read the many messages of encouragement from fans, as well as from viewers who wrote, “Seeing us helped them and gave them the courage to either come out or be themselves,” he said. “It was truly something.”

And now, as a regular on the show’s 16th season, Grafton has decided he wants everyone to know who he really is, and in doing so, show others they are not alone. 

“If I’m honest, I never really felt the need to announce it before, but the reason I am saying this now, is because I want to show that there is representation in any way I can”, the TV personality explains.

Along the way to self-acceptance, Grafton revealed he had a lot of “small steps and small triumphs” leading him to finally feel comfortable being himself in the public eye. “It was on my own terms,” he said, and feels “blessed” to have found support among friends. 

“It’s been a long journey but now I am proud of myself and I’m proud of my sexual orientation and I want to let other people know that they should be proud of every part of themselves too,” said Grafton, acknowledging he had concerns about coming out publicly. “I was really nervous of doing that to myself. It was like, ‘OK, if I come out as gay then people are going to think I’m this or that,’ when in reality the human sexuality spectrum is so vast and it’s just one small part of the person you are.”

But appearing in primetime on such a popular TV show means that Grafton is the target of speculation about his personal life. He admits to having “lived and breathed skating” until finally getting in a relationship at age 24, around the same time he decided to come out to friends and family.

While that lasted two and a half years, Grafton’s frequent travel commitments and work on the ice left him no other chance for love. “I just didn’t really have an opportunity”, he said. “You might meet someone while you’re on a contract for six months and after that, you’re both off in different directions, so, I wasn’t really able to hold down a relationship because of that.”

But now that London is his home, Grafton told PinkNewsUK he feels ready to settle down. His perfect match? Someone local and appreciative of his business obligations. 

“We live really crazy fast-paced lives as skaters,” he said. “Personally, I want to meet someone who is also fast-paced and able to keep up with that, but they don’t have to be a fellow skater. I just want someone who supports me and I can support them, too.”

“At the end of the day, we’re all just humans doing our thing on this planet and trying to find love.”

Until he does, Grafton said he is excited to keep skating on television.

“I absolutely love ‘Dancing on Ice.’ Every season that I’m asked to do it, I feel like I’m blessed and I feel very lucky to be able to keep doing the show. I would love to continue doing it while I can or while my body allows me to as well,” he said. And when it doesn’t? Grafton imagines he might try his hand at acting. 

“I think that’s what life is all about,” he said. “Learning new things and pushing yourself to do other things.”

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New LGBTQ+ & ally wrestlers promotion to debut in L.A.

“There will be amazing wrestlers that have been in the area before, facing new and fresh faces with pink and glitter everywhere”

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CHATSWORTH — In 10 days, out gay pro wrestler Barbie Boi will bring 30 West Coast-based independent wrestling talent to this San Fernando Valley suburb. The event, organized by Alliance For All Wrestling, will be their first time together in the squared circle.

“There will be amazing wrestlers that have been in the area before, facing new and fresh faces with pink and glitter everywhere,” said Boi in a statement. “Not only does this show represent the LGBTQI+ community, but also brings together the straight allies that have supported and treated us equally, as one.”

Among the featured talent are Che Cabrera, Delilah Doom, Diego Valens, Dustin Daniels, Everly Rivera, G Sharpe, Maximilien Monclair, Mylo, Ray Rosas, Sandra Moon and Tyler Bateman. 

The Thursday, Feb. 29th event will be hosted by drag queen, performer and wrestling personality, Pollo Del Mar of San Francisco. 

“The last few years has seen an explosion in popularity for pro-wrestling produced and headlined by LGBTQI+ talents,” Del Mar said in the statement. “It’s bringing this new form of entertainment by and for our community to an area which hasn’t had access to it as consistently as it should. I’m anxious for everyone who attends to see the spectrum of characters and incredible wrestlers we have as queer people.”

Bell time is 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and will be sold at the door at the venue at 19801 Northoff Place in Chatsworth, Suite 110, which is also home to Millennium Pro Wrestling and the Millennium Wrestling Academy. 

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“The excitement is bringing something a little newer to the area. Seeing all different talent from all over coming to the L.A. area is very exciting and meaningful — especially the representation of the LGBTQI+ community, women and people of color,” said Boi.

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Super Bowl LVIII: Queers 14, MAGA haters two

Out gay cheerleader Jonathan Romero cheered with the 49ers Gold Rush team in his first Super Bowl. Romero joined the squad in 2022

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Even if you didn’t watch a second of the Super Bowl Sunday night, you probably already heard through friends or social media that the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in overtime, 25-22. 

And you undoubtedly learned it was a repeat performance by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his team, winning the Lombardi trophy two years in a row. And how could you have missed all the coverage of Taylor Swift and her tight end, er, her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce? 

But we kept our own LGBTQ centered scoreboard of the Big Game, awarding points for queer representation and allyship to Team Rainbow, while also making note of points scored by the haters and mad MAGA hatters whom we’ve dubbed Team Troglodyte. To us, that’s the score that really matters, and we are proud to report: WE WON!

Gay man on the field: One point for Team Rainbow

Jonathan Romero cheered with the 49ers Gold Rush team in his first Super Bowl. Romero joined the squad in 2022 and has been welcomed by his cheermates and fans. 

Despite the disappointing loss, Romero went partying after the big game with his squad at Caesars Palace. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies of the Los Angeles Rams paved the way in 2019 as the first male cheerleaders in Super Bowl history. 

LGBTQ ally Taylor Swift makes out and dances with Travis Kelce after win: Two points for Team Rainbow

Even if you’re turned-off by straight PDA, the MAGA crowd is even more disgusted by this pop star and her hunk, floating crazy conspiracy theories that their relationship is a plot to re-elect President Joe Biden. Progressives just aren’t that clever enough to engineer that level of musical and political machination. Swift and Kelce danced to her hits at the after-party, songs that have helped closeted fans come out. The Time Person of the Year has embraced LGBTQ rights, has been honored by GLAAD and appeared with drag performers. Maybe she can help the Chiefs acknowledge there are LGBTQ football fans?

Trump takes credit for Taylor Swift’s success because of course he did: One point for Team Troglodyte

Sigh. The truly sad part is how many people will believe this to be true. 

Anti-LGBTQ group funds billion dollar ‘He Gets Us’ Super Bowl ad campaign: One point for Team Troglodyte

A non-profit behind two commercials during the Super Bowl that rebrand Jesus for Gen Z is the main funder of a designated hate group opposing abortion and LGBTQ rights, Open Democracy reports. The report cites Christianity Today as first revealing that David Green, the billionaire co-founder of Hobby Lobby, was among the funders of the ads. They are reportedly produced by a group called The Signatry, a front for the Kansas-based Servant Foundation, which Open Democracy revealed is the main identifiable source of funding for the Alliance Defending Freedom, labeled an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And who else is in Kansas? Oh, right, the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. 

The SNL alumna takes a backseat to a talking cat in this hilarious commercial for Hellman’s Mayonnaise:

“RuPaul Drag Race” star Heidi N Closet joins Judge Judy, comedian Benito Skinner, Jury Duty’s Ronald Gladden, Grammy-winning singer Meghan Trainor and bestselling author and former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho in an ad for e.l.f., reported People.

And there were, reports the Advocate: Mountain Dew, NYX, Paramount+, Starry, Homes.com — featuring “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy across three ads, for three points  — and this year, Volkswagen portrayed a lesbian wedding! 

Gay flag football in Super Bowl spotlightOne point for Team Rainbow

The NFL hosted a group of LGBTQ youth from Las Vegas at a flag football clinic during Super Bowl week at the NFL Experience. A variety of NFL front-office executives, board members of the National Gay Flag Football League, the 49ers cheerleaders and former NFL stars Tony Richardson and Kenny Stills, according to Outsports.

Final score: Team Rainbow 14, Team Troglodyte 2! 

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Your gay guide to enjoying Super Bowl LVIII

SF 49ers are playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Vegas. Even if you’re not a “sportsball” fan, there’s a lot LGBTQ+ folks can be excited about

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Los Angeles Blade’s intrepid Sports Editor Dawn Ennis lays out the excitement for LGBTQ+ fans waiting to watch Super Bowl LVIII

LAS VEGAS, Nev.  — The countdown to the big day is down to just hours. And no, we’re not talking about Episode 7 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, that’s not until next Friday! No, the straights are super-hyped about the biggest game in 2024 sports, and believe it or not, there are many sports fans who also just happen to be LGBTQ+ who are excited to watch Super Bowl LVIII. 

That’s 58 to those of you who didn’t pay attention to Roman Numerals in grade school.

And yes, besides the commercials, the halftime show, the nachos and the adult beverages, there’s plenty of queer content to enjoy. So, whether you’re just watching for the tight pants, wondering which of the cheerleaders is secretly Sapphic, or perhaps unaware that the NFL actually does support the LGBTQ+ community and has had players come out, grab a beer and read on. 

Who’s Playing and When? 

The San Francisco 49ers are playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas on CBS and Paramount+ with the pre-game coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST and kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Reba McEntire (No, not Taylor Swift) is singing the National Anthem.

What About the Halftime Show?

The Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show begins at approximately 8 p.m. EST and Usher (No, not Taylor Swift) is performing. 

Meet the 49ers’ Out Gay Male Cheerleader

Jonathan Romero will be cheering with the 49ers Gold Rush team in his first Super Bowl. As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies of the LA Rams paved the way in 2019 as the first male cheerleaders in Super Bowl history, and Peron has reportedly been by Romero’s side all this week leading up to his debut. Romero joined the squad in 2022.

So Does the NFL Really Welcome Us? 

The answer is a resounding yes, as evidenced this past week at “A Night With Pride.” For the third year in a row, GLAAD teamed up with the league and big-name sponsors for a glittery gala, this time at Caesars Palace, headlined by out singer Lance Bass and performer VINCINT. Special guests included both Romero and Peron, out gay defensive lineman Carl Nassib who retired recently, former NFL player RK Russell, Jacksonville Jaguars strength coach Kevin Maxen, sportswriter LZ Granderson, actor Angelica Ross, pro wrestler Anthony Bowens, pro snowboarder Brittany Gilman as well as GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and many more stars.

So how inclusive is the NFL? I mean, really?

The LGBTQ+ sports site Outsports recently chronicled 62 current or recent NFL players, 13 owners and nine head coaches who support gay and bi athletes and the LGBTQ community, and 101 efforts at inclusion by the NFL, its teams and its players. It was ten years ago this week that Michael Sam came out as gay. Fast-forward to 2021 when Nassib came out as the first out gay active football player in NFL history. Times have changed.

Has anyone gay ever played in a Super Bowl?

The answer is yes, but none came out until after they retired. The most recent was Ryan O’Callaghan, an offensive lineman with the New England Patriots in the 2007 season. O’Callaghan also played with the Kansas City Chiefs and in 2022 predicted more players will come out. As Outsports has reported, two gay men played for the 49ers, although neither played in a Super Bowl. Running back Dave Kopay was a 49er from 1964-67 and offensive tackle Kwame Harris from 2003-2007. Those who preceded O’Callaghan were Jerry Smith (1972), Roy Simmons (1983) and Esera Tuaolo (1998).

Has anyone LGBTQ+ ever coached in a Super Bowl?

Yes again! Katie Sowers was the first out LGBTQ+ coach in Super Bowl history. She was with the 49ers back then. 

Do either the Chiefs or the 49ers support LGBTQ+ fans? 

Check out 49ers Pride! As the Blade has reported, they have led the league in representation and the team has supported them with gender-neutral fan gear. As for the Chiefs, well, we couldn’t find anything on their website that relates to LGBTQ+. 

Whomever you root for, have fun, and celebrate safely!

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What’s the Queer quotient for the 2024 Summer Olympics?

With less than six months until Paris, we look at everything from transgender competition to LGBTQ+ representation and Pride flags

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PARIS — Just 172 days remain until France hosts the Summer Games in the famed City of Light. Questions also remain about whether all the colors of the Pride flag will be inclusively illuminated when the Olympics return to Paris for the first time in a century.

The Los Angeles Blade has compiled this brief guide to the major areas of interest, with the intent to preview what queer fans can expect from this year’s event: 

  • How many out LGBTQ+ athletes will be representing both their countries and their identities and orientations
  • Restrictions on out transgender athletes, and 
  • What the International Olympic Committee is saying — so far — about athletes displaying Pride flags and rainbow colors. 

All of this is very subject to change before July 26, the opening day of the Summer Games. 

Looking Back

At the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, 36 out athletes competed among the 2,871 entered into competition, as the Los Angeles Blade reported. If the LGBTQ+ athletes were counted as one team, they would have placed 12th in terms of medal count. 

That set a record, although the numbers couldn’t compare to the last Summer Games, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — which were held in 2021 because of the pandemic. A historic showing in those Summer Games featured 186 out athletes, who would have ranked 11th in the medal tally if grouped together. 

Looking Ahead

Sha’Carri Richardson (Screenshot/YouTube NBC Sports)

Sha’Carri Richardson, the fastest woman in the world, will represent Team USA at the Summer Games. As the Blade reported last August, Richardson set a world record for the 100m by crossing the finish line in 10.65 seconds. She identifies as bisexual. 

Robbie Manson, the out gay rower for New Zealand, announced he qualified for Paris last September. And, to the delight of many, has remained active on OnlyFans as well, reported Out. Manson came out in 2014. 

Emma Twigg will also be competing as a rower in Paris, defending the Olympic gold medal she won in Tokyo in 2021, according to Stuff. Twigg is gay, married to her wife, Charlotte and together they have a son, Tommy, born in 2022. 

Campbell Harrison of Australia announced on Instagram in November that he qualified to compete in the category of rock climbing for the Summer Games. He came out as gay in 2021. 

Yulimar Rojas holds a world record in triple jump and was an Olympic champion in Tokyo and has already qualified to represent Venezuela in track and field in Paris. Rojas told Infobae she dreams of being “the first to open the gap of 16 [meters], it’s like another galaxy.”

Kadeisha Buchanan will lead Team Canada in their defense of their Gold Medal for Women’s Soccer in her third appearance at the Games this summer, as Humber News reported. 

Quinn, the first trans nonbinary Olympic Gold Medalist, competed as a midfielder in Canada’s soccer qualifier last September and is expected back on the pitch in Paris. 

Sadly, it looks as though Australia and Chelsea soccer star Sam Kerr is likely to miss Paris, because of a ruptured ACL. She suffered the knee injury during training three weeks ago in Morocco, reports the official Olympics website. 

Australia and Chelsea soccer star Sam Kerr. (Photo Credit: Kerr/Instagram)

There are several other out LGBTQ+ athletes who are likely to qualify. Review the Official 2024 Olympics calendar of qualifiers by clicking here. The Blade will keep you posted as we learn more. 

Transgender Competitors

The International Olympic Committee decided after the last Summer Games to issue a new “Framework for Fairness” in November 2021, which basically punted decisions on inclusion to individual sports organizations. As the Blade reported in June 2022, the International Swimming Federation, once known as FINA and now World Aquatics, decided that trans athletes must have completed their medical transition before the age of 12 to avoid “unfair advantages.”

Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, was the first out transgender athlete to compete at any Olympic Games. She made history in Tokyo, but her performance in the women’s +87kg category wasn’t what got her name into the record books. At 43, Hubbard was the oldest competitor at the 32nd Olympic Games, and after three unsuccessful lift attempts, her participation was reduced to an abduction that did not last more than 10 minutes. Given the new rules, she won’t be back in 2024. 

Following World Aquatics’ lead, Union Cycliste Internationale — the organizers of World Cycling in Switzerland — the Disc Golf Pro Tour, World Athletics, the British Triathlon Federation and the International Rugby League have changed or adopted new “transgender participation policies” that effectively ban trans women from competing with cisgender women. 

World Aquatics has since added a new “open category” in which anyone can compete, aimed at providing a way for trans swimmers to compete. But since only cisgender women can compete in the category that is designated for “women,” advocates for trans athletes consider that discriminatory. NCAA Division I Champion Lia Thomas has challenged World Aquatics at Court for Arbitration for Sport, as the Blade has reported.

Pride House

As has been a tradition at almost every Olympics — the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia being the most memorable exception — Paris will have a Pride House. “A space that will be open to everyone, where it will be possible to celebrate its community and its pride,” according to the official website. 

The Pride House will be set up at Parc de la Villette, “just a short distance from competition venues such as the La Chapelle Arena, Stade de France and even La Concorde,” the site explains. 

Symbols of Pride 

Beyond the Pride House and other “protected” locations in Paris, the International Olympic Committee has told the LGBTQ+ sports site, Outsports that it is committed to ensuring all athletes “have equal opportunities to express themselves” by holding up Pride flags or other rainbow apparel in line with the recently revised wording to its Olympic Charter and updated guidelines for participants.

You can read the changes to the charter, enacted in October 2023, by clicking here. Unchanged is the fundamental principle that “the practice of sport is a human right.”

The IOC said assessments will continue to be made on a “case-by-case” basis, according to the report. 

Paralympics

The 2024 Paralympic Games are set for Aug. 28 through Sept, 8, and out LGBTQ+ athletes are again expected to compete. Click here for more information about those games.

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