For the Sake of Russian LGBT Families, the IOC Should Move the Olympics

September 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Rob Watson, Same Sex Parent

By: Rob Watson

olympic rings

Two masters of the art come face to face and battle wits, brawn, and skill to win their meet and emerge victorious. While that could be a description of an instance at the Olympic Games, it is really an observation of the game of chicken being played out now between Russia and the International Olympic Committee. Who will blink first and cave into the other’s will?

On the one side you have the Russians with team leader Putin. Their goal is clear. They want it all. They want to oppress LGBT people into nonexistence, and have the rest of the world complacently back off as they do so. On the other side, you have the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who seem to recognize the need to protect and honor human rights, or at the very least, understand that trying to adhere to the Russian oppression over their population of outspoken athletes would be dangerous. Celebrities from Stephen Fry, to Harvey Fierstein, from Madonna to Lady Gaga—all with visibility but no power—have decried Putin and described his actions as reminiscent of an early Hitler before the world knew they had the opportunity to stop him, but didn’t.

Then, there are those who do have power. President Obama stated on the Tonight Show that he has “no patience” for Russia’s anti-gay laws. Olympic officials C. K. Wu and Richard Carrion have declared being “cross” and having “ire” toward Russia respectively. Both condemn discrimination on the part of host cities and vow to make sure that it ceases . . . sometime . . . in the future.

Despite pressure from the International Olympic Committee, Russia’s Interior Ministry has promised to enforce the law. The ministry claims that people who “do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully” are not at risk for arrest. The minister did not address the fact that the law allows the police to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian, or ‘pro-gay’ and detaining them for up to 14 days.

A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee in the meantime retreated, not to find the best solution, but to find one that could be rationalized within the Olympics Charter. “‘Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration. ‘This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary. ‘In any case, the IOC would treat each case individually and take a sensible approach depending on what was said or done,’” Gay Star News was told.

Did you see that? The IOC just blinked. Game over. Win for the Russian regime.

As a gay dad, I want to deal with issues that affect my sons’ world, and this one does so in a huge way. There are parents in Russia, just like me, who are having to flee their country to survive. If I did not speak up, I would be heinously remiss. Here is my open letter to the International Olympic Committee.

Dear International Olympic Committee,

First, I want to say that I appreciate your difficult position. Pulling off an event the magnitude of the Olympics is nothing short of a miracle. For it to start, continue, and end, even in a suboptimal way, is in itself an “Olympic” feat. There are more logistics, finances, and organization required than most of us can imagine, and we, the fans, are the beneficiaries of your hard work.

That said, we need to talk about one core fact. You and I are both parents. I am the fortunate father of eleven- and ten-year-old sons. You are the parent to thousands and thousands of aspiring champions. I give my sons guidance, nurturing, love, and principles, and strive to help them grow up to be the best that they can be. You do the same to the enormous population in your charge.

My sons are starting at a new school in the fall. I’m a bit nervous. They will be encountering new people, strangers. These people may not welcome who they are. They may bully them when they find out the kind of family they come from. I have decisions to make in terms of protecting my children and preparing them as to appropriate ways to react.

Your children will be starting at a new venue in February. You have more information on your situation than I do on mine. You already know that any of your children who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or pro-LGBT are at risk. (That is a very, very, very big number of human beings.) A big, bad Russian bully has made it clear that he has it out for them. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

As I see it, there are three basic parenting principles in play here:

1. Don’t Run Away from Your Problems: Running away never solves the issue, and, if anything, it gives fuel to the thing wishing to do you harm. Bullies must be confronted and wrongs must be made right. Just because you find a loophole path to take does not mean you should take it. If you think there are Olympic principles worth caring about, fight for them. Otherwise, they are not worth the Hallmark cards or pop musical anthem CDs you market to publicize them.

2. Be Fair: If you are tempted to ask LGBT athletes, fans, and staff to hide who they are, to conceal their romantic and sexual identities, then do so for all. Heterosexual wedding bands and engagement rings must also be hidden from view at all times. Heterosexual hand-holding, kissing, and affection must be also categorized as propaganda and a political statement violating section 50. Any establishment in which budding heterosexual activity is encouraged must be forbidden. It is going to be a cold Saturday night in Sochi that week.

3. Above All, Keep Your Children Safe: Losing patience? Feeling cross with pangs of ire? None of those cut it when you are a parent and your children are threatened. You do not negotiate with the bully, especially when he keeps jerking you around. You do not have wiggle room when it comes to those in your care, those who have entrusted their lives to your protection and your sphere of guidance. You have a duty. You have a responsibility. You have a calling. You are a global parent on whom millions rely. Right now, you are a negligent parent, derelict in your duties. If there were a Child’s Protective Services agency big enough in this universe, I would call them on you. Unfortunately, there is not.

As a gay dad, I love my sons more than life itself. I will go to any lengths to protect them, make them proud of who they are, and encourage them live up to the principles that will give them the highest possible sense of honor. I am a mere mortal. You are named for the gods and should have infinitely more moral fortitude than I do. Start behaving like it.

In short, quit acting like the irresponsible pansy-assed victim. And move the damned games. Now.


One Gay Dad.

(On behalf of all the other parents who care about the children of the world.)

Special thanks to Rachel Hockett for editing help on this article.


More Random Observations on the 2012 Summer Olympic Games

September 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph


Ok, I know they ended weeks ago but…

I’m glad that men’s gymnastics is bringing back stirrup pants. I had a closet full of them in the 80s and have found myself wondering lately if I could still pull off the look. I mean, add some jellies and a scrunchy in my hair and I’d be ready to take on the world. Am I right?

Speaking of gymnastics, where do all of these tiny people come from? Where does one find these perfectly proportionate little bitty miniature people? Is there a colony of mad scientists somewhere breeding elves? If so, someone should let Santa in on the action.

I have come to the conclusion that people who play beach volleyball are, as a general rule, more attractive than the population at large.

The Swedish are, as a general rule (and regardless of the sport), the most attractive. I am pretty sure they are aware of their attractiveness, however.

Apparently they are lacking in good barbers in Japan, because their hair—particularly the mops the Japanese male gymnasts are sporting—is jacked up.

The great state of Minnesota (where I live) is rivaled only by the nation of Britain when it comes to pale, pasty, freckly citizenry. I think the Red Cross ought to ship them some vitamin D. And maybe a couple tubes of Hawaiian Tropics.

Word of advice: Don’t try to talk Olympics with the cute little twenty-something girl in the office. Unlike you, she has better things to do than curl up in a snuggie on the couch watching other people perform feats of amazing athletic prowess while licking the crumbs from an empty bag of sea salt and black pepper potato chips. Who would have guessed?

I don’t understand why Judo and wrestling are separate sports. From what I can ascertain, Judo is simply a fancy word for wrestling. Only in pajamas. My kids wrestle in their pajamas practically every day. Perhaps there is a gold medal in their decidedly un-athletic futures, after all.

I have been watching a lot of swimming lately and I am finding myself in awe. Not of the performances, though those have been stellar. One thing has captured my attention and triggered my obsessive compulsive nature like nothing else in these Olympic Games. Do none of the female swimmers have boobs? Have you looked at—I mean really studied—the swim suits these women are wearing? They are cut in such a way that I cannot figure out what they do with their boobs. I mean, seriously, are there secret pockets in those things or something? Those suits are cut so close to the chest on the sides that there is no way even a moderately endowed post-pubescent woman could wear one without a.) being a post-mastectomy patient, b.) being in possession of male chromosomes, or c.) employing the use of pixy dust and magic words and secret pockets. And where is all of their armpit boob? You know what I mean…the boob that subsequently positions itself firmly in the armpit when pressed flat by a sports bra or other tight-fitting garment. I have armpit boob to spare when I put on a bathing suit. Where is theirs? I just don’t get it.

I would think with all the hoopla archery is getting with the success of “The Hunger Games” and “Brave” that it would get a little more press than it has. I haven’t really been able to watch much of the archery competition, what with my crappy cable and all. I am kind of disappointed. I was looking forward to watching a gorgeous fiery-haired ginger shooting arrows from horseback while doing a handstand. I was a bit disheartened to see—in the few moments of archery that NBC allowed me to glimpse—that everyone is standing firmly on their feet. And…let’s just say that archers aren’t beach volleyball players and leave it at that. Perhaps if they made archery a fight to the death, more people might tune in to see homely people shoot arrows. Just a suggestion.

Disclaimer: By my use of the word “homely” in the previous paragraph, I do not mean to disparage anyone. Given the choice, I would be a homely archer over a beach volleyball player any day. I consider sand to be pretty heinous, as a general rule. Can you imagine diving for a ball in a bikini bottom?! The sand that would invade my nether regions is just more than my tender psyche can even fathom. All it would take is one dive to save a rogue volleyball, and my personality would certainly fracture Sybil-style as a means of self-preservation. You would no longer be watching Shannon playing volleyball. I would be Luidvik the Lithuanian lumberjack. Seriously. It would not be pretty.


Random Observations on the 2012 Summer Olympic Games

August 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph

I’m glad the US women’s gymnastics team won the gold. I have a soft spot for crying elves. Frankly, I couldn’t take another moment of Jordan Weiber’s blubbering.

Did you know that, prior to this year, there existed fairly stringent guidelines about the uniforms the female beach volleyball players were allowed to wear. Basically, they had to wear bikinis. Small bikinis. This year, for the first time, they have made the decision to be more lenient on the uniforms to allow for competition by women from “more modest” countries. Is beach volleyball really a happening sport in the United Arab Emerites? Seriously??

Speaking of beach volleyball, did you know there are cheerleaders for beach volleyball?? Cheerleaders! Bikini clad dancers! With beach balls! What other Olympic sport has cheerleaders? I swear…I am beginning to believe that beach volleyball is the Spring Break wet t-shirt contest of sports. I know it takes a great deal of athleticism to play. But honestly. I completely expect the beautiful people who play beach volleyball to drop their balls in the middle of the game, stretch out on the sand, and play a rousing game of beer pong. Am I right?

I am really impressed by neither Phelps nor Lochte this year. They were expected to win and frankly, I think their rivalry is over-hyped. Yes, I am glad Phelps is now the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. I feel a tiny bit of completely unjustified pride that he is an American. Like the fact that this amazing athlete is an American gives me a little more athletic street cred or something. But really…what excitement have Phelps and Lochte given us? On the other hand, look at the women swimmers! Our boobless US swim team has thrilled me to no end. Rebecca Soni. Missy Franklin. Allison Schmitt. Natalie Coughlin. Dana Vollmer. Amanda Weir. Boobless wonders. Every. Single. One.

The white water rafting events are super cool. I love the way they created rapids basically in a tube in the middle of London. How cool is that? I wonder, however, what they are going to do with the course after the Olympics. Might I suggest filling it with saline and calling it a freestanding enema clinic?

What the hell is handball? And who came up with the name for that sport? Lame.

I think of all of the sports out there, I could totally compete in Olympic badminton. Seriously. It’s not like you need a lot of muscle to make that little birdie (I can’t bring myself to call it a shuttlecock) soar. One little tap with my pink, sparkly racket and my birdie flies over the fence into the neighbor’s yard every single time. Yea, I could totally be a contender.

Prince Harry is one sexy royal. I can’t help checking him out in the stands. With all the generations of in-bred chromosomes coursing through his royal body, he is nothing short of a modern day miracle. Remember 10th grade genetics? I mean, at minimum, all the royals should be bald and hump-backed and have six toes on their left feet. But Harry ended up a ginger-haired beauty. God smiled on Britain the day that boy was born.

Equestrian dressage. What it is? How does it work? Does the winner get a gold medal for having the prettiest horse? Can you really call it a “sport” if a tiny little 71-year-old man competes?

I’ve been trying to convince my eldest son that water polo is a cool sport. He’s a decent swimmer. And he has a swimmer’s build. Long and lanky with freakishly large feet. It takes incredible athleticism to be able to tread water and swim from goal to goal for an entire game. I mean…look at the bodies on those people! But Lucas isn’t buying it. He was all for giving water polo a go until he saw the uber-goober caps the water polo players wear tied in cute little bows beneath their chiseled chins. There was no convincing him water polo was cool after he caught sight of those things.

Shooting. You would think they could come up with a fancier name. It seems so pedestrian. Like something your toothless Uncle Earl does out in the woods behind his trailer. It’s like calling gymnastics “Olympic Flipping.” Or calling Track and Field “Olympic Jogging and Hopping.” I mean, come on. How about Olympic Blasting? Or Olympic Blaze of Glory? Or Olympic Discharging? Okay…that last one sounds a bit like a sexually transmitted disease. What about just calling it Boom Boom Pow? You know, it needs a little pizzazz. Jazz hands….it needs jazz hands.

And what about synchronized swimming? It’s like a whole team of Tammy Fay Baker impersonators got shoved in a pool. I love it!

You know what sport I am really looking forward to (that I am sure NBC will not air)? Trampoline. I can’t wait to see the America’s Funniest Home Video rejects who consider the trampoline a serious athletic endeavor. That’s not meant in any way to belittle trampoliners. Who am I to talk anyway? I consider dragging my happy ass from the house to my car a serious athletic endeavor. Especially if it is above 75 degrees outside. If there were a trampoline in the way, I would have to sit on the ground and cry most mornings. So you go you! You…trampoliners! Ummm…I mean, athletes!

One sport I do not quite get is Modern Pentathlon. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the Modern Pentathlon for those of you who, like me, thought “Huh?”

The modern pentathlon is a sports contest that includes five events: pistol shooting, fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run. Since 1949 an annual World Championship has been held in non-Olympic years.

Originally the competition took place over four or five days; however in 1996 a one-day format was adopted in an effort to be more audience-friendly. In spite of the event’s strong pedigree in the modern Olympics, and its status as an event created specifically for the modern Olympic Games, its lack of widespread popularity outside Eastern Europe has led to calls for its removal from the Olympic Games in recent years; however, following a vote by the IOC on July 8, 2005, it has remained in the Olympic program at least until 2012.

So it is pistol shooting (Boom Boom Pow), fencing, swimming, horseback jumping, and cross-country running. What?? Why? What a weird, random collection of sports. No wonder it is only popular in Eastern Europe. Leave it to Slovakia to embrace this weirdness. They should place a trampoline in the middle of a field and have the athletes stop and do a couple of flips in the middle of the race. Or maybe dive off the horses into the pool? In synchronized pairs?

Damn overachievers.


Watching The Olympics Inspires Memories From An Athlete Father

August 6, 2012 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By: John Jericiau

The Olympics are here, and I’m in heaven. I can’t get enough of them. Swimming, track & field, and triathlon are my favorite, but I love the diving, gymnastics, and tennis as well. I stay up late and wake up early so I can get in some TV time while the boys are asleep. Before kids I watched a lot more, but I’m happy for the chance to watch any of it.

What’s amazing is that these Olympic games are just a snapshot of all the hard work and dedication that these athletes have as they pursue their dreams. They’ve endured many highs and lows in their illustrious careers. They have cried many tears and have nursed many wounds. A good percentage are pushing through some kind of pain as we watch them sprint or fly or climb their way toward their goal. Whether they win or lose, the athletes are making memories that they will never forget.

I’ve never been in the Olympics; not even close. Nevertheless I have some athletic memories that I have carried with me for all these years, memories that I revisit once in a while like an old friend. Memories of events that have made me the person I am today.

On my 7th birthday my family and I were swimming at a large municipal pool in New York City with tons of kids of every age. There was a very tall and scary diving platform that anyone 7 and older could try. A long ladder to the top was crawling with kids heading up, and almost as many kids slinking back down in fear. My parents were amazed as I simply climbed to the top, walked to the edge, and jumped. After I fell it felt like an eternity under water, but when I finally popped to the surface I was greeted by a thunderous applause from everyone in the pool. It was the first time in my life that such a large crowd praised me, and I liked it.

A few years after that I was playing offensive end on my Pop Warner Football team. It was a Friday game on a warm autumn night, and the lights were illuminating what seemed like the entire world. A few seconds before the end of what looked like a losing game for us, the quarterback threw a long pass my way. As the ball spiraled toward me, time slowed as I watched the ball hit the very edges of my fingertips and then roll into my palms, and then snuggle securely between my elbow and my chest as I ran and crossed the goal line. As each and every member of my team ran to and piled on top of me, all I could think about was how good it felt.

When I was 12 years old my parents had a big in-ground swimming pool put in our back yard. My grandmother visited us a few weeks later, after I had the chance to get accustomed to swimming back and forth nonstop for periods of time. When she arrived and my parents walked with her to the side of the pool to “watch what your grandson can do”, it was all I could do not to smile as I watched their chins hit the ground as they counted my laps. 50, 100, 150, and finally 200 laps before my grandmother waved at me to stop because it must not be good for me.

Hundreds and hundreds of races later and I have a book of memories to live with. These days it’s the enjoyment of the sport that makes me happy. I still love to run and swim and bike and whatever, but as I get older I pass the torch to my sons and live vicariously through them as I watch them enjoy their swim lessons, Karate class, or whatever they want.

I took a trip to Fiji 4 years ago to compete in a 12-mile ocean swim race as part of a relay. I did have another swimmer friend from LA on my team, but our other three teammates were going to be picked by the race directors so that the American team would have a better chance of winning. One of the two girls on our team was a very in shape young blonde girl who we came to find out had just missed qualifying for the Olympics the week before, and her coach sent her far away (Fiji) to escape the buzz of the Olympics as well as to begin to embrace swimming as a fun sport again.

We had such an awesome time in that race, and Fiji water makes swimming so pleasurable. We took the above picture to commemorate our win. And that blonde girl did find the love in the sport, and vowed to work hard and make it to the London Olympics.

I smiled last night as I watched that girl, Dana Vollmer, win her last of a handful of gold medals. She was enjoying it. And so was I.


Olympic Crisis- Ankle Watch 2010

March 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Ann Brown

By: Ann Brown

Ann Brown

Man down! Man down!

And by “man”, I mean, me.

And by “down”, I mean I hit my ankle against the metal frame of my bed during elimination trials last night and I am injured. INJURED, I tell you.

I had to take Advil this morning, just to be able to sit down and write this post. TWO Advil. And a bagel and a half since I was getting up anyway to get the Advil. Light schmear. I am in training, after all.

If that sentence doesn’t make sense to you, go back and read my previous post. I don’t have time to catch you up – I have serious rehabilitation to do. I am going up against some strong figure skaters this year and I have to be in tip top shape to compete. It’s a cutthroat world out there for overweight 55 year old sock skaters performing in their bedrooms while watching the Olympics on TV. Just Bedazzling my pajama top is a part-time job this week. I’m thinking of calling in some Disney cartoon mice to help me sew. And maybe do a little light cleaning and water the plants while they’re at it. It’s okay to exploit cartoon mice, right? Oh, and perhaps they can give me a discreet little wax, if they are girl mice. Those skate skirts can ride up pretty high.

My ankle is so sore to the touch. This could prove to be exceedingly distracting. It’s hard enough to keep my mind on my routine, what with having to sidestep Molly’s dog bed, Robin’s dirty laundry on the floor, old issues of Cooking Light and Molly’s collection – updated hourly – of hairballs and drool. Did I tell you that I slipped in her barf a few weeks ago? Oh God, it was horrible. I was skating around my room and I suddenly slipped in one of those slo-mo kind of falls, you know? Well, I got up and I was so fixated on the fact that I didn’t hurt myself, it didn’t occur to me to wonder why I fell. It wasn’t until, I swear, like fifteen minutes later that I absent-mindedly ran my hand across my legging and felt something wet, and then I went to more closely investigate the floor. You know, there were times in my life when I’ve gone a little bit wild but I really never thought I’d end up being the kind of person who falls into dog barf and doesn’t even realize it. Hunh.

My short program requires more energy than I am used to exerting in the three years between Olympics when I sort of let myself go, in the sense that I mostly lay around, overeat, and catch up with my stories. My long program requires energy to the point of my not being able to breathe, resulting in my becoming light-headed and laying down on Molly’s dog bed until I am fairly certain that I am not going to die right then and there in my ratty old cotton briefs, Bedazzled flannel pajama top and socks. Oy. There’d be no amount of PTS therapy long enough to help the young paramedics expunge that image from their impressionable minds. I bet at least one of them would go gay on the spot.

Certain members of my family are prone to fainting, myself included, so I am taking no chances on my hard bedroom floor. I have strewn pillows throughout the room so I can grab one or two when the vapors hit me and I know I am going down. I’ve actually been thinking about working that into my choreography (double spin, thrust arms to grab pillow, smile, pass out, come to, lean up on elbows, pose, smile) just in case. Best not to make a whole deal over it, right? My son started to pass out in court the other day and he just said, “excuse me, Your Honor, I have to lie down now”. And then he stretched out on the floor of the courtroom, asked his client to hand him his file and conducted the rest of the hearing from under his table. This is a true story. And he won his case. As he told me on the phone after-wards (this is truly the kind of story a parent only wants to hear after-wards), “Guess I’ll be a kind of David E. Kelly character around this town from now on.” That’s what I call not making a whole deal about it.

But back to Anklewatch 2010.  This is serious. If I cannot sockskate, if I am doomed to merely watch the figure skating competition from my couch, like the rest of the global hoi polloi, well, I may as well just coat my head in olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and stick it in the oven at 350. My Olympic fantasy life defines me.  What else would I think about on the toilet or while waiting the excruciating two-and-a-half minutes for my microwave popcorn?

So, it’s heat and ice, ice and heat on my ankle for the next few days. Do you mind getting that for me?

Oh, and while you’re up, maybe a bagel. I feel weak.