Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Gays in the games

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This is how I felt without heat.

Tonight, we will probably watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. We have been without power and heat for the past few days because of snow and ice, so I imagine that we will stretch out in the living room, appreciative of a working television, hot food and a warm house.

In the back of my mind, will be the debate about this Olympics. Sochi 2014.

Some say America should boycott these games because of host country Russia’s anti-gay policies. Others say American athletes should compete.

This is not much different than the stay-or-flee dilemmas faced everyday by plain old not-so-athletic gay folks.

There are businesses run by people who do not believe that those in the LGBTQ community are entitled to equal rights. Two that come to mind are Chik-fil-A and Barilla.

You had me at buttered bun.

Sometimes I see this in my dreams.

Now, this butch lesbian enjoys a chicken sandwich with two pickles (and only two pickles) on a buttered bun with a side of waffle fries and a cup of sweet-tart lemonade. You had me at buttered bun, Chik-fil-A.

Our local Chik-fil-A is always clean and the food is hot and fresh.  Bonus, the employees are super polite as if they have been imported from the deep south along with the company’s sweet tea.

“My pleasure.” That’s what a Chik-fil-A worker says if you ask for extra dipping sauce or thank her for bringing you your meal. “My pleasure.”  We could all stand to be more polite, just like Chik-fil-A employees. I would love it if my kids used this “my pleasure” response around the house.

Can you take out the trash. My pleasure.

A little help with the groceries. My pleasure.

Anyway, how does Middle Age Butch justify being, well, Middle Age Butch and consuming Chik-fil-A products?

I believe I can effectuate more change eating there than not. In a nutshell, here’s my rationale: I live in a glass closet. For the most part, what you see is what you get. That’s the thing with us butches. We don’t have to come out like some of our brothers and sisters because our appearance gives us away every time. (Ok, there’s that kid in the drive-thru who keeps calling me “sir,” but he’s young and oblivious, and that’s another post.)

When I eat at Chik-fil-A, I’m representing. I’m demonstrating that lesbians aren’t so very scary after all. Even us big bulldykes. Boo!

I’m soft-spoken and well-mannered. I eat my chicken sandwich just like everyone else — with two hands. I might use a coupon if I have one, because I’m trying to save money, too. My kids are just like your kids. See, they’re all on their cellphones, rolling their eyes at their parental units.  Geez, kids these days.

While Chik-fil-A is a corporate entity, my local store is made up of everyday people — employees and customers. Every time I eat a chicken sandwich, I have the opportunity to influence people by changing their perceptions. Those chicken sandwiches with the two pickles? That’s a perk of my personal campaign for equal rights.

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These cows are not only ignorant but rude, too.

The bottom line is that I’m not like Chik-fil-A’s mascot cows. “Eat Mor Chikin,” their protest signs read. Besides being bad spellers, these cows are very pushy and rude. I think gentle persuasion is best. Lead by example. Be quiet and strong in your own beliefs. Let other people have their own opinions. People do change but only when they’re ready.

If you’re interested, here’s another post that I wrote about Chik-fil-A: Which comes first? The chicken or the gay?

Barilla is a different matter. There is no Barilla store selling boxes of pasta and sauce. So, yeah, Middle Age Butch no longer buys Barilla products. No more Barilla oven-ready lasagna noodles for this lesbian household.  Geez, I loved those.

Back to the Olympics. Sochi 2014.

This butch thinks the United States should show up. Compete with strength and dignity, determination and grace. The world will be watching. American athletes have an opportunity to eradicate stereotypes, to change minds, to give hope to those who need it more than we do.

It's not just about sports.

This picture gives me chills.

I don’t know what will happen with respect to gay athletes and this human rights issue that will be the elephant in the room throughout these Olympic Games. But I’m certain it will be another step forward toward equal rights for all. It might be something subtle — a comment by an athlete or a hand gesture reminiscent of the black power salute in Mexico City in 1968. If you blink, you might miss it. But some will see it and it will inspire. It will get people talking. It will open eyes and minds and hearts.

That’s what happens when you show up.

* * *

Thoughts on these Olympic Games?  To compete or not?  What about in everyday life?  Are you a boycotter or do you ride things out?

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12 responses to “Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Gays in the games

  1. Yeah, I’m torn. I want to support our (Canadian) athletes who’ve sweated blood for their entire lives to compete at this level, and on the other hand … sigh … perhaps the noise we’ve already generated will start a snow-change that’ll be unstoppable.

    While we live and breathe, there’s hope. 😀

  2. To write about gays in Russia and Chick-fil-a in the same post is almost hypicritical -unless you are inadvertantly comparing the two as being homophobic-against-gays institutions. I don’t believe they have changed for one minute. When they got threatened with bad press – that’s when they said they have changed.If Chick-fil-a was the last sandwich on earth to eat I would gladly starve. But that’s just me.

    • I am comparing the two as anti-gay entities. I’m certainly not comparing the treatment of gays in Russia with the treatment of gays in the United States, or anywhere ales for that matter. Or Russia’s policies with U.S. policies. I think it’s a given that if you’re gay, Russia is not the place that you want to be.

      My point is that sometimes it’s most effective to keep doors open and dialogue open in order to effectuate change.

      That’s my opinion, and I certainly respect yours.

  3. Im supportive of the GB team going to Sochi they have worked hard and I like seeing them compete. I however wouldn’t go to Sochi to support them because Im not spending my money in a country where gay people get attacked for being gay and the police /authorities do nothing and in effect condone the behaviour. That’s how I feel I can make a difference. Personally I dint think sport and politics mix and that its best if participants can make their own gestures of support (if they feel that way inclined).

    Here in the UK it is against the law to discriminate in any way against gay people (its taken a long time but we are there) that said we still have nutters stating that its raining a lot over here because the government have agreed to gay marriage…. that’s free speech for you! But if a certain company did have a clear anti-gay stance then I probably would boycott them – why would I want to give my hard earned money to a bunch of folks who want to deny my rights?

    I understand what you are saying about dispelling the myths. Where we live we are surrounded (almost) by old retired folks who have probably never come across lesbians – however after 14 years of getting their groceries, clearing their drives and general being normal, polite, caring people I think we have persuaded them that they don’t have anything to fear from us at all. If that’s the approach you are adopting with the chicken place then I can respect that – but I don’t think its the approach I would take.

    • Anne, thanks for sharing your point of view. That is the approach that I take. Holding doors open for people, helping that old lady get something from the top shelf of the grocery store … just being a decent person. Kelli Dunham has a great line in her book about butch lesbians helping little old ladies across the street and restoring senior citizens’ faith in the young men of today. I feel that being decent goes a long way, especially as many people no longer act decently these days.

      With that said, I have regular conversations with regular people about my female partner.

      I drive a car with an HRC sticker and a rainbow sticker, but I don’t know such gestures have any effect.

      I blog and write on a regular basis about being different and being gay. Maybe this is how I will effect the greatest change.

      • Words are very powerful and the fact that you take the time to write them is a great positive in itself – it may be a small ripple in a very big pond but you never know how big that ripple might be by the time it gets to the other side of the pond.

  4. In Russia both of our blogs would be illegal. We could be arrested and fined for violating the propaganda laws. You could be arrested for being openly gay around your children’s friends.

    In light of that, I find it very hard to support the Olympics. I can only encourage people to participate in them without condoning the Russian laws. Anyone from the US who goes to Sochi and does not protest, even with the risk of arrest, is silently supporting the Putin regime. Protest can be a subtle as a rainbow pin or a P6 button, or as brash as a public statement. But there must be protest.
    In Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail he says that the problem is not the white extremist but the white moderate. It is an amazing document about the importance of standing up to injustice instead of just going along and not making a fuss. It is as applicable to Sochi as it was to Birmingham.

    • Jamie – I think I agree with what you are saying. if you are going to go then make a statement that you don’t agree with the inequality in some way or another so that the wider audience gets the message over and over again. Lots of small protests could start to look like a big protest and will make a big statement against the inequality that’s going on right now in Russia.
      Thank you for reminding me of the fact that with rights, come responsibilities.

    • I will have to re-read King’s letter from Birmingham Jail. I don’t think I’ve read it since college.

      We most certainly take for granted that we can blog about anything that we want and not face repercussions from our government. While we in the United States fight for marriage equality, it is easy to forget that many of our brothers and sisters are fighting for much more … the ability to be who they are without being beaten or locked up or even killed.

      Sometimes I feel that my very existence is an act of protest. The choices that I make — the clothes that I wear, the person that I hold hands with, even the way I sit or talk — all run counter to societal norms. It has been such a battle to get to where I am right now at this very moment that maybe I am resting when I should continue to march on.

      Protest marches and gay pride parades and other loud showy displays just aren’t my thing. So, yes, subtle protest is more up my alley. My strength lies in my ability to express myself through the written word, so that is how I will continue to make myself heard.

      • Absolutely being out is the best form of protest, as is being an open ally. We should not have to choose between supporting athletes and supporting Russian LGBT folk. The media should not be talking about the Olympics without mentioning the human rights abuses in Russia (not just the anti-gay rules but the repression of all dissidents), and the athletes should not be silent.

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