Words By S.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

My Love Affair With Johnny Weir.

Everyone and their mother is discussing Johnny Weir these days.  He is very much in the spotlight and consistently polarizes people, even more so with his ever popular television show, Be Good Johnny Weir.  My foray into his world is a very new and recent one – and I wish to share my story of Johnny discovery with you all.  It is one of gross misconception, ignorance, and finally becoming enlightened and enthralled.

When I first heard Johnny Weir’s name, it was in passing while perusing Jezebel.  I saw a photo of him on that site, as well.  As he was mentioned in one of their many “celebrity gossip” columns, I glossed right over it – celebrity gossip not being something I’m even remotely interested in.  I then started seeing his name pop up with more frequency on the site, and one day it was with a headline exclaiming, “Johnny Weir is gay” with attached photo.  If any of you have ever seen the man, you’ll know this comes as no shock to anyone.  “Big effing deal“, I thought and went right on skimming through the headlines until some other article piqued my interest.  It was at this point that I also wrote him off as some socialite, famous for doing absolutely nothing.  Little did I know how wrong I was!

This past weekend, while catching up on some missed episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I saw an ad that proclaimed, “Johnny Weir is coming to Logo!” I had seen his name and face enough to say to myself, “who the hell is this guy?!” and, this being the age of the internet, I googled him.

I was born in 1983 (which makes me old, ick!), thus I grew up in the age of Tanya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, Oksana Baiul, Scott Hamilton, and Michelle Kwan.  Watching figure skating was exciting and scandalous.  I recall eagerly awaiting the made-for-tv Tanya Harding movie after the knee bashing debacle.  I recall finding out that Oksana was battling alcoholism.  Scott Hamilton did back flips; Michelle Kwan was a darling.  This was the skating world that I knew. I had more than grown out of figure skating, and hadn’t watched it in decades.

When I read about Johnny Weir – his accomplishments, his “salaciousness”, his being mocked and ridiculed by commentators, and unfair scoring by the judges – my interest was piqued.  My journey continued onto youtube where I watched videos of his performance of The Swan, his performance to Poker Face, and countless others.  The Swan especially floored me and actually made me a little teary eyed. (Side note: I am not an emotional being in the slightest.  This overwhelming sense of emotion could very well have been due to pms in conjunction with his skating being beautiful)  From there, I went on to watch interviews of him – particularly the LA Times ones.  And thus, the love affair began.

I caught the show this past weekend and he is as captivating being himself as he is while skating.  Never before have I seen someone so open, honest, incredibly funny, intelligent, and wacky – and unapologetically so!  If ever there was someone who deserved the spotlight that he has gotten, it is Johnny Weir.

In addition to being endlessly entertaining, his position on gender roles and sexuality are incredibly thought provoking and refreshing.  In fact, some of what he’s said has made me start to really think about my views on human sexuality.  One thing that I’ve heard him say repeatedly is (to paraphrase), “I don’t go around identifying myself as a white male, so why should I have to identify myself as a gay male?”  I absolutely adore hearing someone speak out as such about this issue.

Having grown up as a heterosexual female, I have had the luxury of living a very hetero-normative existence.  However, having been surrounded by, and very much a part of, the LGBT community for my entire life (I attended a lesbian wedding at 14, attended my first drag show at 17, befriended multiple drag queens, had numerous friends come out to me as gay throughout my teens, had a cousin confide her bisexuality to me at a young age, and know a couple transgendereds) – my opinions on living as a homosexual are very much shaped by the people that I know and love.  I have always felt uncomfortable with knowing that, once you self-identify as a homosexual (or bisexual, or anything similar), you become “othered”.  I have never understood why sexual attraction shapes your entire being, in the way others see you.  To have this attitude reflected in someone so in the spotlight felt absolutely amazing.  It validated my feelings and made me feel elated.

In addition to championing the “anti-othering” stance, J. Weir pushes the envelope when it comes to perceived gender roles.  I absolutely love him for it.  I am someone who has been labeled a lesbian by others due to having a more masculine outlook on interpersonal relationships and emotions.  To have my femininity and sexuality put into question simply due to a lack of emoting has always bothered me.  Additionally, meeting my first transgendered male and spending copious amounts of time around men in and out of drag has made me extraordinarily open to bucking gender norms.  To have a visible role model to further buck the normative view of gender is incredibly refreshing.

Johnny’s views on sexuality and relationships being mutually exclusive strike me as very interesting.  I’m something of a “traditionalist”, in that I have always looked at who you (primarily) form a relationship with as an extension of who you’re sexually attracted to.  As such, it interests me to hear someone say that they could compartmentalize relationships in such a way.  That Johnny Weir – always making you think!

While I am exceedingly happy and exuberant about having discovered the existence of this astonishing human being , I fear how he is perceived due to being so exposed.  I have already begun to see how problematic his “officially coming out” has been in regards to the caliber of interview questions he continues to get.  I also fear that, with the way he is being marketed, people won’t realize everything he has to offer and therefore won’t take him as seriously as they should.  I’ll be honest-  based on the Logo tv spots for his show, I figured it’d consist of him merely prancing around and acting like a queen, with occasional skating.  Imagine my surprise when the show was actually serious and had substance.

In the end, with someone so polarizing, I suppose marketing has no real bearing on the perceptions people have.  And it must be fairly successful – it certainly caught my attention!  In any case, this has been my ever growing love affair with Johnny Weir.  I’ll leave you with this clip that gives an accurate portrayal of what most of his show is like:


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