Connect with us


IOC’s new pro-LGBT policies called ‘a bunch of fluff’

Advocates skeptical after Kazakhstan, Beijing compete to host Olympics



anti-discrimination clause, gay news, Washington Blade
Olympic, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Sochi, Winter Olympics, Dupont Circle, gay news, LGBT, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Advocates remain largely skeptical of the International Olympic Committee’s efforts to strengthen its anti-discrimination provisions in the wake of the controversial 2014 Winter Olympics that took place in Russia against the backdrop of the country’s anti-LGBT rights record.

The IOC in December 2014 amended the Olympic Charter’s anti-discrimination clause known as Principle 6 to include sexual orientation. The organization, which is based in the Swiss city of Lausanne, a couple of months earlier added an anti-discrimination clause to its host city contract.

Human rights advocates sharply criticized the IOC’s decision late last month to award the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing. The Kazakh city of Almaty was a finalist to host the games, despite the fact that lawmakers in the former Soviet republic in February approved a bill that would ban the promotion of so-called gay propaganda.

Beijing won the games by a 44-40 vote margin.

“These policies are a bunch of fluff,” said Cyd Zeigler, Jr., co-founder of, an LGBT sports website, as he discussed the IOC’s expanded anti-discrimination provisions. “What matters is the cities they choose to be the hosts and the discriminatory countries that are allowed to participate. The Olympics just selected a country not just with huge LGBT issues, but human rights violations that are massive.”

“They almost picked a country that’s even worse,” he added.

A Russian-style bill that sought to ban the promotion of so-called propaganda to minors received final approval in the Kazakh Parliament shortly after IOC members visited the country in February. The Kazakhstan Constitutional Council in May struck down the measure, but a lawmaker has said he plans to reintroduce it.

A report that Human Rights Watch released a week before the IOC awarded the 2022 Winter Olympic games to Beijing notes the Kazakh propaganda bill “would have directly contravened” Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter.

“The IOC shouldn’t take its eye off the ball on ugly discrimination and human rights abuses for Olympic host contenders,” said Kyle Knight, a Human Rights Watch researcher who wrote the report, in a press release that announced it. “The IOC and the Kazakhstan government should publicly condemn anti-LGBT discrimination to signal that there is no place for homophobia in global sport or the countries that want to host Olympic games.”

Zhanar Sekerbayeva of the Kazakhstan Feminist Initiative earlier this month during a Skype interview from Amsterdam described the release of the Human Rights Watch report as a “very significant” moment.

Retired tennis player Martina Navratilova and other prominent sports figures in May expressed their opposition to Kazakhstan’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in a letter they wrote to IOC President Thomas Bach. Sekerbayeva noted Almaty-based advocates in an open letter to the IOC noted the former Soviet republic has what she described to the Blade as “a very bad homophobic situation.”

“We just tried to warn people in the committee that it may be a second Sochi,” Sekerbayeva told the Blade, referring to Kazakhstan’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. “Of course we didn’t want this.”

Chinese advocates with whom the Blade spoke were reluctant to discuss whether the Beijing games would have any impact on pro-LGBT efforts in their country.

“I have no idea about how the Winter Olympics will do anything to improve the overall human rights record,” said Xin “Iron” Ying, executive director of the Beijing LGBT Center. “We have never heard government officials talk about LGBT rights in China.”

“Maybe it will change in the next 10 years,” she added.

Another Chinese advocate said questions about whether the 2022 Winter Olympics would have a positive impact on the country’s LGBT rights movement “were too sensitive.”

Principle 6 to be applied in Beijing

Olympics, gay news, Washington Blade

Zhanar Sekerbayeva of the Kazakhstan Feminist Initiative at EuroPride in Riga, Latvia, in June (Photo courtesy of Zhanar Sekerbayeva)

Russian President Vladimir Putin in June 2013 signed a broadly worded law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors.

LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. and elsewhere urged athletes to boycott the Sochi games over the controversial law, but Putin insisted that gays and lesbians attending the Olympics would not face discrimination. Bach said he had received repeated assurances from the Kremlin that LGBT athletes and spectators would be welcome in Russia.

Authorities in Moscow and St. Petersburg arrested more than a dozen people who protested the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record on the same day the games opened in Sochi. Russian police arrested Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender former Italian parliamentarian, twice in the Black Sea resort city after she publicly challenged the gay propaganda law during the Olympics.

Sekerbayeva noted to the Blade that the Kazakh government in its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics insisted that LGBT people did not face discrimination or harassment from the police in the former Soviet republic. She said people blamed LGBT rights advocates for the IOC’s decision to award the games to Beijing and not Almaty.

“We see how our society decided to blame us,” said Sekerbayeva.

Mark Adams, a spokesperson for the IOC, told the Blade in a statement that organizers of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing have pledged that “for all games-related matters and for all participants, the Olympic Charter, including respect of Principle 6, will be fully applied.”

“The IOC is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation as stated in the Olympic Charter,” said Adams. “The games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and, of course, athletes. This has been upheld at all editions of the Olympic games.”

Maria von Känel, general manager of the Swiss Rainbow Families Association, told the Blade the decision to amend Principle 6 and add an anti-discrimination clause to the Olympics host city contracts shows that members of the IOC listened to LGBT rights advocates’ concerns in the wake of the Sochi games.

“It’s something powerful,” she said during a Skype interview from Zurich. “It’s visible, but I think it’s a start. Now we have to implement it.”

Sekerbayeva, like von Känel, welcomes the inclusion of sexual orientation in Principle 6. She nevertheless questioned why the IOC waited until after the Sochi games to amend the Olympic Charter’s anti-discrimination clause.

“I always wondered why we should wait for something very bad (to happen) and then we decide to have some decision,” said Sekerbayeva. “We did not want Sochi to go and have the Olympic games, but it did and we saw a lot of bad things, a lot of hate speech.”

“It’s better to (make these decisions) before such big events,” she added.

Zeigler made a similar point, noting Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics despite China’s human rights record.

“Forget about LGBT rights, they don’t care about human rights,” he told the Blade, referring to the IOC. “It’s irrelevant. They have a lengthy record to demonstrate that.”

Olympics, gay news, Washington Blade

Zhanar Sekerbayeva of the Kazakhstan Feminist Initiative, left, and two LGBT rights advocates from Kyrgyzstan take part in EuroPride in Riga, Latvia, in June (Photo courtesy of Zhanar Sekerbayeva of the Kazakhstan Feminist Initiative)



Gay figure skater Colin Grafton shares his story and his dream

Boston native is contestant on British television’s ‘Dancing On Ice’



Colin Grafton (Photo courtesy of Grafton's Instagram page)

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-19 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.”

Continue Reading


Final score in Super Bowl LVIII: Queers 14, MAGA haters two

Here’s our own LGBTQ scoreboard for inclusivity vs. bigots



(Super Bowl LVIII screenshot)

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, — 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! 

Continue Reading


Your gay guide to Super Bowl LVIII

San Francisco 49ers will play the Kansas City Chiefs



(NFL/Los Angeles Blade graphic)

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 Los Angeles 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 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!

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade