Let’s face it, we gay men don’t have a lot of role models out there. I mean nationally, and living, of course.
For role models in the arts or anything involving artistic expression we can reach as far back as early antiquity. But currently, do we have anyone to turn to? When you Google ‘famous gay Americans’ and click on images, you’re treated to a smiling Neil Patrick Harris, President James Buchanan, and a whole host of people who aren’t even American like Elton John and Ian McKellen. So who would lead our Pride parades or speak ‘for the gays’ on a cable news show? Who is our highest-ranking, most prominent gay in America?
A lot can be said for current It-Boy Adam Rippon. He skated his way into America’s hearts last month, earning bronze in figure skating at the Winter Olympics, and therefore becoming the first openly gay athlete to earn a medal.
But there is something more remarkable about Adam, perhaps even more so than his skating abilities. He took on Vice President Mike Pence. Pence, with his smug little grin and his own strange fascination with Adam, is inarguably our highest-ranking foe. And Adam would have nothing to do with Pence, despite his position. “I have nothing to say to Mike Pence,” he said numerous times, even as Pence publicly pleaded for a meet up. This is what elevates Adam higher than others, your Anderson Coopers, your Neil Patrick Harrises. Adam saw the game and refused to play it. It’s more or less how the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students are so effective. They took one look at the rulebook and tossed it aside. And didn’t shy away from calling out some basic BS.
Adam is clearly taking a page from Olympian Tom Daley’s handbook by attempting to keep that fame train moving. And who can blame him? He’s got to make a living. He recently threw himself back into the headlines by wearing a harness to the Oscars. But that was more than just silly attention grabbing. Adam was illustrating his own takedown of what television personality Guy Branum called the ‘situational closet.’ Many of our gay representatives play it too straight, living comfortable gay lives, just subbing in gay for straight in the lineup. Adam just reminded us all that he’s sexual, he loves gay sex, and doesn’t care what you think. There are no lines to read between. He loves dick. Being that out and that outright, that’s both admirable and refreshing. That perhaps is our strongest weapon against the Pences out there.
And, reminder, before my Twitter blows up, I’m just talking highest-ranking gay man here. Ellen has retained the top spot in the women’s column, deservedly so, for some time now. And she has worked against the situational closet in her own special and direct way, bringing her queerness into the homes of middle America via her popular talk show. Adam was front and center there just last week. And of course Adam has some work to do, some polishing here and there. Frankly I’m not a fan of his Kardashian-vocal fry speaking style. That and I’m slightly sure that if Adam and I ever met, he’d be a little mean. But I’m willing to give it a try.
It is, of course, problematic to confuse ‘highest-ranking’ with ‘current fascination.’ And does Adam have staying power? I hope so. And if this age of Trump has taught us anything, fame and fortune in America can wear several different faces, even at the same time, and take you practically anywhere. Twitter, talk shows, athletics, charm — it’s the current American dream package. I just hope Adam is able to harness it, so to speak, and do some good.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.