Weir goes easy on radio bashers

Associated Press

VANCOUVER - Johnny Weir is looking for understanding, not an apology.

Broadcasters on French-language RDS who made derogatory comments about the American figure skater's masculinity need to consider the impact their words will have on others, particularly impressionable youngsters, Weir said Wednesday.

"I want them to think before they speak. I want them to think about not only the person they're talking about, but also other people like that person," he said. "What people as a majority need to do is think, and think about who they're affecting . . . I don't want, 50 years from now, more boys and girls to go through this same thing."

The Quebec Gay and Lesbian Council demanded a public apology from RDS after one commentator said Weir hurts figure skating's image and another said Weir should be made to take a gender test. The remarks were "outrageous" and "homophobic," CQGL said in a statement on its Web site.

Mark Tewskbury, a gold medalist in swimming at the Barcelona Olympics, called the remarks "totally unacceptable."

"I think Johnny Weir adds a fantastic element to men's figure skating," Tewskbury said at a news conference at Whistler Pride House, a venue designed to support gay and lesbian athletes and coaches. "It doesn't send the message that you have to be Johnny or be like him. It shows that all kinds of people take up figure skating, and all kinds of people can be excellent at figure skating.

"I was actually quite shocked that that is still happening in 2010."

Although Weir said he found the comments "offensive," he supports free speech and doesn't think the broadcasters should be punished. He also doesn't really care if people criticize him.

But he does worry that the broadcasters' comments and the attitudes they foster will hurt kids who are different and are trying to find their place in the world. Or cause parents of those children to be less supportive.

"I hope more kids can grow up like I did and more kids can feel the freedom to express themselves," he said. "Out of ugly, I think the most important thing in life is to make something beautiful."

Weir is one of skating's most oversized personalities, and he enjoys challenging convention. He was targeted by animal-rights activists after adding white fox fur to his free skate costume for last month's U.S. championships, and he once posed for a photo shoot in a skirt and stilettos.

But he repeatedly has avoided questions about his sexual orientation, and did so again yesterday. People shouldn't be defined by labels, Weir said.

"I don't think the fact I'm a figure skater matters. I don't think who I sleep with matters. I don't think where I'm from matters. I want people to see me for who I am, not what I am," he said. "I don't feel there's anything that anybody has to be out and about about. I think you should be out about being yourself. You need to be out and really own who you are." *

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