Every day of Pride Month, Mashable will be sharing illuminating conversations with members of the LGBTQ community who are making history right now.
Adam Rippon isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
The Olympic-medal winning figure skater made waves for criticizing Vice President Mike Pence over his anti-LGBTQ policies when he led the U.S. delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and he hasn’t stopped taking a stand since. He joined several of his fellow Olympians that year in skipping the traditional White House visit post-Games. He openly discussed a starvation diet he went on in 2016 to start a conversation about eating disorders and body image.
And in a recent interview with Mashable, he criticized President Donald Trump, and the normalization of his hate speech. He also trumpeted the Equality Act, which would prevent employers, landlords, and others from discriminating against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The Equality Act needs to get passed. It’s time we have equal protections for all people,” he said. The legislation has been passed by the House of Representatives, but faces challenges in the Senate.
He’s skated his way into the internet’s heart (and that of Sally Field’s son), becoming a social media darling for his candidness. Oh, and beyond being the first openly gay American Winter Olympian, he’s a witch.
After the Olympics, the 29-year-old won Season 26 of Dancing with the Stars (dancing to Rupaul’s “Sissy that Walk” during the show’s premiere), and is now a YouTube personality. He’s retired from competitive figure skating, but now hosts a talk show on ice, teaching the likes of Todrick Hall and Lilli Singh to skate as he gently holds their hands and prods them with personal questions. At the same time, he tweeted a soft dig in early June at YouTube for letting anti-LGBTQ harassment slide. (YouTube’s been under fire lately for not doing enough to protect LGBTQ creators.)
For Pride Month, Rippon made his own coming out video on YouTube. Before he came out to his family and friends at 21, he watched hours of coming out stories — including that of YouTube star Tyler Oakley.
“These videos really changed my life. They changed my perspective of being out in the world,” he said in the video, going on to talk about being teased for being gay before he knew what that even meant.
He described coming out as a liberating experience, adding that he “felt so much stronger being out to my friends and family that I wanted to be an out athlete, as well.” He in 2015 in Skating magazine.
His coming out experience helped shape his outspoken persona. Once he started thinking about himself on his terms, he could express his own opinions, he told Mashable.
“When I started doing and saying things that I thought were important, and were important to me, that’s when I truly became brave.”
The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
Mashable: For Pride Month you made your own coming out video, mentioning how important these types of videos were to you before you had come out. You also talk about being afraid to come out. That’s such a different image than that of you being hailed as this champion skater, the first openly gay U.S. Olympic medal winner, and speaking out against Vice President Mike Pence. What changed? How did you get your fearlessness, your voice?
Adam Rippon: As I got older and learned more about myself, my view of the world changed and for me that made all the difference. I used to care and worry so much about what other people thought of me when I didn’t even really know what I thought of myself. When I started doing and saying things that I thought were important, and were important to me, that’s when I truly became brave.
Mashable: Now that you have that voice, and arguably a big platform, what do you plan to do with it?
AR: The most important thing I can do with my voice is to listen to other people. I believe that the more I learn about others and the things that they struggle with, the more I can help them.
Mashable: What’s the biggest political, social, or cultural issue that’s boggling your mind these days?
AR: Every day I am boggled by how the things Donald Trump says don’t discredit him from being president. I am all day and every day completely blown away with what he’s able to say, do, and deny. I hate that all the lying and hate has become so normal.
Mashable: You have a cameo in Taylor Swift’s new music video for “You need to calm down,” which is a big political statement from a pop star we’re not used to seeing make big political statements. What made you want to participate in this project and what are your own thoughts on the Equality Act, which gets its own cameo at the end?
AR: The Equality Act needs to get passed. It’s time we have equal protections for all people.
I’m so proud to have worked with Taylor and everyone involved in the #YNTCD [You Need to Calm Down] project. It’s a huge political statement and to have someone as iconic as Taylor Swift put this together is monumental. She is a big supporter of our community and for her to use her voice to make this statement of support and solidarity and more importantly to use it to encourage action from her massive audience is epic. I think this will be a defining moment of this summer’s Pride celebrations.
As a friend and fan, I am so proud. If I heard a song like this as a young kid, it would have made me feel a lot different about myself and helped me on my journey.
Mashable: I’m enjoying your Break the Ice series where you talk to guests like Lilly Singh and Todrick Hall as you teach them how to skate. Why start a talk show on ice and what have been some highlights for you since starting the show?
AR: After the Olympics, the number one thing I heard from so many of the people I met was “I love to watch skating but I can’t skate,” and I thought it would be really fun to bring my new friends onto the ice and give them a skating lesson. I’ve had so much fun being able to take on this project, and I’m so grateful to all of the people who’ve said yes and agreed to risk their lives with me as their coach.
Mashable: Looking at what you’ve accomplished so far, what are you most proud of?
AR: I think the thing I’m most proud of is being able to connect with so many people. I love when I get to see fans on the street or at different events and we can chat about things that are serious or laugh together right away. I’m most proud of that because through all the things that have changed in my life I’ve been able to remain present and stay true to myself and authentic to who I am.
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