Figure skater Adam Rippon, the first U.S. athlete to medal at a Winter Olympics while being out as gay, has released a memoir called Beautiful on the Outside. I’ve been following gay issues in figure skating since the 1990s, and once ran a website called Rainbow Ice (1998-2006) that was the first to be dedicated to such issues, so I have been captivated by Rippon’s success. (Rainbow Ice is still archived online. It’s like a time capsule of late 1990s terminology and website aesthetics!)
Figure Skaters Online invited me to write a review. I wrote about how the memoir conveys both Rippon’s exceptional mental discipline and his love for drama. It’s a good book, and funny; I recommend it.
Rippon came to the Free Library of Philadelphia on October 17, 2019 as part of his book tour. You can listen to the podcast recording of his appearance, which includes, around the 53-minute mark, a brief exchange that I got to have with him.
Lorrie: So I want to tell you one thing and I want to ask you one thing.
Adam: Go for it.
Lorrie: In 1998, I started the first website for gay skating issues, and I listed… because people kept saying, “Oh, well, who’s gay in skating?” and I said, “I will tell you!” They thought I was kidding!
Adam: Wow! I really like you already.
Lorrie: [Joking] For ten dollars…
Adam: Ten dollars! Well, I mean, in 1998, ten dollars is like being a millionaire.
Lorrie: Actually, 1998 wouldn’t have gotten me very much money, because I have everybody listed if they were on the record. And then by 2006 I moved on, but I did keep an eye on the Olympics.
Adam: I’m fucking obsessed with you. Keep going.
Lorrie: So 2018, I’m sitting with my two little gay daughters who have on their green and blue mermaid makeup for your costume, and we’re watching you. 20 years. Oh my God, it took 20 years. Thank you, and they thank you. And they’re like… my then 13-year-old is like, “I didn’t know I could love anybody so much!”
Adam: Oh my God, what good taste!
Lorrie: The thing I’m gonna ask you… and before I ask you, I will tell you that you are probably the second white man that I will ever accept this from. What did you mean when you said you were a timid, beautiful, shy Asian girl? Yes. Fair enough, yes, but what did you mean?
Adam: I think because I was talking about… well, first of all, thank you for accepting me to your community. Thank you. I feel embraced. What she’s talking about, there’s this moment in my book where I had two girlfriends in my life. What? No. And one of them was this girl that I skated with who was from Korea, and I was saying in the book how we were perfect for each other, because she was… I think when you skate yourself focused on what you’re doing and what you’re trying to get done that you put a lot of… you emotionally stint yourself in a lot of different situations. She never had a boyfriend before, and I had an ex already. And I remember that I wasn’t gonna do anything with her, and I thought for a really long time that the reason I wasn’t gonna do anything was because I was just a really good guy. I was raised as Catholic. Of course I’m not gonna do anything. I’m not a sinner. In the book, she was very… she didn’t have a lot of friends at the rink. She was very focused, she was a very, very good skater. One of the best in the world, so not a lot of people approached to be her friend. We were both training and competing at the time, and we confided in each other and we found each other. In the book, I say she was this ty… “Thai.” She’s Korean! She was this shy, timid Asian girl, and I was like… and here I was, a perfect match for her, also a shy, timid Asian girl. And I just said it, tongue-in-cheek, that here we are. We’re so similar and we’re both so afraid of taking this next step forward and figuring out who we are. We’re both 19 and 20, but we’re so the same. We’re so just 13-year-olds trying to figure out how do we become normal people in this situation that is so not normal. Unfortunately, I will never be Asian.
Lorrie: We’ll take you!
Adam: Thank you! I’ve tried, but…
The transcript of our exchange is courtesy of Deannah Robinson, firstname.lastname@example.org. Hit her up for your transcription needs!