Pride month means a little more to Canadian figure skater Kaitlyn Weaver this year.
The two-time Olympian and former Canadian ice dance champion came out publicly as a queer woman on Friday in an interview with CBC and in an Instagram post.
Sharing his authentic self with the world has been “overwhelming,” Weaver said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“I made my post this morning, which was scary but exciting. And then I put down my phone and we went paddling. … I just wanted to let it soak in, ”he said from the Hamptons, where he is on vacation.
Hours later, he again received messages of love and support.
“It’s such a comforting feeling to know that I can now be my most authentic self and that I also have some people on my side.”
It’s been about a decade since the 32-year-old Weaver realized she was queer, but she avoided facing her sexuality, worried about the impact it could have on her career. He feared that people would think he was faking his connection to his skating partner Andrew Poje, and that it would affect his scores.
“LGBTQ + people are not accepted in all parts of the world and you never know who you are talking to. And when your livelihood depends on it, it’s scary. If it’s scary to tell friends, it’s definitely scary to tell people who are judging you for a living, ”he said.
“It was never an option to go out while I was still racing. It wasn’t even an idea that entertained me. “
Instead, Weaver spent years turning his full attention to skating and away from facing his true identity.
“As an elite athlete … you put your personal life second and your sport first,” he said. “So it was easy for me to put everything aside, especially the things that I really didn’t like, and focus all my energy on becoming the best ice dancer in the world.”
As COVID-19 took hold of North America, Weaver found it more difficult to find ways to stay distracted. She and her skating partner Andrew Poje had already walked away from competing, but were still doing shows, and she was skating at CBC’s “Battle of the Blades.”
“When the pandemic hit, I had none of that and I was faced with this skeleton in the closet of simply understanding and accepting my own identity as a queer woman,” she said. “It was too much”.
Weaver worked with a mental health team to process and accept herself, and has gradually discovered her loved ones. Telling Poje was difficult, he said.
“That was probably the scariest. But it’s just a prop, ”Weaver said. “He is just a pillar in my life and he always has been and, luckily for me, he always will be.”
The pair plan to continue working together, she added, but is not sure if they will return to competitive skating.
“I’m not sure if my body could handle it,” Weaver said with a laugh.
As a lifelong fan of figure skating, Weaver plans to continue working in the sport as much as possible and wants to find ways to make the sport more accessible to others.
“I just want to show people that you can do it,” he said. “And I want to be here so that you feel safe. And that’s where I’ll start and see where work takes me. “
She knows that her story will be important in opening up figure skating to other queer athletes. While some male skaters have come out publicly in recent years, there are few, if any, openly queer skaters.
“Queer women don’t see themselves in our sport,” Weaver said. “They don’t see that their identities are represented in our sport because, stereotypically, she is the hyper-feminine pretty princess, that is the stereotype of the female figure skater and that is not necessarily what everyone identifies.
“It is similar, in my opinion, to a boy declaring himself on a soccer team or a soccer team. It’s like you’re the stranger. It is difficult to do that. It’s hard to be the first. “