Figure skating star Johnny Weir loves Russia where he is immensely popular with fans.
But anti-gay laws in the country have him warning his fellow gay athletes when they participate in the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia.
‘I love Russia and there is nothing that will change that,’ Weir tells USA Today. ‘I’m a true patriot and spokesperson for their country. It’s appalling they can censor their public, but I try to do everything I can. I have been in talks with different LBGT organizations in Russia with how I can help.’
In February of 2012, St Petersburg passed an ‘anti-gay propaganda’ law which can be used to gag any public discussion of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues or events targeted at gay and trans people.
A national anti-gay bill, similar to the one passed in St Petersburg, was submitted to the Russian parliament last May by lawmakers from the Novosibirsk region.
The Russian states of Arkhangelsk, Ryazan and Kostroma have already adopted similar anti-gay laws.
Because of this anti-gay environment in the country, Weir is advising gay Olympians to tone down their behavior outside the Olympic venue.
‘My advice would be: Watch what you do when you leave the Village, don’t be aggressive, don’t wear a big rainbow flag fur coat. If you don’t call attention to yourself, attention won’t come to you.’
He adds: ‘I’m not going to be having sex in a Metro station. And if you are doing that, then maybe you deserve to be caught.’
Weir, a three-time winner of the US National Championships, placed sixth in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and is determined to improve upon that result when the next Olympics.
Much has happened to the skating star since that last Olympics: He publicly came out as a gay man on the pages of his autobiography released in 2011; He became the star of his own reality show; and he married Victor Voronov.