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Learn all about the fascinating world of figure skating history with Skate Guard Blog. Explore a treasure trove of articles on the history of figure skating, highlighting Olympic Medallists, World and National Champions and dazzling competitions, shows and tours. Written by former skater and judge Ryan Stevens, Skate Guard Blog also offers intriguing insights into the evolution of the sport over the decades. Delve into Stevens' five books for even more riveting stories and information about the history of everyone's favourite winter Olympic sport.

One Of A Kind: The Osborne Colson Story

Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine

"If you want to win at this game, kiddo, you've got to be tough as nails." - Osborne Colson

The son of Dorothy Delano-Osborne and Harry Arthur Colson, Harry Osborne 'Ossie' Colson was born March 31, 1916 in Toronto, Ontario. He had three siblings - an older sister named Margaret and a younger sister and brother named Joan and James. His parents were both born in England, though his mother grew up in Iowa. His grandfather, who was a big deal in the cigar trade, was born in South Africa. His great-grandmother was born in Germany. The Colson family were devotees of the Church of England and had homes on Saint Clements Avenue and Heath Street. "My family wasn't rich," recalled Osborne, "but they weren't poor either." Despite the fact the Colson's weren't rolling in dough, they were a family of very high social standing. When the Queen Mother visited Canada, she would have supper at one of his relative's homes.

Photo courtesy City of Toronto Archives

Osborne was introduced to figure skating by his famous cousins, the Smith sisters - Cecil and Maude - who ruled the roost at the Toronto Skating Club's rink on Dupont Street during the roaring twenties. After becoming a member, he began taking lessons with Gustave Lussi. In 1927, he had the honour of joining a group of the Club's members in one of the first ice carnivals at Madison Square Garden in New York. That same year, he drew inspiration from one of future Olympic Gold Medallist Karl Schäfer's first North American performances at Madison Square Garden. Schäfer skated a solo replete with a host of dazzling double jumps; twelve year old Osborne was a humble sailor boy whose big trick was tossing his cap into the audience.

Photo courtesy Cheryl Richardson

In the years that followed, Osborne quickly rose through the ranks of Canadian figure skating. After finishing second in the junior men's event at the Canadian Championships two years in a row, the dapper, five foot seven, brown-haired and green-grey eyed skater won the title in 1933. Two years later, he finished second to Bud Wilson in the senior men's class and represented Canada at his first of two North American Championships.

Photo courtesy Cheryl Richardson

In 1936 and 1937, when Bud Wilson didn't compete, Osborne reigned as Canadian Champion in men's singles. During this period, he also placed in the top three at the Canadian Championships in junior and senior pairs, fours and the Tenstep. He was lucky to have even competed in most of these events. His father, a banker, had set him up with a job at the Dominion Bank. He was youngest teller in the bank's history and was making thirty-two dollars a week - no paltry sum during The Great Depression. He convinced the bank's managers to allow him to take time off to participate in competitions. His father didn't approve whatsoever and discouraged his skating.

Photo courtesy Cheryl Richardson

In 1937, Osborne left behind the bank and followed the money down to the States as a member of Shipstads and Johnson's Ice Follies tour. He toured with the production for seven years as a featured soloist. He also skated a pair with former Canadian and North American Champion Frances Claudet Johnson.

Frances Claudet Johnson and Osborne Colson in the Ice Follies. Bottom photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Over the years, Osborne played a prince, court jester, jack-in-the-box, Russian dancer, gypsy and a bow-and-arrow toting hunter. Newspaper columnists from Long Island to Los Angeles praised his uncanny ability to interpret music. In 1939, he appeared in the MGM film "The Ice Follies of 1939", which starred Joan Crawford and Jimmy Stewart. He even lived in Hollywood for a short time, where he met stars like Judy Garland, Ronald Reagan, Mickey Rooney and Boris Karloff.

Photo courtesy Cheryl Richardson

Osborne began coaching in 1946, just after World War II ended. Two years later, he attended his first major international competitions as a coach - the 1948 Winter Olympic Games and World Championships in Switzerland. His student, a beautiful artiste named Marilyn Ruth Take, finished twelfth in both events. The winner on both occasions was Canada's Sweetheart - Barbara Ann Scott. The two forged a very close bond and not long after, Osborne penned the introduction to her bestselling biography "She Skated Into Our Hearts" and choreographed her cross-Canada Skating Sensations of 1950 tour. Decades later, Barbara Ann and Frances Claudet Johnson would both make trips up from the States to Toronto to visit him. Doug Haw recalled, "Osborne and Barbara Ann became lifelong friends. She completely loved Osborne and was really, really good to him. I'd see her come in the Cricket Club and she'd want to greet Osborne first. They'd kiss on each cheek and it was like the Queen Mother had arrived when she came to the Club."

Barbara Ann Scott and Osborne Colson

Over the years, Osborne taught at the Granite Club, Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club, Toronto's Leaside, East York Memorial and Varsity Arenas, as well as the University and Silver Blades Skating Clubs. He also taught at the Cleveland Skating Club and at the Chevy Chase Ice Palace, which was home to the Washington (D.C.) Figure Skating Club. In the late sixties and early seventies, he served as President, Vice-President and Bursary Fund Trustee of the Professional Skating Association Of Canada.

If you wanted to hear fabulous stories about figure skating's golden age, no one could spin a yarn better than Osborne. When school figures were removed from ISU Championships in 1990, he reminisced in "Today's Skater" magazine, "More often than not, the World Championships were held outside... It was a tremendous advantage if you were your country's best. Then, all your countrymen would form a circle around you, like a putting green in golf, while you were skating and hold their coats open to block off the wind. But if you were an also-ran, everyone would leave for the hotel to have a grog while you were skating." 

Osborne Colson with students at the Banff School Of Fine Arts. Top photo courtesy The Banff Center Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives. Bottom photo courtesy Diana Flynn.

In 1947, Osborne founded the Summer Ice Club in Toronto. He went on to operate a similar school in Bracebridge, Barrie and Simcoe. However none of Osborne's summer schools would be as revolutionary as the one he started at the Banff School Of Fine Arts in Alberta.

Osborne Colson, Gordon Crossland and Sonja Davis. Photo courtesy Sarah Kawahara.

When the school was founded in 1961, most skating schools in Canada only offered patch, dance and freestyle sessions. The Banff school added stroking, edge and turn and off-ice dance classes as well as lessons in painting, sculpture and acting. It was perhaps the first school in Canada to give serious thought and effort to skating's artistic possibilities. It was also the first school to really open the door to the concept of team or collaborative coaching. Previously, skaters had mostly just worked one-on-one with one pro exclusively, unless of course they were going down to Lake Placid or something. The Banff school played host to the CFSA's first national training seminar and a host of well-respected coaches including Gustave Lussi, Donald Jackson, Paul Thomas, Sonja Davis, Peter Firstbrook and Gordon Crossland. The skaters all received report cards. A number of talented skaters trained there, including Lynn Nightingale, Ron Shaver, Louise (Lind) and Barry Soper, Karen Magnussen, Marie Petrie McGillvray, Frank Nowosad and Paul Bonenfant.

Photo courtesy Cheryl Richardson

Over the years, Osborne worked with a who's who of figure skating. Some of his students, like Patrick Chan, Karen Preston and Gordon Forbes, went on to become elite international competitors. Others, like Don Laws, Donald Tobin and Danny Ryan, made their mark as coaches. Pierrette Paquin Devine became Canada's first female judge at the World Championships. Sarah Kawahara and David Wilson made their marks as two of the most brilliant choreographers the sport has ever seen. He mentored great champions like Donald Jackson and Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall and often worked a case-by-case basis with elite skaters as a sort of 'finishing school', rather an as a primary coach. He injected style into the programs of skaters who struggled with presentation and amplified the choreography of those who were already well-packaged. "I remember when I was coaching Angela Derochie," recalled Doug Haw. "She wasn't the most artistically inclined skater. Ossie would go 'Oh darling Angela, you've got to soften these arms.' He'd touch her face and be like, 'Let's change this look, darling. Let's relax those eyebrows, darling and bring those cheekbones out... I want you to to feel more like a lady. These are chandeliers hanging, darling and you're wearing evening gloves. Now go skate.' Everything was darling and honey and she would feel all girly and feminine when he worked with her."

Osborne was particularly proud of his work with Patrick Chan. When he was teaching Patrick Chan his double jumps, he would always insist that he learn how to do the jumps from footwork. One day, it would be a double flip out out a counter and mohawk; another day a Split jump into a double Lutz. This played a huge role in Patrick's mastery of edges from an early age. Doug Haw remembered, "I can remember the day landed Patrick landed his double Axel and Osborne played it right down and said, 'It's only the beginning. You've got to do triples tomorrow.' He was like, 'Don't rest on your laurels, you've got triples to do.' Once he got the double Axel, the triples came really fast. He may have even landed a triple Salchow before the double Axel but the Axel took a long time and it was a big deal when it happened...Patrick and Don Laws actually met at Osborne's funeral. That's how Patrick ended up going to Don."

Osborne Colson and Donald Jackson working with a young skater

It was Osborne who convinced Mrs. Ellen Burka to start taking her daughter Petra's skating more seriously. Mrs. Burka, a single mother, had to prioritize teaching other students and earning money over giving her her daughter lessons. His advice proved sage when Petra won the World title in 1965, but the relationship between the two iconic Canadian coaches was at times rocky. They cared deeply about each other but also knew how to push each other's buttons. Mrs. Burka's student Toller Cranston once quipped to her, "Did Osborne dip his tongue in acid this morning?" Most of the time, their barbs at one another had the endearing cattiness of C.C. Babcock and Niles the butler on "The Nanny". Sandra Bezic recalled, "I remember he and Mrs. Burka hooting and hollering together at the Cricket Club. They always seemed to have a private joke going." Doug Haw remembered, "All of a sudden Osborne would start stretching at the ballet barre at the Cricket Club... and this was like when he was seventy-five, eighty years old! Ellen never wore skates at the end and she was always teaching on the other side of the rink and she'd always be leaning against this table she had there. We called it Ellen's table and she had a chair later and she'd always have it turned around and just lean against the back of the chair. All of a sudden I'd hear 'Doug! Doug! Come here, Doug!' Ellen would call me and she'd go 'Look at Osborne. He's stretching his leg up at the barre! There must be a good looking man in the lounge!' Osborne would always start posing if he thought there was a chance there was some hot man there, you know. She'd go, 'I can't see! Is there a man in the lounge?' and I said yes and she'd go, 'Oh, Osborne must like him! He's doing his stretches! Pretty soon, we'll see him do the splits.' Sure enough, he'd try to do the splits and she'd go, 'I told you Doug, I told you!' They used to make me laugh and laugh and laugh."

Photo courtesy "Canadian Skater" magazine

Though he didn't really have any enemies because most people knew that when he got angry it passed quickly, Osborne would at times direct his 'acid tongue' at the skaters and parents at the Cricket Club. Doug Haw recalled him calling over a young skater "bombing around an outside eight" on a patch session to tell them, 'I taught your grandmother, I taught your mother and none of you could skate!' He would go into the Cricket Club lounge and all the mothers would be sitting there watching the skaters and he'd yell, 'What are you all doing here? Why don't you go out and get a job?' When they talked on the phone in the lounge, he'd pull it out of the wall and tell them to 'stop yakking on the phone and watch your kids skate.'"

Photo courtesy Sarah Kawahara

A snappy dresser, Osborne was always known for his famous collection of hats and scarves. He dressed in plaid so often that when the ARC Skating Academy opened its plaid-decorated lounge in 1997, it was named after him. "He was always well-dressed and he always had colour," recalled Doug Haw. "One day he came in and he had this yellow turtleneck and wild vest on. I told him he looked like Mr. Roper from 'Three's Company' and he started to laugh but went home, put another outfit on and never wore that vest again." One of the wildest get-up's he sported was the costume Frances Dafoe designed for him for Toller Cranston's famous television special "Strawberry Ice".

Like Toller Cranston, Osborne was a connoisseur of the arts. He often attended ballets, book readings, plays, operas and art openings. His exposure to different art forms widened the scope of his choreography. Doug Haw remembered, "Back in the day, in the carnivals Osborne's numbers really stood out. Those kids got phenomenal numbers. Other coaches would have stuff drawn out on paper and Osborne would wing it every practice and it would turn out to be a complete masterpiece. He really was a wizard at choreography... I remember him yelling, 'Why don't you go to New York for the weekend? You've got a few bucks, Haw. Get to New York and take in a few Broadway shows and ballets because you've got to learn more than just skating.' I was always fortunate enough to be a busy skating coach but he would think my brain wouldn't develop if I didn't look at other mediums. I took his advice and went to New York and the ballet because Osborne told me... He'd read 'The Globe and Mail' - he called it the Toronto paper - and would always say, 'You've got to know more than an outside edge. You've got to know what's going on the world.'"

Osborne Colson and Sarah Kawahara. Photo courtesy Sarah Kawahara.

Osborne was infamous for his absent-mindedness. Doug Haw recalled, "Sometimes Osborne would come into the Cricket Club with his male purse under his arm. He would put it in the cubby holes that were on the support beams that came down from the rafters. He'd come into the office and go, 'Doug! Doug! My purse has been stolen! Somebody has stolen my purse!' I'd go, 'Oh, Osborne just a second.' So I'd go outside and I'd start looking in the rafters and go, 'Oh, here it is!'... The coaches would go in the coaches room and everyone would just throw their car keys on the table or chair. Of course, the session ends and some coach is coming up to me going 'Oh my God, I can't find my keys' and I'd yell 'Osborne!' and there he'd be with four sets of keys in his purse."

Photo courtesy Skate Canada Archives

Osborne also had a really difficult time managing money. Doug Haw remembered, "He was such an artistic person that he had no concept of money or saving. He never did his bills properly so I would have to do his bills for his kids. I'd say, 'Well, you taught Patrick [Chan] for an hour and a half today.' He'd say, 'Well, no, just put down fifteen minutes.' He didn't want to overcharge Patrick because he didn't want him to leave him. Money was just not in his skill set."

Two other things Osborne was known for were his tendency to push the rules and the fact he hung up on everyone whenever he talked on the phone. Doug Haw recalled, "There used to be, of course, smoking back in the day. All of the coaches smoked at the rink and even the skaters - at the Cricket Club they had an orchestra playing the dances and all of the skaters would be smoking in between their dances. Eventually, the club went non-smoking. All of a sudden one night Osborne lights up a cigarette. I said, 'What are you doing? You can't smoke now.' He yelled, 'Well we used to smoke!' I said, 'Osborne, those rules have changed now.' He goes, 'What are they going to do, fire me?'" Doug took the cigarette "so I didn't have ten parents running into the skating office" and that was the end of that. He would dote on Doug's grandmother whenever she'd visit the Cricket Club. "Osborne would remember her birthday," he recalled. "He called me every birthday after she passed away and say, 'Now Doug, it's Os. I know you're having a tough day but just want you to know I'm thinking about you," and then he'd hang up. He was famous for never saying goodbye. You'd be talking to Osborne on the phone and all of a sudden he'd just hang up."

Photo courtesy Skate Canada Archives

Osborne was perhaps most famous for his driving, which wasn't exactly what you'd call speedy. Doug Haw remembered, "He would never buy a new car. He'd buy a used car. I'm driving one day and I said, 'Oh Osborne, I saw your new car. You need to adjust the seat.' He said, 'What are you talking about?' I said, 'Well, you look like Mr. Magoo when you're driving it.' You could only see his hands on the wheel and his cap. He didn't realize that you could adjust the seat to come up higher... Then we were at Divisionals in Woodbridge. Back then it was that new Underhill and Martini arena, basically built out in the middle of a cornfield. There was a snowstorm. I had been there later because I was coaching Marcus Christensen and was there for the senior men's practice. Osborne had, I think, like a novice lady or something and had been done for two hours or so. I walk in the rink and see Osborne and he's like, 'Oh Doug, you need to help me!' and he's like 'You've got to come to my car.' We get out there and his car was full of snow. He left the door open and I had to literally dig the car out... Also, there used to be a little specialty grocery store around the corner from the Cricket Club called Bruno's Food Market. Osborne, of course, would go to Bruno's and he couldn't parallel park so he'd stick the nose of his car into the parking spot and block one lane of traffic on Avenue Road. He'd go in, do whatever he had to do and sometimes, he'd set his things on top of the car. Well, one day he set his groceries on top of the car, got in the car and drove to the Cricket Club. I came out and said, 'Oh, Osborne, you were at Bruno's.' He said, 'I'm not telling you where I've been!' I said, 'Well, you don't have to because you left the Bruno's grocery bag on top of your car.'"

It's important to note that many of the biggest highlights of Osborne's career in the last two decades of his life, when he was in his seventies and eighties. In 1993, he joined forces with Joanne McLeod, Mrs. Ellen Burka and dancer Gaetan Gingras to choreograph the Ice Theatre of Toronto's first show. In 1995, he was inducted to the CFSA (Skate Canada) Hall of Fame. In 2005, he earned the Skate Canada Central Ontario Section Competitive Coach of the Year Award.

In 1999, Sandra Bezic talked him into performing in the "The Legendary Night Of Figure Skating" at Air Canada Centre. She recalled, "We had the idea to do a number reflecting the life of a skater with Chris Mabee as the young boy, Emanuel Sandhu as the skater in his prime, and Ossie representing someone who had lived a full life in skating. I started with the request to Ossie and he agreed wholeheartedly. But then he backed out at least twice! I certainly understood his nerves. I think his last decline was just a few days before the show and I do remember having many phone calls with him to try to convince him. But I was also feeling guilty for pushing. What if it wasn't a great experience for him? What if he fell and hurt himself? I didn't want to take advantage either. So I left it up to him. We were never certain the number would ever happen.  We didn't have a plan B for his position since he was irreplaceable. Without Ossie the concept was gone. But finally, he did show up for his performance, and he was magnificent!"

On July 14, 2006, when Osborne passed away at the age of ninety, he was having none of it. He had no interest in dying. He wanted his shoes so he could go to the rink. After his death, a who's who of Canadian skating tried to find the words to express their feelings about him. Sarah Kawahara said, "I studied with Mr. C. from six to fifty one years of age. He was my mentor and my friend. He introduced me to the idea that all the arts are related and that figure skating is also an art form. He molded my artistic vision. Never totally satisfied, he would be constantly changing my programs. My movements were in a continual state of evolution. He guided me through my amateur and professional career. Throughout his life I continued to share my personal life with him, as well as my professional career as a choreographer and director. We thought as one." At his memorial, Joyce Hisey read the following remarks by Ron Vincent: "There is no question that Osborne was eccentric. He would not have had it any other way. He may even have deliberately cultivated his eccentricities and sensitivities. He did not wish to be boring and he certainly didn't want to be around people who were. This sometimes led him into some rather bizarre theatricalities of which his colleagues were familiar. He could be quick to judgment [and] dismissive... He seemed to want to protect skating from being taken over by Philistines and in some ways he succeeded. He was vigilant in his protection of the art and if we think about it, I believe that may explain a lot. Osborne's esthetic, not surprisingly, derived from the era of his youth. It was a time when figure-skating was a little bit upper-crust and strangely perhaps, influenced by the glamour of Hollywood as it then was... I, personally, will remember that he was glamorous, that he was grand and that he was a star!"

Though he may not be with us anymore, Osborne will be long remembered, not only for his immense talent and important contributions to figure skating in Canada, but for his larger than life personality. Ask anyone - he was one of a kind.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

A Teenage Toreador: The Armando Rodriguez Story

In Baltimore, Maryland in 1989, Rudy Galindo made history as the first Latino American skater to win a U.S. senior pairs title. Seven years later, he became the first Latino American skater to win the U.S. senior men's title. What many may not know is that decades prior to Galindo's historic wins, a trailblazing Latino skater almost beat him to the punch.

Photo courtesy Sacramento Public Library, Digital Collections

Born February 17, 1932 in Benito Juárez, Michoacan, Mexico, Armando Ramon 'Pancho' Rodriguez emigrated with his family to California via Texas two years prior to the start of World War II. He took up skating after getting an eight dollar pair of skates on his thirteenth birthday. His second time on the ice, he took a nasty fall and damaged several teeth. Rather than give up in discouragement, he traded in his eight dollar skates for a twenty dollar pair.

Armando rose to fame as something of a teenage skating sensation during the post-War era, representing the Capital City Figure Skating Club and training both at Iceland on Freeport Boulevard in Northern Sacramento and at the rink in Berkeley. Though he lived in America since he was a boy, he was a Mexican citizen throughout his skating career.

Left: Armando Rodriguez. Photo courtesy Sacramento Public Library. Right: Bobby Simmonds.

In 1949, Armando won the Pacific Coast senior pairs title with Patricia Quick. The following year, he placed dead last in the junior men's event at the U.S. Championships, eliminated before the free skate even took place. Within two short years, he won the Northern California Inter-Club and Pacific Coast Championships in both senior men's and pairs, the latter with his second partner Barbara Ziem, a talented roller skater. He was coached by Ice Follies skater Bobby Simmonds.

In almost every competition he entered, Armando struggled in the school figures and came from behind with a dazzling free skating performance. He skated with far more 'show biz' flair than many of his rivals, interpreting Spanish themes like Rimsky-Korsakov's "Cappricio Espagnol" and Ernesto Lecuona's "Malaguena" - pieces that were then not the 'old standards' they are today. Sevy Von Sonn heralded his "clever and intricate footwork, his extraordinary jumps and his appropriate interpretation of the music". At the height of his fifteen minutes of fame, he was good friends with actor/skater Tab Hunter.

Winners at the 1952 Pacific Coast Championships. Barbara Ziem and Armando Rodriguez are third and fourth from the left in the top row. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In 1951, Mexican officials apparently submitted nineteen year old Armando's name to the International Olympic Committee. His application to be Mexico's first Olympic figure skater in the 1952 Winter Olympic Games was reportedly turned down because it was submitted late, and an appeal was denied. At that year's Pacific Coast Championships, he put so much into his free skate that he was "completely exhausted at the completion of his program and required the attendance of a doctor. This momentary lapse of consciousness in no way detracted from his desire to skate, as only minutes later he appeared on the ice once more in the Senior Pair event." At that year's U.S. Championships in Colorado Springs, he claimed the silver medal in the junior men's event but won the free skate, defeating future Olympic Medallists Ronnie Robertson and David Jenkins. One judge had him first overall. He also placed sixth in the junior pairs. Shortly after the competition, he was drafted into the United States Army. He served in the Korean War with the 24th Infantry Division in the 26th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion

Photo courtesy Sacramento Public Library

Armando returned to the skating scene in 1954, while on leave from active duty at the Presidio of San Francisco. Having had little opportunity to train, he lost the senior men's title at the Pacific Coast Championships to Tim Brown by one point and placing a disappointing fifth in the junior men's competition at the U.S. Championships in Los Angeles. 

Armando took a job coaching at the Paramount Iceland rink for a time but soon left the skating world behind to run the La Piñata restaurant with his partner Harry, whom met during his skating days. The couple were fixtures in San Francisco's gay scene in the sixties and seventies.

Kenneth Caldwell, who developed a good friendship with Armando and Harry recalled, "Harry had picked Armando up when he lived in a Berkeley boarding house... Sometime in the 1950's, they opened their first restaurant in San Francisco at 1701 Polk Street. Later on, they opened the place at 1851 Union Street, perfectly timed to ride that street’s popularity in the 1960's and 1970's. With their wealth, they moved from a suburban house in Terra Linda to a large house on three hillside acres in Kent Woodlands in Marin County. Their housekeeper came over and said, 'Well, you boys didn’t tell me you all were moving into a motel.' That home was a shrine to 1960's high gay camp, replete with oil paintings of long-dead non-relatives, low tufted couches, golden sheaf cocktail tables, a swimming pool, and at least one bedroom devoted to storing the stuff they bought and didn’t know what to do with. And there were cocktails, lots of cocktails. Armando had perfect white teeth and perpetually tanned skin, and he loved wearing bling, real bling, diamond and gold bling. With a big silk scarf over his balding head and an unbuttoned shirt, he was a gay character from central casting, but still lovable. Harry, who always stayed blonde, managed the money (and everything else that needed managing). Armando's dream was always to be a star, first an ice-skating star and then a saloon-singing star. Many nights we would sit around, get drunk, listen to records, and then listen to him sing. I think he drank to sing."

Armando could often be found on small stages at his La Piñata restaurants, crooning as a lounge singer under the stage name Armando Jones. In 1985, he even recorded a little-known album with H&A called "Live In San Francisco". Perhaps his most memorable performance as a singer came back in his skating days - at the closing Supper Dance Party at Oakland's Athens Athletic Club at the Pacific Coast Championships in 1954. Harry A. Sims recalled, "To show that he is as good at singing as at skating, our very popular young Toreador, Armando (Pancho) Rodriguez, entertained the crowd with a couple of well-received arias."

Recording courtesy Mark Betcher

Sadly, Armando's partner passed away in 2002, and the last his friends heard, he was living in Kentfield in Marin County, California and suffering from memory problems. Though never recognized for his pioneering role as one of the first Latino and LGBTQ+ figure skaters of note in America, Armando certainly should be.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

A Timeline Of LGBTQ+ Figure Skating History


During Pride Season and all year round, Skate Guard celebrates the milestones and achievements of LGBTQ+ skaters! I hope you enjoy taking a glide through the good, bad and ugly of LGBTQ+ figure skating history with this timeline.

Some prefaces to this list:

- It's super important to recognize the fact that life for LGBTQ+ skaters today is absolutely nothing like it was decades ago. Depending on the country/time period, admitting you weren't straight publicly could result in you losing your job and home. You could be harassed by police, institutionalized, chemically castrated or jailed. 
- For every skater I have chosen to include in this list, there are dozens upon dozens more that I haven't. It is by no means a comprehensive listing of every LGBTQ+ figure skater.
- In some cases, I have included skaters who haven't been identified as members of the LGBTQ+ community. I don't know about you, but I think doing Axels in drag is fabulous enough to make the cut.
 - Louder for the people in the back... Whether or not a skater came out publicly during their career is not any sort of 'measure' of their courage or relevance, nor is who came out first a competition. Many were very much out for years before their sexuality ever came to the attention of the media or general public; many more simply couldn't come out for a host of reasons.


1869 - Callie Curtis caused a stir when he masqueraded in Victorian drag as 'Miss Godbout, the lady from New Brunswick' to compete in a women's skating competition in the state of New York.

Jackson Haines

1871 - Jackson Haines took to the ice at Wenceslas Square in Prague, dressing as a woman in one program and doing a little same-sex ice dancing with his Austrian protégé Franz Bellazi in another. Haines' flamboyant performances, coupled with the fact he left his wife and children behind in America, have led some to ponder his sexual orientation.

1905 - Gustav V, then Crown Prince of Sweden and Norway, showed a special interest in figure skating, awarding World Champion Ulrich Salchow a special prize. During his reign as King of Sweden, Gustav V was embroiled in a scandal when the Royal Court paid off a man who claimed he was the King's lover.

1938 - Virginia sportswriter Gayle Talbot complained that Sonja Henie should be "charged with having a made a lot of... fancy Dan's out of this country's ice skaters." Over the years, many gay men skated in Henie's Hollywood Ice Revue.

Bobby Specht

1942 - U.S. Champion Bobby Specht joined the cast of the Ice Capades. Bob Turk got his start with the tour as Bobby's understudy and went on to work as a producer and choreographer for the show. In a 2016 interview, Bob recalled, "Bobby was very, very gay and never tried to hide it. He and Alan Konrad were sort of lovers for a time, but he never really had a lover until the end of his life... He was the sweetest person in the world."

1942 - British Olympian Freddie Tomlins brought down the house with his drag skating act 'The Blonde Bombshell'. The following year, Freddie (an Air Gunner with the Royal Air Force) was tragically killed during an operational flight over the English Channel.

Freddie Tomlins as 'The Blonde Bombshell'

1945 - LGBTQ+ icon Judy Garland attended the Ice Follies in Los Angeles.

1950 - A long-term relationship between two women was an open secret in the figure skating world.

Tab Hunter

1950 - Art Gelien won the silver medal in the pairs event at the Pacific Coast Championships. Gelien went on to star in over forty films under the stage name Tab Hunter. In his 2005 autobiography, he discussed his relationship with 1956 Olympic Silver Medallist Ronnie Robertson.

1951 - Peter Firstbrook won his first of three Canadian titles. A 2018 memoir penned by Gordon Crosland recounted a liaison between the two skaters.

1952 - Armando 'Pancho' Rodriguez won the silver medal in the junior men's event at the U.S. Championships. In 2014, writer Kenneth Caldwell recalled his time working for Rodriguez and his partner Harry.

Photos courtesy University Of Pennsylvania Archives

1953 - The same month he won a pair of silver medals in ice dancing at the North American Championships, Donald Jacoby was arrested on 'morals charges'. A benevolent judge found Donald and his friend not guilty. Bringing men up on "morals charges" and tarnishing their names in the press was a typical tactic of the time to 'shame' young men into 'going on the straight and narrow'. This kind of invented scandal would have no doubt generated a great deal of rink locker room gossip and unpleasantness at the time.

June Markham and Courtney Jones

1957 - Courtney Jones won his first of four gold medals at the World Championships in ice dancing. In his 2021 autobiography "Around the Ice in Eighty Years", Jones recalled, "In sport, in principle, gays did not officially exist until figure skating began coming to the fore after the war, and as this was a cross between athletics and dance, it was realised that possibly some of 'them' could be taking part. However, it was like having a death in the family - you didn't mention it and hid behind your fan... I suppose I was a late bloomer and didn't really come out until I was working and skating in London and  realized that I wasn't the only gay in the skating village; but, even then, one didn’t shout it from the rooftops, as some of the older judges would have had fainting fits." Jones went on to serve on the ISU Council and as President of Great Britain's National Skating Association. His partner Bobby Thompson was a successful ice dancing coach.

1965 - The Winterland arena in San Francisco, established summer home of the Ice Follies, played host to the Beaux Arts Ball where José Julio Sarria, the Widow Norton, was named Royal Empress de San Francisco, Jose I.

Photo courtesy Arquives Canada

1968 - Antique dealer and figure skating coach Frank Thornton was charged with gross indecency. He was arrested when plain-clothes police officers spied on him hooking up in a washroom at the Bloor-Yonge Streets Subway station in Toronto. He faced deportation to the United States but won in the first round of his contestation.

1969 - Boston skating coach and Spiritualist church minister Marion Proctor's book "Figure Skating" made a point of stating that skating wasn't a "sissy" sport. Proctor wrote, "Figure skating does not have to be performed in an effeminate manner... A real man can have exquisite timing and express rhythm and grace, yet still retain or perhaps enhance his masculinity... Our men champions are very male." Tiresome articles along this vein were penned for newspapers and magazines for decades, hardly making LGBTQ+ skaters feel welcome in the sport. 

1972 - Ondrej Nepela won the Olympic gold medal. Toller Cranston later recalled a hook-up with Nepela during the 1973 World Championships in Bratislava in his 2000 book "When Hell Freezes Over, Should I Bring My Skates?"

John Curry

1976 - John Curry won the Olympic gold medal in Innsbruck. At a press conference the next day, a reporter asked him, "Don't you keep getting asked if you're gay?" He replied, "I am." This admission was not included in Associated Press dispatches but made front page news in European papers nonetheless. In a subsequent interview with the "Daily Express", he stated that he wasn't "a militant gay... I don't talk about sex. There is a lot of rubbish about gays being extra artistic. I don't think sexuality has anything to do with sensitivity. For every great gay actor there is one who isn't."

1976 - Toller Cranston faced criticism in "The Body Politic Gay Liberation Journal". In the "Trash" column, an unnamed columnist wrote, "Poor boy doesn't even admit to going down Yonge St... which is taking closetry pretty far for a 26-year-old." Cranston never put labels on his sexuality but described encounters with both men and women in his autobiographies. His wit and flair made him an icon in the LGBTQ+ community in Canada.

Toller Cranston. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

1978 - Unstable religious zealots sounded off on the 'sins of skating'. A reporter for "La Voz Eterna" magazine wrote, "Roller skating or ice skating at a rink where music is played is not a place for a Christian, whether it is a school class party or otherwise. One may try to justify the music by saying: music is played to drown out the loud noise of the skates, but this is not so. This is the voice of the devil speaking. The music here, too, gets under the feet and in the body. Before one is even aware of it, one is listening to the music and unconsciously moving with the music." Though this may seem an extreme example, it is impossible not to consider the role religion has played in the lives of LGBTQ+ skaters over the years. It kept many skaters in the closet and was a driving force behind much of the homophobia they faced. 

1981 - A clip of Toller Cranston skating in his special "Dream Weaver" was included in the film "Taxi zum Klo", which highlighted gay culture in West Berlin.

Michael Seibert, Judy Blumberg, John Curry, Ken Shelley, JoJo Starbuck, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner at the AIDS benefit show "Skating For Life".

1981 - San Francisco LGBTQ+ newspaper the "Bay Area Reporter" published its first mention of 'Gay Men's Pneumonia'. In the decades that followed, more than twice as many members of the figure skating community died as a result of complications of HIV/AIDS than in the 1961 Sabena Crash. Among them, Olympic Medallists, World Champions, coaches, choreographers and ice show stars. These men's stories will be highlighted in detail in Skate Guard's upcoming feature "They Skated Away". 

1982 - Brian Pockar claimed the bronze medal at the 1982 World Championships. 

1982 - Robert Wagenhoffer won his first of two gold medals at the World Professional Championships in Jaca, Spain.

1985 - Toronto teacher and librarian Kenneth Zeller was beaten to death by five youths in Toronto's High Park. The tragedy forced the Toronto District School Board to implement a program to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. In his youth, Zeller was an enthusiastic member of the Stouffville Figure Skating Club.

1987 - Stuart Livie passed away in San Francisco. A veteran of World War II, Livie toured with Sonja Henie's Hollywood Ice Revue and Holiday On Ice in the forties and fifties. His obituary in the "Bay Area Reporter" mentioned that he was "widely known in San Francisco's gay community for his association with the Round Up and Endup bars".

1987 - San Francisco gay bar The Pilsner Inn holds a Sonja Henie lookalike pageant as part of its Norwegian Independence Day Party.

Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall

1988 - Brian Boitano, Brian Orser and Rob McCall won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary.

1988 - America's Mark Mitchell and Sweden's Peter Johansson met while competing against each other at the Novarat Trophy in Budapest. They went on to become an on and off-ice power couple, teaching their Mitchell Johansson Method to a host of champions at the historic Skating Club of Boston.

1989 - In his acceptance speech as USFSA President, Hugh Graham complained of "the mixed image of the sport and the very real difficulty of attracting more participation by young men." The same year, Graham suggested making rule changes surrounding men's costuming and putting a stop to giving men bouquets of flowers on the podium.

1991 - The International Gay Figure Skating Union was founded in New York by Laura Moore and Arthur Luiz. By the late nineties, the Union had members from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Great Britain, Israel and the United States.

1992 – Canadian Bronze Medallist Matthew Hall was one of the first elite Canadian athletes to publicly come out during their competitive career.

Trevor Kruse and Darren Singbeil's program about the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy at the 1994 Gay Games

1994 - Figure skating was included in the Gay Games for the first time. Charles Sinek, the winner of one of the same-sex ice dancing events, went on to win four consecutive pewter medals in senior ice dancing at the U.S. Championships.

1994 - Gender bending programs are favourites with LGBTQ+ fans. Katarina Witt dresses as Robin Hood; Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler trade places in "Patricia The Stripper".

1994 – U.S. Junior Champion Doug Mattis came out publicly and gave two exhibitions during the first Gay Games to feature figure skating competitions. Two years later, his story was featured in "The Advocate".

Doug Mattis and Dorothy Helium

1994 - After leaving a restaurant with a friend, San Francisco skating coach Victor Rohana was the victim of a hate crime. He was followed by two men in a jeep who yelled "You fuckin' faggot!" and shot him. He suffered serious injuries and a fund was set up to assist with his medical bills, which exceeded ninety thousand dollars.

1994 - Fiona Cunningham-Reid's film "Thin Ice" was a romantic drama about two women who joined forces to compete as figure skaters in the Gay Games and fell in love.

Robin Cousins as Frank-N-Furter

1995 - Olympic Gold Medallist Robin Cousins traded his skates for stilettos when he took the stage as Frank-N-Furter in a West End production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". Cousins later married his partner in a civil ceremony. 

1995 - For the first time, figure skating competitions were included in Team Seattle's Annual Gay/Lesbian Winter Sports Festival Slide For Pride. 

1996 - Rudy Galindo won the U.S. senior men's title in San Jose, California. He came out publicly shortly before winning the title. That same year, Rudy was the guest speaker at the 10th Annual AIDS Walk San Francisco.

1996 - A year after the landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that sexual orientation was constitutionally protected under the equality clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Pride flags were displayed at an ISU Championship for the first time, at the World Championships in Edmonton.

1996 - Out skater Jay Kobayashi of Silicon Valley, California won a gold medal at the U.S. Adult Championships in Lake Placid. Kobayashi's skating exploits were regularly featured in the "Bay Area Reporter".

1997 - "Skates Of Pride" was presented at the Ice Theatre Of New York's Ice Rink not long after the city's Pride Parade. Among the performers were Doug Mattis, Angelo D'Agostino and Martin Marceau.

1997 - Jennifer Lyon's "The Strong And The Sequined" made its debut on the RSSIF Usenet newsgroup. It was the first internet skating serial to feature several LGBTQ+ characters. 

1998 - Lorrie Kim launched Rainbow Ice, the first site on the World Wide Web dedicated to promoting LGBTQ+ figure skaters.

1998 – Greg Wittrock introduced his skating/drag persona Whorita to mainstream audiences in the Show Act category at the first American Open Pro Figure Skating Championships. Whorita was prominently featured in Wittrock's ice theatre production "Freezer Burn", which debuted just days before the 2001 New York City Pride Parade.

1998 - "Spectrum On Ice", a benefit for the charity Under One Roof, was held in Oakland, California. Angelo D'Agostino and Don Corbiell's similar pairs performance was a highlight.

Katarina Witt and Brian Orser. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

1998 – World Champion Brian Orser was outed when his former partner sued him for palimony. He lost a legal battle to stop public disclosure. In an affidavit, he wrote that he believed it was "highly likely that if... allegations [that I am gay] were made public, I would not be invited to return to a number of major ice shows. In hindsight, I may have overreacted in trying to protect my privacy."

1998 - Due to sanctioning issues, the figure skating competition at the Gay Games in Amsterdam was turned into a series of "public practices".

1999 - Rudy Galindo made a cameo appearance on the Emmy award winning comedy series "Will And Grace".

2000 - Canadian scholar Samantha King's thesis "Consuming Compassion: AIDS, Figure Skating and Canadian Identity" was one of the first academic works to explore the impact of the LGBTQ+ community in figure skating.

Advertisement for the film "Ma vraie vie à Rouen" 

2001 - Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau's film "Ma vraie vie à Rouen" told the coming-of-age story of a gay figure skater.

2001 - Canadian Champion Emanuel Sandhu appeared on the front cover of LGBTQ+ magazine "Xtra! West".

2003 - "My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet. She's now in a maximum security twilight home in Australia."... Thom Mullins earned a silver medal at the U.S. Adult Championships with a skating/drag performance impersonating the spooky Dame Edna Everage.

2003 - Ben Tyler's book "Gay Blades" was published. The book highlighted the backstage stories and sexual exploits of a skater touring with a fictional ice revue. Reviewer Robert Julian bemoaned, "Trashy gay novels, like the ones Jackie Collins write, pop up everywhere these days."

Cover of Ben Tyler's book "Gay Blades"

2006 – Randy Gardner came out publicly in a feature in the "Los Angeles Times". Gardner later shared his personal story in the documentary "Go Figure".

2006 - Figure skating competitions were included in the first World OutGames in Montreal.

2006 - Figure skating competitions were included in the Gay Games in Chicago. Among the medallists were Edward Vancampen, Franklyn Singley, Amy Entwistle and Josh Figurido.

Jamie Silverstein and Ryan O'Meara

2008 – U.S. Olympian Ryan O'Meara came out publicly. His story was featured on and "Outsports".

2009 - Skate Canada was criticized for messaging about making figure skating in Canada more "tough", in an attempt to attract more young men to the sport. Many perceived this as being anti-gay. Skate Canada's CEO denied any campaign to 'toughen up the sport' even existed. 

2010 - Eddie McGuire and Mick Molloy came under fire for making homophobic comments while working as figure skating commentators for Channel Nine in Australia during the Winter Olympic Games. At one point during the coverage, Molloy said, "They don't leave anything in the locker room, these blokes, do they?" McGuire responded, "They don't leave anything in the closet either, do they?" They described another man's costume as "a bit of Broke Back".

2010 - The It Gets Better Project was founded in New York. In the years that follow, countless skaters share their #ItGetsBetter stories on social media. Few LGBTQ+ skaters made it through their school years without being bullied.

Promotional material for the 2010 Gay Games in Germany

2010 - The figure skating competitions at the Gay Games in Cologne, Germany drew one of the largest entries yet. The winners included Barbara Jaujou and Cecile Husson, Bettina Keil and Andreas Wagner.

2011 - Athlete Ally, a non-profit LGBTQ+ sport advocacy group was founded in New York. U.S. pairs skater Jimmy Morgan, who came out a year later, became one of the group's Ambassadors.

2011 - Mary Louise Adams' book "Artistic Impressions: Figure Skating, Masculinity, and the Limits of Sport" did a fantastic job of exploring issues of gender and sexuality in figure skating.

2011 – The Ice Theatre Of New York had a float in the New York Pride Parade, complete with skaters performing on plastic ice.

2011 – Johnny Weir came out publicly in his autobiography "Welcome To My World". That year, he is named the Grand Marshal of the Los Angeles Pride Parade. A Washington sports writer once called him "relentlessly" flamboyant.

Christopher Mabee, Filip Stiller and Jeffrey Buttle

2012 – World Champion Jeffrey Buttle acknowledged that he was gay publicly in a feature in Toronto Gay Hockey Association's magazine.

2012 – Olympian Matt Savoie married his partner in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

Editorial cartoon from "The Daily Trojan" reflecting on how hosting an Olympic Games in Russia neglected the safety of LGBTQ+ athletes. Photo courtesy University of Southern California Libraries.

2013 – Activists and athletes alike voiced their concerns about Russia's limits on LGBTQ+ rights in the lead-up to the Sochi Olympics. When he was named to the U.S. Delegation to the Games by President Barack Obama, Brian Boitano came out in an unplanned statement. He received words of encouragement from Olympic Gold Medallists Dick Button and Carol Heiss Jenkins.

2014 - Over seventy categories were included in the figure skating competitions at the Gay Games in Cleveland. The winners included J. Scott Driscoll and the ensemble Three Babes and a Blind Guy.

2014 - Blair Braverman's Buzzfeed article "Why Is The World's Gayest Sport Stuck In The Closet?" went viral.

2014 – Daniel Donigan, the last-place finisher in the junior ice dance event at the 2009 U.S. Championships, reinvented himself as the fabulous drag queen MILK and earned legions of fans as a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race.

Eric Radford and Luis Fenero. Photo courtesy "Outsports" magazine.

2014 – Eric Radford came out in an interview with "Outsports" magazine. Later that season, he won a second World title, making him the first openly gay figure skater to win an ISU Championship.

2014 – U.S. Champion and Olympian Russ Witherby and Disney On Ice star turned fashion designer Michael Kuluva tied the knot in Los Angeles.

2014 – The Canadian Olympic Committee collaborated with Egale Canada and You Can Play to launch the #OneTeam initiative. Eric Radford and ally Dylan Moscovitch were named ambassadors to the program which aims to bolster inclusivity in Canadian sport.

2015 - In the lead-up to the 2016 Canadian Championships, the Halifax Pride Committee presented "Queers On Ice", an LGBTQ+ public skate on the Emera Oval.

2015 – Adam Rippon came out in an interview with Amy Rosewater in "Skating" magazine.

2016 - Spanish Olympian Javier Raya publicly came out by sharing a photo with his partner on Instagram.

2017 - Canadian LGBTQ+ Olympian Shawn Sawyer took center stage in Cirque du Soleil's first ice production "Crystal".

Shawn Sawyer

2017 – Olympic Bronze Medallist Timothy Goebel married his partner in Rhode Island.

2017 – Swiss Olympian Jamal Othman and French ice dance coach Romain Haguenauer married in Montreal.

2017 - Skate Canada joined the LGBTQI2S Sport Inclusion Task Force.

Poster advertising a Baltimore screening of "The Ice King"

2018 - James Erskine's brilliant documentary "The Ice King" highlights the story of Olympic Gold Medallist John Curry.

2018 - Fifty-eight medals were awarded for the figure skating events at the Gay Games in Paris. The winners included Alexandra Ievleva, Michael Solonoski and Mauro Bruni.

2018 – Karina Manta came out as bisexual. The following year, Manta and partner Joe Johnson made history as the first openly LGBTQ+ ice dance duo to compete at the U.S. Championships. Their free dance based on LGBTQ+ icon's Annie Lennox's hit "Sweet Dreams" earned a standing ovation.

Karina Manta and Joe Johnson's "Sweet Dreams" free dance from the 2019 U.S. Championships

2018 – Adam Rippon made history as the first openly gay Olympic figure skater from the United States and the first gay man to win Dancing With The Stars. He served as the Grand Marshal of the Celebrity Cruises Pride At Sea cruise.

2018 – Jorik Hendrickx came out publicly in an interview in the Belgian LGBTQ+ magazine "ZiZo". Scott Dyer talked about coming out and his journey as a gay skater on "Outsports".

2019 - Skate Canada implemented its Trans Inclusion Policy "to ensure that Skate Canada has a diverse and inclusive, barrier-free environment where every employee, Board member, skater, official, coach, volunteer, and affiliate organizations of Skate Canada feels valued, respected and supported."

2019 – Timothy LeDuc won the U.S. senior pairs title. They are the first openly LGBTQ+ pairs skater to win a gold medal at the U.S. Championships.

Amber Glenn

2019 - Amber Glenn came out as bisexual/pansexual in an interview with the "Dallas Voice". Rachel Parsons came out as bisexual via a Tweet.

2019 – U.S. Junior Champion Eliot Halverson came out as non-binary in an Instagram post. Two years later, U.S. Figure Skating featured her story as part of its Centenary celebrations.

2020 - The International Skating Union revised its Code Of Ethics to protect skaters from facing discrimination because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics. Previously, the amended article had stated, "Persons subject to this Code of Ethics shall not discriminate in any kind against anyone on the basis of reasons such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, or athletic ability."

Jeremy Abbott's interview on SkateProud

2020 – Olympic Medallists Jeremy Abbott and Guillaume Cizeron came out publicly.

2020 - On National Coming Out Day, Kelly Rippon shared a touching video message for her son Adam through Good Morning America's digital platforms.

2020 - SkateProud chat launched on YouTube and Instagram Live. The videocast presents a series of wonderful interviews with LGBTQ+ figure skaters and allies past and present. Guests included Guillaume Cizeron, Eric Radford, Rachel Nevares, Shawn Sawyer and Amber Glenn.

Colin Ratushniak

2020 – Dancing On Ice star Colin Ratushniak was elected mayor of the town of La Ronge, Saskatchewan. He is the town's first openly gay mayor.

2021 – Amber Glenn made history as the first openly pansexual skater to win a medal at the U.S. Championships.

Left: Jason Brown. Right: Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

2021 – Kaitlyn Weaver, Paul Poirier, Jason Brown and Jeremy Ten came out publicly. Between them, these four fabulous LGBTQ+ skaters won thirty-four medals as seniors at their respective National Championships.

2021 – Six Olympic athletes from France, including Kévin Aymoz, come out at once in the Canal+ documentary "Faut qu’on parle".

2021 - Cordero Zuckerman, the 2010 Pacific Coast novice men's bronze medallist, lip-synced for their life as alter ego Denali Foxx on the thirteenth season of "RuPaul's Drag Race". 

Denali Foxx on ice

2021 - The International Skating Union released its Transgender Policy to address the eligibility of trans athletes in international figure skating competitions.

2021 - U.S. Figure Skating celebrated LGBTQ+ skating history as part of its Centenary Celebrations. 

2022 - The Skating Club of Boston hosted Be Here! Be You!, an LGBTQ+ Skating and Dancing Party benefiting the Boston Children's Hospital Center For Gender Surgery. Among those in attendance were World Champions Randy Gardner and Dr. Tenley Albright.

2022 - Skate Canada updated its definition of 'team' in pairs and ice dancers to be inclusive of partnerships of all genders. As expected, the riffraff came out of the woodwork to spread misinformation and hate about this policy change on social media. 

2024 - Amber Glenn made history as the first openly LGBTQ+ woman to win the U.S. senior women's title.

2024 - In her highly-read memoir "Outofshapeworthlessloser: A Memoir of Figure Skating, F*cking Up, and Figuring It Out", Gracie Gold came out as bisexual.

2024 - The upcoming book "Sequins, Scandals & Salchows: Figure Skating in the 1980s" shines a light on how the AIDS Epidemic impacted the figure skating community in the 1980s. The book also discusses homophobia's impact on the sport at the time.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Lovers In A Dangerous Time

 Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

As we celebrate LGBTQ+ figure skating history during Pride Month, it's extremely important to highlight the basic context of LGBTQ+ rights in Canada. 

In 1969, Bill C-150 was passed decriminalizing homosexuality. At the time, Pierre Trudeau (who was then the Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada) famously said, "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." 

Prior to Bill C-150, amendments to the Criminal Code had been passed under the leadership of two different Prime Ministers (one Liberal and one Progressive Conservative) that framed members of the LGBTQ+ community as "dangerous sexual offenders" and "criminal sexual psychopaths" in the eyes of the law. 

Frazey Ford's rendition of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers In A Dangerous Time"

Members of the LGBTQ+ community could be - and certainly were - harassed by the police, denied housing, fired from jobs, assaulted with no consequences to their attackers, institutionalized, fined and jailed indefinitely... and that's just really the tip of the iceberg.

Things absolutely didn't magically get better in 1969 either - Bill C-150 just meant you couldn't get thrown in jail indefinitely. It didn't mean you couldn't get harassed by the police, arrested or fired from your job, let alone married. 

A glimpse back into the struggles the Toronto LGBTQ+ community continued to face nearly a decade after Bill C-150 was passed. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library.

It wasn't until 1995, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms should be updated to prohibit discrimination by all employers, landlords, service providers and governments on the basis of sexual orientation, that there were truly nation-wide laws in place protecting the jobs of members of the LGBTQ+ community. This gave new protections to skating coaches, whose employment with skating clubs was at times tenuous. This also provided protection to judges and volunteers who relied on day jobs to continue their involvement in one of the country's most expensive sports.

It's extremely important to understand the context of the times when you study history... and consider what life really would have been like for LGBTQ+ members of the skating community. If you were Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer in Canada prior to 1969, you lived your best life underground - at great risk... or you didn't live your best life at all. 'Confirmed bachelors' and 'spinsters' were absolutely a thing... as were lavender marriages. 

Judith Rudd and Alastair Munro

A number of elite Canadian skaters in the 1950's, including Ian Knight, Larry Rost and Alastair Munro, all lost their lives to HIV/AIDS in the 1980's.

Debbi Wilkes and Guy Revell

Olympic Medallist Debbi Wilkes has candidly written about her pairs partner Guy Revell's struggles with coming to terms with his sexuality. Revell ultimately took his own life in 1981.

1955 Canadian Medallist Gordon Crossland's memoir "A Nobody's Dream... Came True" recounted his liaison with Peter Firstbrook, who was Canadian Champion from 1951 to 1953. Crossland also recalled the bullying he went through in school and a potentially disastrous rumour that was spread about him being gay. 

For every sad story that has come to light, there were certainly more happier ones - but most of those were kept quite private... because they had to be at the time. 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":