Olympic bronze medal-winning skater Adam Rippon became America’s sweetheart overnight when he captured hearts minds with his flawless performances at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February while also taking on homophobe Mike Pence. On Saturday, the Human Rights Campaign awarded Rippon with its Visibility Award at a gala dinner in Los Angeles, where fellow out Olympian, skier Gus Kenworthy, introduced the fabulously charming and inspiring skater.
“It was such an incredible pleasure and an honor to stand beside him as two out, proud gay athletes representing the United States,” Kenworthy said in his introduction.
Receiving the award, Rippon delivered a hopeful speech infused with plenty of humor about facing his fears, being true to one’s self, and being a role model for all.
“I like to talk about my coming out because Coming out has been the most liberating experience of my life. I hope that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, has their own coming out experience,” Rippon told the crowd of about 1,000 people at the J.W. Marriott. “When you can share who you are with the world you will find great power.”
He then went on to share his story about overcoming fear:
“When I was little, I used to care so much about what others thought of me. I was mindful of the way I dressed, my mannerisms, the way I talked. I was afraid people would think I was weak. I was afraid of making mistakes. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be welcomed by the LGBTQ community because someone like me wouldn’t be the role model they were looking for. Maybe I was too gay and maybe I was just too myself.”
Then, the young man who would go on to skate boldly for his country while embroiled in a stand-off with a vice president who believes in conversion therapy spoke of the moment he broke off the shackles of fear.
“I remember making the choice to be unafraid. I made the choice to not care what others thought of who I was. I was going to be truly me,” Rippon said. “This was the biggest and most important decision I’ve ever made — to live fearlessly, to take risks, to let go of my fear of what others may think of me and to always keep learning. You will find that you will have your greatest success when you wear your scars proudly."
The Olympian, who’s also gotten plenty of blowback from homophobes, especially online, spoke about how to address the haters.
“There might be people who come into your life just to tell you that they hope you fail,” Rippon said. “Be kind to them. They see something in you that they wish they had.”
Recognizing that he stands on the soldiers of those who came before him and that he has the ability to inspire others, he thanked queer pioneers before encouraging all LGBT people to live as role models.
“This award belongs not only to me but to those who came before me and who helped make my journey that much easier,” Rippon said.
Watch Rippon's full speech with Kenworthy's introduction below: