PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — It was a small peck on the lips. What it meant was anything but minute.
As he prepared for his slopestyle skiing run at the PyeongChang Games on Sunday morning, Gus Kenworthy shared a kiss with his boyfriend, Matt Wilkas, that NBC broadcast during its coverage throughout the United States.
The reaction from the gay community was clear: In an Olympics that already has featured figure skater Adam Rippon’s star turn as a critic of Vice President Mike Pence, Kenworthy’s kiss is another moment of pride for a tight-knit group with a goal of widespread acceptance.
“I think it’s positive. I think it’s great,” Wilkas said. “I think exposure to that is a great thing for our community. But also part of me thinks, well, big deal. It’s the tiniest kiss in the world. I could’ve made out with him if I had I known.”
Wilkas laughed, delighted to share in even the smallest moment that could mean something to gay youth and others who embrace inclusion.
While Kenworthy didn’t realize the kiss was being broadcast, either, he was happy it was – because it was four years in the making.
“That’s something that I wanted at the last Olympics – to share a kiss with my boyfriend at the bottom – and it was something that I was too scared to do for myself,” said Kenworthy, who came out in an ESPN story in 2015. “And so to be able to do that, to give him a kiss, to have that affection broadcasted for the world is incredible.
“I think that’s the only way to really change perceptions, break down homophobia, break down barriers is through representation. And that’s definitely not something I had as a kid. I definitely didn’t see a gay athlete at the Olympics kissing their boyfriend. And I think if I had, it would’ve made it a lot easier for me.”
Kenworthy’s disappointing finish — he flubbed his three runs in the finals and would up 12th following a silver medal at the Sochi Games — didn’t put a damper on the kiss. Tyler Oakley, a friend of Kenworthy’s and an LGBT activist, saw it as simply another moment in the slow march toward equality and the Olympics as a perfect platform for it.
“Every time I go online and I see what the community has to say about Adam and Gus, it’s incredible to see us all come together and celebrate something,” Oakley said. “Especially at a time when so much of the news is bad news. It’s good to have something to come together, rally around, to celebrate and un-ironically champion.”
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