LOS ANGELES — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) honored Olympic medalist Adam Rippon with its Visibility Award at its gala in Los Angeles Saturday night. 

Rippon was presented with the award, and given an introduction, by his fellow openly gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy. Kenworthy, who received the award last year, praised Rippon for taking on the criticism that comes with being such a visible and uncompromising figure. 

The figure skater made headlines not only for his stunning performances, enough to earn him a bronze medal, but also for criticizing the choice of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the Team USA delegation. He also turned down the opportunity to speak to Pence, saying he felt the vice president should speak to the LGBTQ youth whose lives are most impacted by his and his administration’s decisions.

Rippon has noted how having an openly gay athlete to look up to as a child would have been life changing for him. He said it is in part for this reason that he has teamed up with GLAAD to help mentor LGBTQ youth to become future leaders. 

“When I was little, I used to care so much about what others thought of me,” Rippon said during his acceptance speech. 

“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,” he continued. “I was afraid 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,” he said. 

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He shared that throughout the years he struggled with self-doubt and depression, “living life afraid,” until he heard a quote asking what you would do if you could let that fear go. 

“I remember really hearing it, and honestly asking myself, ‘What would I do differently?’ 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. 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,” he added. “Through my shortcomings, and from my successes, I’ve learned that a champion is more than a medal, it’s a mindset.”

“To all the young kids out there, who may come across this speech online, whether you are gay, straight, bi, trans, or still on a journey of self-discovery; whether you are white, black, or any color in between, there is something you need to know and something we can all be reminded of,” he said.

“You are smarter than you think. You hold more strength than you may ever know. You are powerful. No matter where you have come from, or where you are going to, there is someone who looks up to you and they will find inspiration in your strength of just being yourself.”

“Be a role model, and never forget that you can be someone’s champion. You are a winner. When we all come together, we can change the world,” he continued. “This award belongs not only to me, but also to those who came before me and helped make my journey that much easier.”

Watch Rippon’s full speech below.

Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet...