Finnish Olympian comes out: “Finally I can be myself”

Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen has spoken about his homosexuality in an interview with Yle. He said he wanted to talk publicly about his sexuality close to the Sochi Olympic games, because of Russia’s controversial anti-gay legislation.

Ari-Pekka Liukkonen Image: Jarno Ranta / Yle

Ari-Pekka Liukkonen Image: Jarno Ranta / Yle

Liukkonen has considered coming out for a long time, but decided to make his move now to highlight the issue ahead of Russia’s hosting of the winter Olympics in Sochi.

“I wanted to start a broader discussion in connection with Sochi, because it’s sad that the legislation in Russia restricts the human rights of young people and others,” Liukkonen told Yle.

Liukkonen added that the Finnish sporting world was also in need of a more open attitude to sexuality.

“In the future I would hope that elite athletes and other people will not find homosexuality to be any kind of news,” said Liukkonen.

Liukkonen has suffered from mycoplasma for the past two years, but before that competed at the 2012 Olympics in London and took a bronze medal in the 4x50m mixed freestyle relay at the European Championships in the same year.

He is the first gay Finnish athlete to come out of the closet during his active career. His difficulty coming to terms with his sexuality during adolescence is another major motivation for going public now.

“As the matter wasn’t discussed, I tried to forget about it, but during high school I began to accept that I am made this way,” said Liukkonen. “Acceptance hasn’t necessarily been easy, but it hasn’t been horribly difficult either. This has been a long, slow process for me, but now I’m there.”

Liukkonen first told his sister that he was gay some two years ago. Then he called his parents about a month ago, and received a positive reaction.

“My family has received the news positively, and everyone has supported me,” said Liukkonen. “Actually they had already sensed that I am like this.”

Liukkonen’s training partners in Jyväskylä have also received the news positively, and encouraged him to discuss the matter on Yle’s weekend sports show, Urheiluviikonloppu.

“I hope that in Finland we can get to the stage where we don’t need to talk about this anymore as soon as possible,” said Liukkonen. “Homosexuality is the same kind of characteristic as whether a person has blue or brown eyes, or whether they are left- or right-handed.”

“It’s a really great feeling that I can finally be myself,” added Liukkonen.

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LIVE AND LET LOVE – Russian National Anthem

2,000 people of the city of Stockholm gathered at the Stockholm Olympic Stadium to show their support to the LGBT people of Russia and to sing the most beautiful national anthem in the world.

You can do the same, make your own rainbow version of the song and upload under the hashtag #liveandletlove

You’ll find sheet music and lyrics on www.liveandletlove.se

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Thesis: Gay male relations common in pre-war Finland

A new thesis up for review contends that Finnish men were commonly having homosexual relations as far back as the Second World War. The reasons for the same-sex engagements include curiosity, money, passion, a lack of women and inebriation.

A 1934 photo of the Kappeli (Chapel) restaurant and Esplanade park in Helsinki. Image: Yle

A 1934 photo of the Kappeli (Chapel) restaurant and Esplanade park in Helsinki. Image: Yle

In her dissertation, Sandra Hagman contends that sexual relations between men were common before the Second World War and they did not restrict people. The thesis tells the story of modern same-sex romance through the experiences of seven men.

According to the paper, Finnish men were engaging in gay sex for a number of reasons, including curiosity, money, passion, lack of women and drunkenness.

Hagman asserts that such relations were not controlled and relates that in scientific discourse of the day, relations between men were described as “pseudo homosexuality”.

The thesis is based on more than 100 hitherto unexamined court cases, scores of newspaper articles, as well as letters and memoirs.

Gay relations accepted in early 1900s

According to the legal documents sexual relations between men and boys were widely accepted in the agrarian society of the early 1900s.

Hagman claims that the condemnation of homosexuality emerged during the right-wing 1930s. Behind the hardening of attitudes was the spread of the Nazi notion that homosexuality was contagious.

“Pseudo homosexuality became dangerous because of the theory of seduction. Men would no longer desire women once they had succumbed to homosexuality. Once it was accepted that men in the company of men would end up in gay relations, war became a danger zone. And when an entire cohort of reproductive age men were placed on the front, the Finnish nation faced ruin,” Hagman explained.

The researcher said this perception of homosexuality became widespread during the war.

Major impact of seduction theory

Hagman says the role of seduction theory in Finnish politics cannot be understated. Its influence can be seen in the criminal code up to 1999, when incitement to gay sexuality was finally decriminalised.

“On the other hand, seduction theory is very radical sexually, since it implicitly suggests that heterosexuality and homosexuality aren’t natural and permanent states, and that in fact there is a fear that homosexuality might be the more attractive option,” she pointed out.

The dissertation shows that cases of homosexuality were unevenly distributed across the country. The highest number of criminal sentences for homosexuality was handed down at the beginning of the 1950s.

The highest number of sentences per capita occurred in northern Finnish cities. In southwest Finland and Ostrobothnia there were few or no sentences at all. In the peak years in the 1950s half of the cases were in Helsinki, driven by the Olympics, Hagman noted, when authorities felt the need to cleanse the city streets of “anti-social” elements.

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Authors own abstract of her thesis:
Seven Queer Brothers. Narratives of Forbidden Male Same-Sex Desires from Modernizing Finland 1894-1971


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