Ice dancing, the traditionally heteronormative sport that relies on dance teams consisting of one man and one woman, is getting a little more diverse this year. Partners Joe Johnson and Karina Manta made history in Detroit this weekend at the U.S. Figuring Skating Championships as the first openly queer ice dancing team.
The pair both came out separately in October. First, Manta came out as bisexual in a public video dedicated to her girlfriend.
Manta said, “I’ve been with you for a whole year and I wanted to say thank you. Mostly thank you for being here even though I’ve made your love my shadow.” Johnson had not been in the closet, but was not open about his sexuality until he talked about it publically for the first time in October. Johnson described his and Manta’s relationship to Outsports, “We were best friends long before she came out, and being with her through her process of self-actualization was incredible. For the last year we’ve been talking through our different personal experiences as a man and a woman, someone attracted to more than one gender, the stereotypes we’ve had to overcome, the importance of visibility weighed against the desire for privacy, etc…. I’ve learned so much from her, and she’s become herself so gracefully. I’m so proud of her.”
In Detroit this weekend, the team staked to “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics in a routine that relied less on traditional gender norms and was a looser, less traditional interpretation of a typical couple’s skating program. The queer team ended up in 7th place and received a standing ovation from the audience.
“On the ice, you want to be seen as an athlete, but it’s also super important to us that we are visible queer athletes,” Manta told ESPN.