Thursday, February 22, 2024

In his own words: Terje Haakonsen apologizes to the LGBTQ+ Community

By Terje Haakonsen

Some may wonder why I didn’t do this earlier. And some Don’t know what I’m talking about. Anyways, the only answer is “Yes, I should have”, but I was wrong left and right and felt caught in a catch-22.
“Be careful with what you say, you can’t win anything on the internet” I was told.
And that’s perfectly fine. I don’t want final say, far from, only to make things right.
So in my defense, I have to speak up, even though some of you have said “You don’t get to decide what’s sexist, racist or homophobic.”
And yes, I am terribly sorry for having used the word “gay” as a metaphor for “not cool & lame.”
I have and will continue to apologize for this to the end of my days.
Yet, I have NEVER EVER bashed gay people as a group or individually.
Nevertheless, I know that my former tone and language was hurtful. So this is why I write today – to publicly apologize for using the word “gay” in a condescending manner. I understand now why this is offensive, a micro-aggression and caused pain. I will do my utmost to do better.

I also regret my lame skier joke attempt on Twitter.

One intended pun with the joke “Aren’t all skiers gay” was to question “why all the fuzz?”
Sexual preference shouldn’t even be a topic in the Western World in the 21st century, in my opinion. Also, those who know me well remember that I started out as a skier before to snowboarding. So clearly the joke has nothing to do with picking on skiers.

In my 31 years in the snowboard industry I’ve worked, travelled & shared rooms with LGBTQ+ individuals on countless occasions. I’ve had a blast at every LGBTQ+ wedding I attended. I was warned not to be so old school as in saying I have gay friends. And the mother of two of my children is bisexual.  So if I indeed was a “gay basher”, I must have done an incredible job of hiding it for 27+ years of my career.

I tried for years to fight for athlete’s rights, for safety, higher prize money and that the progression and evolution of snowboarding remains in the hands of the riders, not outsiders with no love for the sport.
I didn’t see anybody else raise questions about Putin’s anti-LGBT laws prior to the Sochi Olympics in 2014, nor applaud Cheryl Maas for riding with rainbow mittens and sticking them into the camera every run.

I’m not from the States, I only learned my English there and I have yet to encounter someone’s who’s visibly homophobic in our industry. Nevertheless, beyond any doubt, I have failed to grasp how hard it is, still to this day, to be openly gay in America and many other places in the world. For this I also wish to apologize.

In closing, I can’t speak for everybody, but in Scandinavia we love the LGBT+ movement.
If there is anything I can do to earn back your trust, one step at a time , please let me know.



  1. What are you doing differently now other than your use of language and recognising that in the past it may have been harmful (albeit not on purpose). I think it’s great to apologise and recognise where we may have taken a misstep, but other than this, how do you think you can help the LGBT+ community going forward?

  2. I use the word “gay” in the same negative connotation, and I am trying not to use it in that way, any longer. Some may say that this isn’t a big deal, but for me to insult my friends that have made sacrifices to express their lifestyle, this is an irreversible attack on them.
    As a young snowboarder you were definitely one of my idols, and to see you take a stance on a “simple” movement brings into light why you are an amazing person and role model; someone I continue to respect and applaud. Now, as an adult, I also need to be a good role model, by taking a stance and leading by example. Thank you for this statement of apology.

    • While you’re at it, stop referring to sexual orientation as a «lifestyle» like it’s something people choose to do.

      • Poor choice of words. I’ve offended you. I feel the same will happen to Terje. He’ll use the wrong words. His apology will be insulting to some; too late and half-assed. There’s no forgiveness for his past actions. He will not appease everyone. And that’s fine, let people be who they want to be. He could have stayed silent and not apologize. He grew up in a different era, where people were flippant with derogatory terms for race, religion, and sexual orientation, but, instead of staying silent, he decided to start a conversation. To help people see the error of his ways.
        I grew up in that same era. Learned these terms from the older kids and they got stuck in my vocabulary. I’m a product of my environment (Think Chappell Show, but the Richard Pryor/George Carlin generation is more of what I’m talking about). I was young and naive. I’ve changed and I’m hoping to help others change, too.
        Thank you for this teachable moment. If I’ve offended you, again, in any other way, please announce it. No judgement, I’m free to discuss.

  3. I get it. I respect that you held yourself accountable. Hopefully you taking some responsibility for any hurt you may have caused will promote constructive positive conversation and healing for everyone.

  4. Good for Terje. It’s not easy putting on the governor in the brain after decades of learnt behavior. That’s how we change the world one mind at a time!

  5. This doesn’t seem like much of an apology, and more of an explanation. You’re sorry you made a joke but also it was just a joke didn’t mean anything by it and oh by the way you’ve never met anyone in the industry that’s homophobic? C’mon man, try again.

  6. Admitting when you are wrong and apologizing is tight as fuck and no one can change my mind. Appreciate your growth, homie.

  7. So much respect to you for coming out with this statement Terje. Sending love and gratitude to you and your fam from down here in Santa Monica 💙

  8. Thank you for speaking your truth, I’ve always had much respect for you as a rider and as a human being on this planet. We all have our flaws, make mistakes, say things without thinking how it can affect others. True growth comes from learning and understanding the world we live in and share with others. In order to get to Point B, you have to start from Point A, and it’s the journey in between that creates the lens in which we see things. Sadly some people don’t even leave Point A. One love my brotha! Much blessings to you and your family, and of course thank you for always being an inspiration. Namaste.. Dave

  9. Burton and everyone just needs to be done with this guy already. This apology is trash. A lot of blame shifting, gaslighting, and thinking that proximity to gayness absolves him of any wrongdoing. Glad you had fun at an LGBTQIA+ wedding, Terje, but you’re still a homophobic asshole who is utterly clueless. Get dropped, learn more, do better.

    • Yeah, let’s throw out a man’a career, achievements and legend status because he was “offensive” in the eyes of a community that feels discriminated even when they don’t have soy milk in a coffee shop.

  10. omg you actually shared rooms with LGBTQ+ people? Wow. What a saint. Get off your high horse and apologise properly. This is a list of excuses. PS if you use the term gay as a negative, you are gay bashing. Do some fucking reading.

  11. Pretty disappointing you feel the need to defend yourself so hard. prejudice is hard wired into society and at one point or another we have all been guilty of it. You can say you love gay people or anything along those lines or that your wife is bi but that doesn’t automatically mean you aren’t homophobic. I used to call things gay and probably said f*g a few times in middle school, did this mean I “hated” gay people? No, never have and still don’t, but was it undeniably homophobic, and insensitive? Yeah, definitely. Just because you don’t hate a group of people doesn’t mean you aren’t racist or homophobic or any other thing. Using harmful language that serves to further alienate or insult groups of people does say a lot about your level of ignorance or inexperience actually interacting w/ these groups of people. Either you aren’t hanging out with these people enough for them to teach you or correct your language, or you know it’s wrong and are smart enough not to use it around them. Anyways, not saying you’re a terrible person and I believe you care about gay rights, but just own up to your mistake fully instead of this half assed denial of accountability. We’re all learning and growing and mistakes don’t make us bad people, the most powerful thing we can do is learn from them, but that takes being vulnerable rather than always defending oneself.

  12. Don’t know what preceded this article, but the writing makes it feel more like an explanation and justification than an apology. It also dilutes the message by linking in the skier thing. Why was this written?

    • that linked article referenced a tweet by terje in response to gus kenworthy coming out a few years back. the tweet has since been deleted but was essentially along the lines of “so what all skiers are gay”. he was trying to be funny but failed hard and years later seemingly out of the blue is half assed apologizing for it.

  13. My wife’s bisexual. I went to a gay wedding. I stayed in the SAME ROOM (gasp) as LGBTQ+ people.. Holy shit it’s Mother Teresa reincarnate. No one cares dude. Just stop being a douche?

    Oh an using the word gay as a negative is not a micro-aggression. It’s homophobic.

  14. Terje no need to apologize for living and speaking like everyone else at the time… years later everyone has progressed their awareness and daily actions just like you… we’re all in the same boat! You’re a hero for pioneering, progressing in snowboarding and obviously in life as well. Never apologize for busting on skiing tho, I’ve snowboarded and skied since seeing you at your first US Open at Stratton and we know better than anyone both sports are a joke haaa

    • There might not be a need to apologize, Jason, if all it was was speaking like everyone else at the time, but that’s not all it was. Terje has continued to speak like that for a long, long time. He has continued to call things “gay” for YEARS after being called out publicly and privately by everyone else in the sport, including other pro riders. Where most people recognized their words were offensive, Terje knowingly continued to be a bigot.

    • Hey, we all actually haven’t been in the same boat, J. While a bunch of homophobic and sexist straight dudes have either been actively using slurs and statements of sexual violence on NS, or engaging in that community as a passive bystander, a lot of us have been feeling like we are shameful and unwanted for being lgbtq+ skiers. And straight white dudes affirming straight white dudes’ blatantly self-victimizing and half-hearted apology doesn’t make it any easier. Accountability breaks cycles of behavior. If you guys actually held yourselves accountable to your negative impact on the queer community (and women, and BIPOC, and neurodivergent people, and disabled people, and fat people, etc.), you would do your own research to understand how your actions/inactions perpetuate cycles of bigotry and oppression. And then you would do something about it.

  15. I don’t believe denying you were a gay basher is correct. Using the word gay to say something is uncool is in fact gay bashing

  16. The root cause of the whole problem is the mental illnesses that make people think it’s natural to be attracted to the same sex, which is not your fault, Terje. No need to apologize.

  17. Hater will be haters… You have not just been a defender of the sport of snowboarding but also humanity and mother earth. Just for the use of a word they want to silence you… come on man. Keep on fighting. A champion is always challenged and will always win!

  18. I remember this episode well. As a fellow Norwegian, I remember thinking some of the intended context got lost in translation. Being gay in Norway is probably very different from say, many places in the States. It’s easy to take for granted what we have here. Several top politicians have for the last twenty (?) years been openly gay, our current minister of health, for instance. Same with our most popular celebrities. We are generally a secular society where one of the biggest events of the year is the Pride Parade, where most top politicians go dancing side by side with the LGBTQ community. Many of our friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members are openly gay and appreciated for who they are.
    With all this context, I as a Norwegian took Terje’s meaning as a (typically for him) cocky “yawn, so what – big deal, who cares if you’re gay or straight”. As in “what’s so special/ different about that?”. 
    This being said, though, the way it was read by many has undoubtedly caused harm, and I am glad he does this. 

    • Colonialism is strong with americans, they can’t accept the fact that there is a world with a different and much more happier context, EU in general and Nordics in particular are light years ahead of US in the matters of happiness and inclusivity.

    • I have never been to Scandinavia, but I am extremely confident there is homophobia eveywhere. I grew up in a major city in Canada (Winnipeg) at a time when we had an openly gay mayor, Glen Murray (almost 20 years ago!). And we in Canada have many openly queer politicians (including senior cabinet ministers), as well as an awesome amount of people of colour in politics, particularily from the South Asian community, who contribute immensely to the functioning of our country. Despite all of that, when you ask people of colour if there is racism in Canada, the vast majority do not hesitate in saying yes. And when you ask queer people if there is homophobia in Canada, we also are adamant that homophobia is still extremely common. The United States is an odd place, and I won’t deny that they have a long list of social problems, particularly with physical violence, but to say that anywhere in this world is free from bigotry is to bury your head in the sand. Take it or leave it, but if you think your country is free from homophobia I’d suggest you to reach out to LGBT advocacy organizations in your area to help be an ally. You will find there is much work to be done.

      • Colonial imperialism in its purest form) your cultural context is your own and not universal, and your practices are not exemplary, the level of violence in americas is disgusting, your reactions are somewhat close to PTSD, it hurts that you don’t acknowledge how hurt you are, but try to impose your vision on to much happier people, on premises that you know better, but you don’t

      • it is preposterous, lazy and counterproductive to claim an absolutely harmless person homophobic, when the real issue is that nobody knows how to disentangle homophobia in muslim migrant communities from the anti-migrant narratives.

      • Or how to disentangle homophobia from christianity in Poland or Hungary, where majority of catholics are also extremely homophobic and also ultra-right and pro US and anti-migrant

  19. Ridiculous that you had to apologize for that. People have become way too soft. It’s pretty gay.

  20. “I’m not from the States, I only learned my English there and I have yet to encounter someone’s who’s visibly homophobic in our industry.” Hahaha that’s hilarious. Does the name David Lesh ring a bell? What an incredibly lame “apology.”

  21. I recommend the old film “Double the Trouble, Twice the Fun” to every human. It’s an artistic, documentary style, simple look into some of the social politics of being compassionate to people who are inevitably biased against by not being in the majority, here with the combination and conflict of the LGBTQ+ community and the physical disability community.
    Pratibha Parmar, director. England | 1992 | 25 minutes
    I’ve never seen a documentary deal so poignantly with the reality that we all need to be more sympathetic, and also that being on ‘a high horse’ about one perspective is going to unjustly compromise a life view that is fair to others among us. –That should probably include the nature of our language and humor to be expected to ruffle some feathers without really being offensive, while we all are evolving our mentalities from past biases, nurtured or ‘natural’.

  22. “In my 31 years in the snowboard industry I’ve worked, travelled & shared rooms with LGBTQ+ individuals on countless occasions. I’ve had a blast at every LGBTQ+ wedding I attended. I was warned not to be so old school as in saying I have gay friends. And the mother of two of my children is bisexual. So if I indeed was a “gay basher”, I must have done an incredible job of hiding it for 27+ years of my career.”

    this is in the same vein as “my best friend(s) / significant other is black so I’m not a racist”. sorry but that doesnt fly.

    “I’m not from the States, I only learned my English there and I have yet to encounter someone’s who’s visibly homophobic in our industry. Nevertheless, beyond any doubt, I have failed to grasp how hard it is, still to this day, to be openly gay in America and many other places in the world. For this I also wish to apologize.”

    perhaps ignorant americans taught you english, but you’ve been a speaker for a while now so you know what the words that you say mean. if i was taught an equivalent slur in norweigan… id stop using it once i understood its connotations.

    maybe you’re being genuine, maybe you’re just apologizing because your job is on the line. but either way your instagram comments section is a hot stinking homophobic mess of hatred and exactly what LGBTQ skiers and riders have to deal with far too frequently, on and off the mountain. but you wouldnt know because *you’ve* never seen it or experienced it. of course.

  23. What unlearning activities have you done to better understand LGBTQ+ communities, and in particular, in the area of micro-aggressions? I think gaslighting the queer community by saying you have never met anyone in the industry that’s homophobic qualifies as a micro-aggression, don’t you think? It sounds to me when people try to tell me there is no sexism in my sport (skiing) and it immediately fuels me with anger because the consequences of societal sexism has dominated most of my days on snow, and in life.

  24. I am sorry to admit this, but I started to read your apology skeptical of your true intentions.

    I admit that this passionate (and I feel honest) attempt to right the use of some misguided “banter” shows you in a way better light than before!

    Appreciate it that you have laid yourself open to the internet and to allow the LGBT+ /snowboarding community to respond.

  25. I’ve commented on the response also and just to reflect the idea here also. As a society we expect that most people behave, are not bullying, are inclusive and don’t discriminate. The reality is that, to various degrees, this will always happen. It’s human nature. So what Terje said this ? Maybe his apology was not sincere. So what ? What’s expected ? Maybe this expectation is the problem.

  26. Bending over for the woke craziness is quite gay and as a skier from Telemark i loved the joke now i’m worried snowboarding is turning gay too.. only us snowskaters left

  27. Honestly, should have got some PR advice from someone with a diversity and inclusion background before he put this out into the world. Did anyone else read this before he published it?!?!

    • Honestly, wouldn’t you rather read the raw truth than some puff ball b.s.? Believe me, Terje was given lots of advice about this letter, but at the end of the day, he chose to remain authentic to himself. This is snowboarding, it’s fun and we all know it, but even snowboarder legends are real, imperfect people too.

      I am very proud to have hosted this conversation and look forward to many more in the future.

  28. Where’s Terje’s follow up Q&A? This feels like a half arsed apology and now he hasn’t answered any of the Qs that people have asked it feels disingenuous and like it’s some kind of tick box exercise.

    • Hi Derek, it’s in process. Terje time moves slower than Internet time, but we will all end up in the same place.

  29. I’m just so tired of everyone being so damn sensitive and participation awards/trophies,………………. the world is becoming so lame and boring……………..

  30. I feel like the industry is making an example of you. It’s not fair. There is a language barrier as well, I feel like you expose isn’t understood exactly how you intended. It’s unfortunate. I know you are a good person and I wish that you weren’t thrown under the bus as you have been.

  31. Apology accepted. You were always cool with me at the Mount Baker banked slalom, even though you’re switch stance run was 10 seconds faster than my regular.

    A gay snowboarder
    Sean Atwood

  32. I didn’t realise Homosexual people owned the work Gay. Gay also has another meanings if the uneducated homosexuals of this world care to read a dictionary. I’m sure it was a joke all the politically correct morons need to stop worrying about things like this. If your gay your gay. No one gives a f#ck. Straight people couldn’t care less what you do behind closed doors. Do you guys care what straights do behind closed doors?

  33. I remain a huge fan. You remain an inspiration to me – the reason I started snowboarding. As a gay snowboarder I was not offended by your tweet (found it today!). I understand others might be. My proud daughters + ex-wife joke with me and say “Dad – that’s so gay”. We learn from our mistakes. It’s how we grow on our life journey. Too busy enjoying the remainder of my life.

  34. One word crucifies someone in today’s world? Cancel culture is trash! It’s sad living in a world where a word hurts an entire generation cause they can’t take a joke! Sounds like we are leaning back towards a world where people like Hitler, Mao and Stalin are back in control. Everyone does what we say or it’s not right! Sounds like fascism, socialism and communism is living strong in America!… To the younger generation start getting mentally tough or fuck off. The world is a tough place meant for tough people and the weak can’t handle it! Keep on shredding Terje and don’t listen to the noise. The Native American trusted a government, so did the Germans, so did the Russians and the Chinese. Look how that shit turned out for them! All the kids nowadays wanna forget the past and start anew but what they haven’t learned yet is that all the integration doesn’t make them different it makes them the same! I don’t wanna look at a person walking down the street and they look just like me I want them to have different features, different skin tone, different ideas of what’s right. That’s the true vision of we are all different! Learn to deal or get out. For those who don’t like this post get off your phone and read a book, I know it’s tough to not trust Google but try it some time, it might open your eyes!

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