Coming out is a weird deal. Initially it begins with a secret that is totally yours. No one knows, although some would guess, that you think guys are hot and you’re a guy unless you tell them. You have so much power over whether people know or not. Further, when you’re keeping the secret telling people always seems to have more of a downside.
I’m thinking about this because the other day a major Australian Olympic star swimmer Ian Thorpe came out on national television. The interview became more about the shame he experienced about being gay and the considerations he had to make before he told anyone. While people have questioned his sexuality for years, he has always vehemently denied these ‘accusations’ (as he says I don’t want to say accusations because it makes it sound like a bad thing) and then at the age of 31 he stops living a lie and tells.
Crazily, if his story is correct, he didn’t tell anyone at all, including his family, until recent weeks. That kind of floored me. A 31-year-old man in modern Australia and he hadn’t come out. These days people probably thing it’s late to tell the first person ever at 20.
In front of Australia on national television a famous man was exposing the difficulties that a gay orientation brings. I also thought that despite all the rah rah from pro-gay groups over the past few decades, at times, for many people, it is still a very difficult thing for them to declare that they are gay even with all the societal support. The moderns would like to pretend that the gay attraction is like an optional extra. You are a person and you have a gay attraction and nothing about your person is different because of this. However, I felt that this interview was a reminder that having gay attractions is probably caused in part by a bit of an unhealthy disposition, and that the secrecy creates more unhealthiness and by the time someone comes out the person is very much changed and impacted by the gay attraction.
Personally, it was encouraging. It put a major face and name to the struggle with shame and secrecy that every gay person faces at some time. It encouraged me to keep seeking ways to be honest with the people I know. Perhaps I will share with my small group in the near future if the appropriate moment arrives.
Some interview quotes from Ian Thorpe:
And also that it’s not appropriate for that question to be asked of anyone. But what happened was I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity. And, a little bit of ego comes into this. I didn’t want people to question that, have I lied about everything?
But I was already living somewhat of a lie in my life because I was trying to be what I thought was the right athlete by other people’s standards. I wanted to make people proud I wanted to make my family proud, I wanted to make my nation proud of me. Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay. But, I’m telling not only Australia, I’m telling the world that I am. And I hope it makes this easier for others now and even if you’ve held it in for years it feels better to lift this and get this out.
But you hear these remarks and things around someone’s career that market ability and things like that kept me in this lie that became a convenient lie for me to not accept it because I wasn’t accepting it in myself. I didn’t want to be gay. But I realised everything that I was doing I still was gay at the end of the day. So, that was most definitely part of it. And then it just was that big lie. That I felt there was a weight with that. And also what people’s reaction was going to be. I was scared.