Ian Thorpe used an interview to come out to the world.
For years there has been much speculation about his sexuality. I’ve always thought that he can be whatever he wants. It’s not for me to decide or speculate about the sexuality of another. I’ve seen a very small snippet of the interview and have read plenty on the internet about it.
Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon – so, me too!
In the 80’s it was impossible for me to come out. I was in a relationship with a man back then and I kept it so very well hidden. We had to.
On many occasions I lied outright to hide my sexuality. I went on to get married and have two kids. I don’t regret any of my life at all. It’s been a tough slog, and looking back I don’t know just how I managed to get to be 50 without killing myself, having a mental illness or addicted to alcohol or some other drug.
My life wasn’t a misery either, mind you. Sure, I had a lot of pressures, a lot of stress but in amongst that I was a devoted husband to my first spouse and a loving father.
It seems that with all that pressure, the release valve was anger. Tomas and Caitlin reminded me of this just the last week.
We have just returned from a fabulous holiday in Queensland. One of the things we did was the theme parks. I was reminded, when we holidayed here many years ago, how angry I got when Tomas didn’t want to take a ride with me, he was frightened of it. Instead of taking the gentle approach I erupted, did some yelling, made everyone feel horrible and stormed off. All a bit silly now. At the time it was an outlet for my denial and frustrations and those closest to me got hurt.
I’m not looking to seek understanding or forgiveness, but I want to highlight just how toxic it is to not be who you are. In my world I recall every homophobic slur and insult hurled my way. Nobody could possibly know I was gay, I didn’t fit the stereo type.
I recall being in Grade 4 and being teased because I had decided to do a school project on flowers. I had cut out pictures of flowers and pasted them into a scrap-book and written an explanation under each image. For this I earned the label poofter. In Form 2 I was again labelled with that classification because I said my favourite song was “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” by Julie Covington. The song was at the top of the charts, so there must have been a lot of poofters around enjoying it too. In Form 4 I was taunted in the change room, accused of being the only one who liked to look at my classmates penises. I was petrified and never looked at anyone in the locker room. Mind you the boy who said it was running around the room with this fingers stretching his penis out trying to impress everyone with its size; and I’m the one being harassed.
Imaging growing up with my dad and having him fling around homophobic taunts and the impact that had on me. My older brothers using gay slurs all the time. It was terrifying and little wonder that a child of the 70’s and 80’s would go to great lengths to hide their sexuality.
I have to say, writing this and re-reading it. It has been bad. Really bad. My life up until my 40’s was a mess. It really shouldn’t be this way for anyone at all. The internal battle that raged within me is way more than a quiet, shy country lad should ever have to endure.
I can only imagine the inner turmoil that Thorpe had. I don’t know his reasons for keeping his sexuality under wraps or why he has picked this moment to come out. Nor do I really care. It’s not my business and of little interest to me. I do know that I can empathise with him and I can only hope that his feels better now. People around Thorpe need to support and encourage him.
I have already written several blogs about how the media continues to use the gay angle to drive traffic and get noticed. The major newspapers have been falling over themselves trying to be the first with the news. One newspaper I saw said in big letters “I AM GAY”, I was rather amused to see men walking around with this tucked under their arm.
The media is still treating gay people as a play thing. On the radio, the TV and in the press Thorpe is all around, along with everyone having a say. You know, it really shouldn’t be newsworthy. In a 90 minute interview was this all he said?
So let me move slightly now to talk about Brian Taylor, a football commentator. On a TV show he called one of the footballers a ‘big poofter’.
If you want to know why sportsman don’t come out, there it is in two easy words for you. Even in jest, the impact of being vilified and made fun of is no fun for anyone. Taylor has sort of said sorry. I’ve read comments on several sites that suggest we gay people are too sensitive, that we need to toughen up. Someone even used the “sticks and stones” line. Essentially what is being said is that if you can’t take being picked on or the language upsets you, it’s your own fault,not that of the person who was just having a laugh.
What’s not seen however, is the impact it has and it doesn’t matter if that impact was in the 70’s or now. It’s the same. Roll it together, I got picked on at school, at home, in the church, I read stories of gay men being jailed. Everyone made poofter jokes and it had a huge impact on me.
I needed someone like Ian Thorpe to be a role model for me. Even now, in his 30’s he is to be admired. It takes courage to tell the world your secret.
The act of coming out is both a release and a new stress. I didn’t have the luxury of saying it to the world, but I know that the uncertainty of telling those you love this very personal intimate piece of information is a challenge. The question is will they still be friends after I tell them?
I do just want to also touch on the fact that he is being accused of lying and hiding his sexuality so that he could make some money. That he also got paid to tell his story. Good for him. If I could make a few dollars from telling my story, I’d do it too. The entertainment industry makes a stack of money off the back of Thorpe – I can’t see why you’d denying him the right to have share of that money. I don’t know how he makes his money these days, but I’d be keen to understand why any sports person in the media spot light should do it for free.
Good on Ian Thorpe. At his own choosing in his own moment he said what he needed to say. I can only hope that it brings him some peace of mind.