The 31-year-old Australian Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer just announced he was gay after years of denying it.
Straight up: I feel a bit annoyed about Ian Thorpe.
So here goes. I have a real problem with Thorpie’s “coming out” parade. The worst part is: I don’t even really know why I feel this way. I’ve tried to be happy. I’ve tried to be cool and act like it doesn’t matter, but something still bothers me.
I’ve sat and listened to people talk endlessly about how brave his interview was. I agree. How proud we are of him. I agree. How no one really cares that he’s gay and that we should all just leave him alone. I don’t agree.
And then these feelings bubble up. This sort of uncomfortable, indigestion-inducing anger and I can’t quite put my finger on why it keeps happening.
So, let’s get this straight (pardon me). As a lesbian, I’m thrilled we can add another member to the club. Tall, handsome Thorpie. One of the best swimmers the world has ever seen! What wonderful news!
Something still bothers me, though.
Is it maybe his constant denial on the subject? A little bit. But don’t get me wrong, there is a huge part of me that can understand it too. Being forced out of a closet you didn’t even know existed. Expected to answer questions you didn’t know how to, all under the blinding glare of the world’s media at 15 years old would have been traumatic. I wouldn’t have told either. In fact, I would have just packed up my swimmers and gone home.
However understandable his denial was at 15, the lie continued well into his adult life. All the way into his memoirs, where he went on the record as not, in fact, being gay at all. So something that was actually no one’s business (which it really isn’t), suddenly became everyone’s business. I mean, why say anything at all?
The money he received for his interview. Maybe that’s what bothers me the most. For being paid to be brave. To sit comfortably in a television studio while Michael Parkinson gently coaxed the information out of him. Maybe that’s what bothers me the most. Why though?
I think it’s because millions of gay people worldwide do it every day. Without the fanfare, without the money and most times, without the incredibly welcoming reception Thorpie got. I certainly didn’t get $500,000 and a proverbial “hug” from Australia. I, too, was dragged out before I was comfortable, and met with a devastatingly critical reception that forced me back into the closet for two more years.
So yes, Thorpie, good on you for being gay. I am happy and I am proud and I honestly don’t think it’s anyone else’s business. I hope you can finally live a peaceful life.
For the rest of the gay men and women across the world who are giving “coming out” some serious consideration, best of luck!
Even though you don’t get to announce it to everyone at once on national television, I’m sure you’ll be great. Know that you’ll have plenty of time to perfect it too because you’ll no doubt need to do it every single day of your life.
Every time you change jobs, every time you get a new friend, and sometimes, even to strangers on the street. You never know what kind of reception you’ll meet and you might be fearful for your life at one or all of those times.
Good luck, my brave comrades!
Sally Tysoe is a writer and digital communication specialist. She works as a corporate writer during the day and is an avid, armchair bigfoot hunter by night. She lives in Brisbane with her daughter.