Over the weekend, Ian Thorpe, one of Australia’s most well-known athletes of the last two decades, came out. After being hounded by rumour for years and denying it, Thorpe
admitted acknowledged* in an interview he was now happy to call himself gay.
The saddest thing in the entire saga, of course, is that Thorpe felt he had to deny it for so long. Many of us who are gay go through a period in our lives where we deny our sexuality and our true feelings, and in that Ian was no different – except his experience was compounded by being under such huge spotlight as a sporting celebrity with corporate sponsorship.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the entire saga though is the huge chorus of gay men flouncing around decrying, “who cares!?” or worse, that Thorpe was somehow a huge betrayer of gay values by having not come out sooner – as if his use-by date on outing himself had expired and he therefore owed it to the community to stay closeted for life.
At best, it’s a case of tall-poppy-syndrome, though in its most extreme, it speaks to that self-bigotry that can occur in many of us: a resentfulness of those who struggle to go through what we’ve already gone through.
Sure, while in the closet, Thorpe denied he was gay. That’s what being in the closet is all about.
We spend so much of our time getting frustrated with a world seemingly full of people ready to judge us, too often are ready to stand in judgement over our brothers and sisters.
Until we learn to be more accepting of those around us, we can hardly expect others to be accepting of us. Like it or not, to be otherwise is tantamount to being a homophobic queer.
It’s been pointed out to me I should have used ‘acknowledged’ rather than admitted. A bit of an idiosyncrasy of mine, I don’t see any emotional or guilt-related baggage to ‘admit’, but I’ve changed the word in recognition that acknowledged would be the more conventional word to use there.