I’d read a story earlier this week about Australian Olympian, Ian Thorpe’s, upcoming Channel 10 interview, and they’d at least hinted that he’d be coming out. I suppose that it wasn’t really confirmed until today, though, because media outlets only seem to be covering it now. I actually had no idea who Ian Thorpe was before this. I genuinely apologise if this upsets any of his fans. His name sounds vaguely, though, so I assume that I must have heard it before but eventually dismissed it. As such, his coming out isn’t really that much of a revelation to me, and I would have been none the wiser if he’d remained in the closet. I’m writing about it, not so much because he’s come out, but because of every media outlet’s reminders of all the times that he hadn’t come out. Evidently, since he’s been on the scene, Ian Thorpe has continually been asked if he’s gay, but he’s constantly and systematically been denying that he is. Unsurprisingly, very many people have taken to expressing their opinion on the obviousness of the news, shaming him for being in the closet for so long, and, most importantly, denying his sexuality so often that it came off as offensive.
While they aren’t necessarily wrong, I think we’re focusing too heavily on the negative aspect of this situation. I actually believe that this is a very important lesson to closeted homosexuals, be they underage or adult. As great as it would be if we lived in a world where there was no need to hide who you are, we’ve got to understand that we do not live in that world. There are circumstances which prevent certain people from coming out, and if they feel like they’re forced to remain in the closet, they shouldn’t be mocked or scorned, and they’re no less important to the LGBT community as those of us who are out. Not every LGBT individual has to come out when they’re sixteen or seventeen years old. And no matter how “obvious” it might seem to people, you are under no obligation to reveal your sexual orientation if you aren’t comfortable doing so.
Ian Thorpe is in his thirties, he only now felt ready to come out of the closet, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Someone can go the majority of their life not admitting their sexual orientation or gender identity, and only come out when they’re old and grey… and no one should make them feel ashamed of that! To those who are able to come out at an early age, that’s fantastic, and you should absolutely take advantage of the opportunity. To those who cannot, it doesn’t make you a coward or a bad person, and it shouldn’t dictate the level of happiness that you allow yourself to feel and live. When you’re comfortable enough, and mentally and emotionally prepared, you alone will know when it is the right time to reveal yourself to the world.
(UPDATE) In the interview below, Ian Thorpe does admit that he is “not straight”. Again, bravo to him for being able to admit that, and it is something that took courage whether he is 31 or 21.