Gus Kenworthy is gay.
Recall my obsession with the Winter Olympics; Gus was just one of the many athletes I crushed on, even more after he became known as the hero to the Sochi stray dogs.
I always fantasized a fun, athletic, good-hearted guy like this could be into guys, too, but figured that was wishful thinking for an athlete in extreme sports.
I was shocked to see the headline today about Kenworthy. Reading his story, I was more struck by how similar it sounded to the way I've felt the last several years:
Worrying about being accepted by friends and colleagues.
Enduring offhand homophobic remarks and internalizing it as personal judgment.
Wanting to be like the rest of the guys but always feeling different.
Living a double life of lies and deceit.
Being weighed down by dishonesty and fear.
Wishing to have a man there as open support.
And finally, the FREEDOM and LIGHTNESS of letting it all go.
My journey has been tough and it's still not complete (I'm still not out to my mom=extended family and thus I try to keep a lot of stuff off social media so something doesn't inadvertently get back to her), but it's somewhat comforting knowing there are even high-profile guys like Kenworthy who have struggled with the same path.
I peeked at some of the comments about his story on ESPN. Not unexpectedly there were the typical homophobic or the "WhO CAreS?" comments. I found the "who cares" comments to be more interesting. While I'm sure heterosexuals with no interest at all in the LGBT community find the stories about the latest homosexual who comes out to be tiresome, they are so critically important to the countless out there struggling with their own truth.
Much in the way one might not notice sexism unless dealing with sexists, or racism unless facing racists, or religion, or whatever the discriminatory flavor of the day is, homophobia is still blatantly/subtly pervasive and we still need guys like Gus to show that it's normal to be gay.
Interestingly, while I prescribe to the notion that we, as gay individuals, are more than our sexuality, it does undeniably make up a huge part of our identity. Ask any gay person if being/still being in the closet has somehow shaped who they are, and you'd find a liar if they said no. Straight people have had the luxury of never having to think twice about their sexuality; for some of us, it's something that bores on our mind relentlessly.
I am so happy that Gus Kenworthy has chosen to come out publicly. I hope that he can take joy in now being able to be his authentic self and continues to welcome the role of being a public role model to so many who may still be scared to take those steps towards being weightless.
"I am gay.
Wow, it feels good to write those words. For most of my life I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself. Recently though, I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m proud to finally be letting my guard down.
My sexuality has been something I’ve struggled to come to terms with. I’ve known I was gay since I was a kid but growing up in a town of 2,000 people, a class of 48 kids and then turning pro as an athlete when I was 16, it just wasn’t something I wanted to accept. I pushed my feelings away in the hopes that it was a passing phase but the thought of being found out kept me up at night. I constantly felt anxious, depressed and even suicidal.
Looking back, it’s crazy to see how far I’ve come. For most of my life I’ve dreaded the day that people would find out I was gay. Now, I couldn’t be more excited to tell you all the truth. Whether you've suspected it all along or it's a complete shock, it’s important for me to be open and honest with you all. Y’all have supported me through a lot of my highs and lows and I hope you'll stay by my side as I make this transformation into the genuine me - the me that I’ve always really been.
I am so thankful to @ESPN for giving me this opportunity and to Alyssa Roenigk for telling my story to the world. I think about the pain I put myself through by closeting myself for so long and it breaks my heart. If only I knew then what I know now: that the people who love you, who really care about you, will be by your side no matter what; and, that those who aren’t accepting of you are not the people you want or need in your life anyway.
Part of the reason I had such a difficult time as a kid was that I didn’t know anyone in my position and didn’t have someone to look up to, who’s footsteps I could follow in. I hope to be that person for a younger generation, to model honesty and transparency and to show people that there’s nothing cooler than being yourself and embracing the things that make you unique. Click the link in my bio to read the full story and keep your eyes peeled for the Nov issue on newsstands soon!"