Being my first post for this new blog, a part of me is sad to start off on such a negative tone.
The reason for me starting off with a post about the whole Thorpe coming out drama is because I have been a bit jilted by what has occurred since he made the decision to come out to the world. Namely, how we still judge in such a fickle manner.
At first, I wont lie: I was the epitome of the rolling-eye’d cynical fickle gay guy, when news reached my jaded ears of Ian Thorpe’s coming out to the world in a Parkinson interview.
I hate being that person, but I feel that I have been among the masses of those people who supposedly ‘knew’ straight up [pardon the pun] that Ian Thorpe, illustrious and talented athlete, and champion of our dinky little nation, had to be gay.
Going through life in the closet up till 20, in my case, then resetting as it were and living openly as a gay man, one tends to fine tune their ‘Gaydar’ as our secret compass to the world. The slightest nuance, gesture, example of body language would set off those inaudible klaxons in my head, that yes, this specimen must be of the gay. How one speaks, ones inflection etc. These aren’t enough to go on per se, but you could see in his eyes in this case, both on tv or in print, that there was pain and conflict there in those eyes. For years I touted to all that yes, he is, I’m sure his PR team will decide on a date for him to come out once his lucrative sponsorship deals run their course.
The guy designed pearl necklaces. For men. I shit you not. I’m not sure he got the joke, but this was a joke that I would find oh so terribly funny. The fact that he may not have got the joke made it even funnier. Obviously, starting a jewellery line does not equate being gay, rather enterprising and entrepreneurial, but as I restate, I can be at times a harsh critic, both of myself and others. This is something I’m trying to work on, with varying degrees of success. I’m no Joan Rivers or Kathy Griffin yet.
My thoughts were mainly how he or anyone could go through life lying and denying, and that if he in this case didn’t come out at some point he would be very unhappy and unfulfilled. I knew what it was like to deny oneself of their sexuality. I couldn’t imagine waiting ten extra years to do it. But then, some people have growth spurts in different areas of life it seems. Since coming out, I had always taken strength in the act of coming out, to friends and family and proving myself to this at times fucked up world.
But I forget. I didn’t have an amazing talent. Besides being able to walk on my toes, or being able to absolutely DOMINATE a game of Civilization or two. I didn’t have the world watching me through an invisible magnifying glass, or an apparently quite conservative family background [my dad grew up in 60’s Rome, when life was all smoking cigarettes, not eating food, skinny suits and psychedelic freak-outs]. I also didn’t have sponsorship deals, or expectations from society. You can’t be a fantastically capable athlete AND be gay, right? The only openly gay athlete back in the 90’s when I was growing up was Ian Roberts, a veritable mountain of a man, the epitome of brute masculinity, yet who was still pushed out of the sport he played inevitably.
Having seen the proverbial shitstorm that has erupted over this seemingly constructive, non harmful yet brave gesture of honesty and strength and overcoming depression [something which I know all too well], and also reading certain tweets by certain Sydney-based media and sports personalities, my mental process did a complete 180. The main crux [gosh I love and adore that word, almost as much as corollary] wasn’t that he was, in fact, gay. It was in short the fact that ‘we all knew’ and that it was ‘news to no one’.
The most poignant and hurtful example was by a Sydney-based media personality. A fellow who I won’t name, but whose self-assured visage graces a certain morning show on Channel 10, and whose crisp tones graces a radio show. A neat, short, compactly composed and arranged tweet by this fellow, helped changed my opinions. And I thank him for it. In short, he stated that, quote:
‘Good on Thorpie for coming out as gay. Although if he really wanted to shock people he should’ve said that he was straight’.
…Really? The thing that hurts me most is that I have met this fellow a number of times, the first being ten years ago in the heady days of 2004. He was dating a friend of my friend, and we would all hang out in a flat on South Dowling Street. He seemed sweet, affable, friendly, and yes outspoken. But in a good, upright and righteous sort of way. He was quirky, would wear only second hand clothes, and would be riotously funny. A cack, if you will. What happened? The machine churned him through and spat him out, giving him a giant blowhorn, an even more giant ego, a book deal and re-editing him to have no sensitivity. And also giving him a proclivity for saying stupid shit without realising the consequences.
A bit like an ageing rock star or punk rocker who lives to be misunderstood, and tries to be outrageous, yet is making a fool of himself at family do’s.
I’m sure he never had to go through school being called a fag or poof for one. Those words hurt, and have driven many young people to depression and suicide. Or constantly being on guard to maintain some sense of being like the rest of the school cohort.
I’m sure he never had an orange thrown at his head [which I know do as part of my daily skin regimen thanks to Aesop’s citrus-y goodness], as I was an apparently easy target. Until I surprised everyone by throwing the guy that threw said orange against a wall.
Society expects gay and lesbian individuals who look, act and fit the stereotypical image of ‘Gayness’ to be open and out. Everyone gay has to be camp, smooth skinned, tanned and be a florist or hairdresser. Lesbians inevitably must be butch and handy. The amazing thing is, those who don’t fit those norms, like a hyper-masculine man, or a feminine woman, are objects of awe and jaw-dropping. ‘How can he be gay, he’s a plumber and is 6″7?’
This guy isn’t like that. You can tell a that Ian Thorpe appears to be a quiet mild-mannered and yes maybe sensitive individual. He’s not a musclebound beardy-jowled man’s man.
Rather, he’s like me and most other gay men: 3 dimensional, and not a cardboard cut-out of homosexual norms.
This isn’t good enough. Not for society. He’s too gay it seems, and he is not allowed to come out in this point of his life as ‘everybody knows’. I’m sad and ashamed to have been one of those that thought this. But now I realise the crap the guy must have gone through to get to this point:
1. Being thrust into fame at a very young age.
2. Being the hero of the day for a whole nation at such a young age.
3. Possibly having negative thought processes in which he wouldn’t let himself identify as gay as evidenced by points 1 and 2, which may well have led to depression.
4. Million dollar sponsorship deals where maybe it wouldn’t be a great idea to be openly gay.
5. Conjecture here but his family is reportedly quiet conservative, and wouldn’t take it too well.
I want to finish up soon before I blow a vintage 30 year old 1984 gasket, and I’ll end with this: It’s not easy going through life as something that has traditionally been seen as negative and persecuted. It’s not easy having absolutely no role models to look up to, and to not know your place in the world. It’s not easy going through school, having family dramas about it, friends not speak to you. Now times that a hundred and imagine what it would be like for that guy.
We all need to do a 180 on this, like I did, and just be happy for the guy. And remember. He doesn’t give a f*ck what you and I think.