Olympic gold medal swimmer Ian Thorpe, who came out two years ago, has told Star Magazine that he feels he has ‘something to offer’ young people who may be struggling with their sexuality. His sense of ‘responsibility’ arises from the conspicuous lack of out professional athletes, a void that can be intimidating for young gay athletes hoping to advance in their careers. Thorpe hopes to inspire them, making the professional sporting environment ‘a more equitable place for us all.’
America has this week seen its first openly gay college basketball player competing in the NCAA March Madness tournament. Derrick Gordon, 24, also came out two years ago. When asked about his decision to go public with his sexuality, he told reporters that people had ‘stopped playing their sport because they felt they didn’t fit in.’ He too hopes to encourage young gay sportspeople to think ‘if he can do it, I can do it.’
Not all sporting environments are as accepting, however. There are still no out Premiership footballers in the UK; Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay footballer, committed suicide in 1998 just eight years after coming out. Recent speculation suggests that this all about to change with rumours about the impending coming out of two footballers, one believed to be an England international player.
Words: Rhys Matthews