Words: Steve Brown
Michael Gunning says he has become a better athlete since coming out.
Michael, who was born in the UK but represents his father's native country Jamaica at national level in swimming, joined the E! reality series The Bi Life where he came out as gay.
And in a personal essay in the Metro, the athlete says although coming out on television was ‘daunting’ he has no regrets.
He wrote: “Although it was daunting to come out on television, I have no regrets. Being in that villa of like-minded people who understood what it’s like to feel different was exactly what I needed.
“I didn’t really grow up with many LGBTQ role models – especially in sport – so there wasn’t much out there to help me learn about who I was and feel OK in my own skin.
“Particularly as a black gay sportsman, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me being open about who they are and who they love.
“Seeing yourself reflected in someone else and their experience can be such a powerful, personal affirmation, but for so long I was lacking that.
“Still, I also never imagined that my ‘coming out’ story on the show would have sparked so many discussions within the LGBTQ sporting community.”
And now, Michael – who was honoured with an Attitude Pride Award this year – continued to say that he coming out has had an impact on his performance as an athlete and hopes to carry on fighting to make sport a more ‘inclusive place for athletes’.
He says: “What I will say is that all my friends and family have seen a massive change in my personality because I’m finally owning who I am.
“I swim at my best when I’m happy, and coming from a Caribbean heritage I’ve been given a bigger voice and platform to be a role model.
“I’m now a Stonewall Sports Champion for athletes still competing in their sport. I became a better athlete after I came out because I was no longer worrying about hiding a part of myself from everyone around me.
“My hope, dream and ambition now is to carry on fighting to make sport a more inclusive place for athletes, so everyone can be their authentic selves. Sport, and so many LGBTQ people, will be all the better for it.”