Australia | Hockey | Sports

Hockey Star Gus Johnston's Emotional Coming-Out Video

Watch this video, AFTER THE JUMP, in which (the rather good looking) Australian ex-hockey star Gus Johnston speaks at length about coming out, failing to come out, and the culture of machisimo in the sporting world.

Johnston released his 12-minute vid last month, and it's just now getting some attention from the the Sydney Morning Herald, in writer Nicole Brady's excellent feature on LGBT people in Australian sport. Brady writes:

By coming out, Johnston joins an exclusive club of elite Australian athletes. In our sports-obsessed nation, in which it is estimated 10 per cent of the population is homosexual, it is telling that only three other elite male athletes have come out: Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham, Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski and rugby league player Ian Roberts.

For lesbians the landscape is even more sparse. Of Australian women who have played sport at an elite level, only former Olympic cyclist Michelle Ferris has publicly talked about being gay.

... Sport is the last bastion of public life in Australia in which same-sex attraction is kept under wraps. The last closet in which it is safer to stay silent than speak up. Elite Australian athletes who are gay or lesbian mostly play it straight.

Johnston's video seems to have been recorded off-the-cuff, but in it he's astoundingly erudite. He plainly feels broken up about not coming out before his retirement from hockey last year. Says Johnston:

For twenty years, I worked extremely hard to become the best hockey player I possibly could -- but also to be the best man I could be ... So I fought and worked very hard to build a reputation that would provide a role model for others. [But] I never once stood up to anyone who spoke about someone behind their backs -- talking about someone who they thought was a lesbian or talking about them in a joking way ... I never stood up to my teammates ... So I'm complicit.

Johnston speaks movingly about his love of hockey, and the seemingly irresolvable tension between his devotion to his sport and growing sense of himself as a gay man. Seeming to choke back tears, he says:

It never crossed my mind -- it was never an option in my mind that I would ever leave the sport. But when you're 25 and you're afraid and you're lonely, and you don't have anyone to talk to, and you feel like there's no escape from that ... then, it's not something tht I'm proud of, but for a long time, there would barely be a week that would go by when I didn't contemplate taking my own life.

Johnston included his email address at the end of his video, and according to the Herald, received many hundreds of notes congratulating him on his fortitude in posting his video.

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...


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  1. This reduced me to tears. What an inspirational man.

    Posted by: Patrick | Oct 22, 2011 3:45:22 PM

  2. A lovely statement from a lovely man.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Oct 22, 2011 4:19:01 PM

  3. Very powerful and touching. It's only a shame he didn't feel he could be out before.

    Posted by: Chris | Oct 22, 2011 4:40:09 PM

  4. I wish peace and happiness for Gus. Such a great guy!

    Posted by: javo | Oct 22, 2011 6:06:15 PM

  5. Interesting story, but terrible writing on the blogger's behalf. Seemingly seeming? Come on.

    Posted by: Lill | Oct 22, 2011 6:12:49 PM

  6. Oh dear, so lovely, straight from the heart. I hope all the best to his life.
    I admit, many feelings he went through I have also gone.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Oct 22, 2011 7:30:52 PM

  7. Video=good. The blogging=not good at all. Why do you have to introduce the video by saying: "in which (the rather good looking)Australian ex-hockey star..." Does it have to be qualified as a video of a good looking guy to make it seem worth watching? Can't the guy have comments worth listening to even if he is unattractive or average looking? That qualifier ruined the whole story for me and amkes me slowly begin to disrespect this blog.

    Posted by: ajjanthony | Oct 23, 2011 1:26:31 AM

  8. On this site looks are everything. Witness the drooling over the career of Brandon Flowers, despite his rabid Mormon lifestyle & contributions to many homophobic causes sponsored by his Mormon Church.

    Posted by: Von Lmo | Oct 23, 2011 5:15:44 AM

  9. Oh come honest...wouldn't you rather read/watch something with a hot guy in it?

    I certainly would, and I very much like what I feel is a good balance of posts on this blog.

    Towleroad informs & entertains. If it were just one or the other, I probably wouldn't read it.

    Posted by: Chris | Oct 23, 2011 6:29:16 AM

  10. Very moving stuff, and I'm glad to have it all distilled for me in one place.

    I do love this blog, although it seems to have taken a recent step down in elegance. The writing used to be a little more formal with fewer cutesy comments. Now they're more conversational and a little sloppy.

    Posted by: Rob | Oct 23, 2011 7:38:21 AM

  11. I agree that comments on the person's looks have nothing to do with this story. Especially since physical appeal is so relative and inconsistent. Let's leave shallow assessments to those commenting.

    Posted by: Ronny | Oct 23, 2011 10:35:13 AM

  12. I personally don't think he's that attractive, but I wouldn't beat towleroad over the head for mentioning, in passing, that he appeared to be "rather good-looking." What's wrong with complimenting someone?
    The post was about his achievements and his journey, not his looks. I'm fine with that.

    Posted by: EnzoInOmaha | Oct 23, 2011 2:21:14 PM

  13. @ ROB : i can't agree. Any blog that uses "fortitude" is good for me !

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Oct 23, 2011 2:29:33 PM

  14. I've been reading towleroad for nearly eight years. Andy's writing style is clean and clear - familiar and comfortable. I appreciate the different styles of his guest and weekend bloggers, too. This weekend I've been particularly pleased. Brandon, in my opinion, is an excellent writer. Good work!

    Posted by: Miles | Oct 23, 2011 2:35:17 PM

  15. This was not an easy statement to make, give him great credit for what seemed to be a very difficult for him. We should all wish him well and allow his life move forward in a very positive way.

    One thing I did wonder has he had any contact with the former team mates and is there friendship between them at this time.

    Posted by: EJ | Oct 23, 2011 6:38:34 PM

  16. Only the most courageous of men admit they are afraid.

    A stunning film, to say the least.

    Posted by: WebHybrid | Oct 23, 2011 7:31:52 PM

  17. @EJ I certainly have had contact with my former team mates. In fact 24 hours before I posted this video on youtube the entire team met with me, where I spoke to them in person and then showed them the film. Out of respect it was so important for me to share it with them personally.

    The immediate response was varied, but in the following hours, days and weeks it has been resoundingly positive. I've never felt so much love.

    The whole process has profoundly effected us all I think and our friendships are immeasurably better for it.

    Thanks for everyone's interest in my story, it's very touching. (Whether you think i'm good looking or not! I'm looking at you ENZOINOMAHA :-p ) Lot's of love!

    Posted by: Gus Johnston | Oct 24, 2011 7:12:45 AM

  18. Wow! That was brilliant.

    And yes, you are stunning. Both inside and out.

    Posted by: AllBeefPatty | Oct 24, 2011 9:37:56 AM

  19. Wow, a demi-celebrity drive by commenting... :)

    Posted by: ColinATL | Oct 24, 2011 10:11:19 AM

  20. Let's again recognize that the LGBTQI community is a microcosm of the many, many minorities or types who struggle daily with prejudice and disfavor: people who are obese, or not "obviously" good looking, or shy, or scholastically slow, uninterested in sport, etc., etc. While it's normal and acceptable for individuals to want to elevate themselves in some way, there are more and less acceptable ways to do so. Any way to do it that degrades or injures another is simply unacceptable. The belief, among some, that status is a zero sum game (i.e., that one can't acquire status without another losing it) is a myth that we must combat if we are to learn to live in a productive and open society.

    Posted by: Chuck Mielke | Oct 24, 2011 1:02:02 PM

  21. @VON LMO: So true, and I've been saying it for a while now. Take the gay soldier that came out when DADT was repealed for example. If he didn't look like he'd be attractive(the muscles), before he showed his face, he probably wouldn't have gotten any attention.

    And now for my comment on this, I applaud his bravery, but I do wish someone MAJORLY active in Sport would come out

    Posted by: Bryan | Oct 24, 2011 3:31:07 PM

  22. I think it's smart for sports people to wait for retirement before coming out. If not, they could be badly injured by homophobes on the field, ending their careers. It's not fair to expect that of them.

    Posted by: Wilberforce | Oct 24, 2011 6:27:45 PM

  23. Very moving video, thanks for sharing. However, the author omitted a prominent Australian athlete who is LGBT. Rennae Stubbs, a Grand Slam champion in doubles tennis, is openly lesbian.

    Posted by: Ted | Oct 27, 2011 11:49:04 PM

  24. Don't forget sports great, Dawn Fraser, came out, even though years after her career and marriage.

    Good on this guy. Yes he's cute and yes, more should come out, cute, ugly, famous, or less famous

    Posted by: GAS66 | Nov 24, 2011 11:05:50 AM

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