Australian Olympian Swimmer Ian Thorpe Comes Out as Gay

Thorpe

Australian Olympian swimmer Ian Thorpe comes out of the closet in an interview airing tonight on Australian TV, the Daily Telegraph reports:

After years of personal struggle, Olympic hero Ian Thorpe has bravely revealed he is gay.

The 31-year-old confirms his sexuality for the first time Sunday in an exclusive interview on Channel 10, telling all to veteran British interviewer Sir Michael Parkinson.

It’s understood the interview, which Parkinson has described as one of the best he has ever conducted, includes a full admission from Thorpe that he is gay despite having dated women in the past.

In the emotional sit-down shot last month, Thorpe also details the years of depression he has battled while denying his sexuality from the world. Part of that concealment included his own autobiography This Is Me, published in 2012, in which Thorpe wrote that he found questions about his sexuality hurtful.

Thorpe's sexual orientation has been the focus of the media for more than a decade, since the 2000 Olympics. Staying in the closet in the public eye for so long has to be incredibly damaging. Hopefully he's found some peace.

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Comments

  1. danielmendeswho says

    Ian Thorpe? The guy who practiced denial as an art form for over a decade, to the point where it bordered on being offensive how annoyed/depressed he would get with the question? Who knew.

  2. Edward says

    At the risk of sounding insensitive – MAJOR YAWN zzzzzzzz. No one I know in Sydney was even vaguely interested if was Gay.
    Great career achievement, stellar athlete back in the day but he is such a bore. Seriously he already unintentionally announced his Gayness when he designed that pearl necklace and promoted that butch piece of jewellery with his face covered with black lace -seriously Google it. Oh and everyone bought the story that the hot Brazillian male he was sharing a house with was just his ‘college roomie’.

  3. says

    Good on ‘im. This guy must have NO support system, no healthy friends who might have supported him in coming out, earlier. I’m sorry that whatever kept him closeted was so effective and so predictably damaging. I hope it get’s better, now, for him.

  4. says

    His story is vitally important because it points to something that people continue to ignore: just how insidious anti-gay prejudice in our culture still is. We still have grown adults terrified of coming out – of people knowing that they’re gay, of even “acting on” their attractions and being themselves. in 2014.

    when we come out, the most important thing we can do is be specific about the factors that kept us Closeted. the fears, the pressures, the drummed-into-our-heads-as-children prejudices and rhetoric that leave so many in our community grappling with forms of internalized homophobia, even years after they come out.

    a story like this is relevant – because it shows how intense a culture of prejudice is.

  5. Anony6 says

    I remember him saying that the most hurtful thing about the gay question is that no one ever took him for his word, he felt like his character was being questioned if everyone always assumed he was lying . Fast forward to today… Wow. I’m glad he’s come to terms with his truth. I hope this will be the cure of his long time depression.

  6. anon says

    I’m guessing the autobiography, the public appearances and the coming out interview are all an attempt to revive his otherwise dead showbiz career. Does he still have an agent and a promoter? Does he think he can do product endorsements after so long out of the spotlight? Does he think there’s an Ian Thorpe brand of some sort? Most Olympians don’t have allusions of grandeur and fade into oblivion once their athletic careers are over, but somehow Thorpe got it into his head that he could stay famous and not have to work for a living. We don’t even hear about Michael Phelps anymore–the world was shocked to learn that a guy who spent every hour of the day in the swimming pool was very immature at best–a much better candidate for lasting fame.

  7. says

    Good for him. I’m a little surprised as I thought he had done this already but it is good he has finally found courage to be open and honest. The reason I thought this had already happened is that he recorded a video clip for Australia Day in 2012 or 2013 which apart from being lively and fun was pretty gay in tone.

  8. cameo says

    For 31, he’s looking kinda rough. But then again, years of anxiety, depression and stress can do that. But good for him for coming out. The healing can finally begin.

  9. Jim says

    Any time anyone public comes out, for any reason, it’s a cause for celebration. Just remember that back in 2000, only 14 years ago, there were very few out athletes still competing – who? I can’t think of any. No Jason Collins, no Michael Sam. Thorpe would have had it all to himself. These things take time. Thorpe obviously didn’t have the support system at the time. He will be a good ally and role model. Those who criticize his past denials and timing – well, we can’t all be like you.

  10. says

    JIM – those criticizing him can put their face and names to their comments and show Who They Are. Right? Meh – those who criticize are likely still living with one foot in the closet, themselves.

    this coming out puts into context the lies of his autobiography – and putting those lies into context is what’s needed in culture: i’ve had enough with “i’m gay” stories – i’m more interested in “here’s why I was closeted” ones.

  11. Regina says

    So the profits pendulum for him has finally swung towards confirming rather denying his sexuality. Hopefully better health and happiness accompanies it.

    And hopefully he spends the next decade helping to undo his legacy of the last decade which taught us that being gay is a shameful secret.

    Coming out is fantastic, yes – but not a process that is somehow immune from critique or discussion.

  12. Blake says

    He was 15 during th Sydney Olympics – I don’t think anyone here, myself included, has any idea what it would be like to be under international Olympic-level scrutiny at that age. And get asked to answer questions while still a teenager that many adults struggle with when much older. I for one am giving him a pass on the “it’s about time” criticisms and will simply with him health and happiness.

  13. Marksgv says

    At the peak of his fame, being openly gay would have been a huge detriment to his career and potential earnings. No wonder he learned to stay in the closet. While acceptance has moved fast in the West, consider, that in 2008 Matthew Mitcham is the only non Chinese man to win gold, all the while being openly gay, and the public and media had to question why no company would sign him up. That kind of response would certainly reinforce the mindset that Thorpe developed. He is free, now, and that is wonderful.

  14. MikeInSanJose says

    It’s easy for folks to sit anonymously behind a keyboard and judge a celebrity’s thoughts and feelings and criticize their course of action around choosing to come out. Obviously, everyone sitting behind a keyboard knows EXACTLY how it feels to be gay in a world that is still only SL-O-OWLY accepting the fact that gays exist and are human, where celebrities, in many cases, are counselled to keep it hidden or ruin their careers. Pragmatist or activist isn’t always an easy choice.

    He’s not the first to cling to the closet long after everyone “knew” – anyone remember Ricky Martin, Anderson Cooper, Jodie Foster?

    But now that he has, it’s so heartwarming to see the “Gay Community’s” response – ever-so-bitchy and condescending when, though the celebrity finally did what we thought they should have, they failed to do it on OUR TIMETABLE.

    Well done, Ian! Trust, the detractors are the noisy ones. You have TONS of true support in this new phase of your life!!

  15. oncemorefeeling says

    The entire world has known he was gay since he first appeared on the scene, so any harm he could possibly have suffered was happening anyway, while any good he could gave experienced slipped through his fingers, so clearly this had nothing to do with reality.

    His denial was a personal problem he’s been having all these years.

    It’s awful that you can have everything you ever wanted and still not accept yourself.

  16. ratbastard says

    Nice. If you are in the ‘closet’, the professional gay community will hound you, even if you haven’t done or said anything anti-gay or homophobic. Isn’t that special.The gay community has it’s own soviet who are the ultimate arbiters of gayness. And this same community wonders why depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even suicide are such a problem among homsexuals.It isn’t all based on external hate or oppression.

  17. Regina says

    It’s very easy for folks to decide that zero discussion or analysis is allowed. Rather ironic given this is a ‘comments thread’.

    Hope Thorpe is happy. But he’s left an unpleasant legacy (whether he intended to or not) of denying your sexuality. Plus he’s an independently wealthy white male Australian living in Sydney. Coming out will probably boost his finances now. Relatively decent odds, whole world considered. Perhaps there are others needing our support more.

  18. says

    What regina touches on is worth discussing – and i hope HE discusses it. the choice to pen an autobiography, before one is ready to Tell The Truth – to use said autobio to further a lie.

    the best gift he can give himself now is the sharing of truth – we were ALL closeted once. many commenting in here are STILL closeted, or living with one foot in the closet. when we share the specifics, the fears and pressures, we inspire not just other LGBT people to come out, we show the Straight Community what it mean to be closeted, and why so many struggle with breaking out of it.

    there’s a difference between a Ricky Martin “not commenting on his sexuality” and others who vehemently deny being gay.

    those who deny help to end Closet Culture when they get specific about the pressures they felt, and where those pressures came from.

  19. Carson says

    Ricky Martin went a bit further than “not commenting on his sexuality”. When interviewed by the Spanish-speaking media, he discussed fake relationships with women.

    At least, Thorpe never did that.

  20. Philippe says

    Either way the glass closet perpetuates the very culture of LGBT disenfranchisement that these celebrities fear. It also feeds into public perception because unfortunately society at large is obsessed with the celebrities (hello, Towleroad).

    We don’t see (or didn’t used to see) a lot of LGBT people in the public sphere, production companies and corporate sponsors would pass over them assuming we didn’t want to see them, celebrities would stay in the closet, and the people at home would happily continue to believe that gay people are this strange “other” who play bit parts in the background of normal life. And round it goes again.

    So when people like Ian Thorpe come out I’m happy for them on a personal level, but at the same time can only muster tepid acknowledgement for the whole coming-out spectacle. It’s kind of like politicians who come out in support for LGBT policy after they’ve already left office. So you’ve run the numbers and concluded that discovering courage won’t damage your capital as much anymore, good for you- have a nice brunch, I guess.

  21. Gr8guyca says

    I like the last photograph. It looks like he is literally in a closet.

    By the way, in all of the comments, no one has mentioned Greg Louganis,
    another swimmer who also came out years ago. Hey, any guy who spends most of his time in tiny Speedos – and the desire that sparks in every gay guy in the vicinity – must have some possibility of being gay.

  22. JackFknTwist says

    So why all the obvious denials……
    Australia is a rough place for many gay guys but Thorpe had the fame and the cache to face them all down. Staying in the closet must have cost him grief and pain and almost bereavement.

    but as far as I know he never spoke against us.
    He is no Ken Melman.

    @ LEMMYC :
    I totally agree, Gaydar exists.

  23. jjose712 says

    Well, this makes sense. It would be absurd being questioned about your sexuality again if you have nothing new to add.

    And it’s pretty obvious that staying in the closet had damage him a lot, so coming out now has perfect sense, like a new start from zero.

    I’m pretty sure he will be critizise for the denial all this years, but i think it’s good to remember that he never made homophobic remarks, and it’s good to know that he became a celebrity at 15, and sports is not exactly a wellcoming enviroment for coming out.

    I think if people forgot Ricky Martin or Wenworth Miller (who in every interview talked about his search of the perfect woman to create a family), people forget him too.

    Hopefully this will be only the beginning of the process to get well. He is a legend of swimming and deserves some happiness after so much struggle

  24. Pulliam says

    Pretty funny to read that he put out an autobiography “This Is Me” and left out the part about being gay. This reminds me of one of the most pathetic and despicable closeted public figures, Richard Simmons. This turd makes a living doing anti-gay minstrel comedy. I remember leafing through his autobiography some years ago. Didn’t buy it of course, just wanted to see if he said anything about his romantic life. I found nothing. This guy writes an entire book about his life and pretends that it is perfectly normal that he never had a single intimate relationship with anyone.

  25. says

    Considering an out and proud Australian Olympian named Matthew Mitchum, Thorpe obviously found his continued closetedness to be embarrassing.

    But as Little Kiwi says the real story is what his life was like in the closet. Very painful I’m sure. I hope he writes about it — at length.

  26. AZXPAT says

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and by your own “tribe.” Why would anyone want to publicly identify themselves with such a spiteful , judgmental bunch of bitchy queers?

  27. Merv says

    There’s a big difference between keeping your personal life private and blatantly lying about it. As several people pointed out, he blatantly lied about being gay in his autobiography in 2012. He could have just not addressed the question, but he chose to lie. For someone in his position (independent, financially secure, retired from competition), I have a problem with that.

  28. jason MacBride says

    A vivid reminder that, while being gay is not always easy, being in denial is much, much harder. I wish the best to Thorpe in his new, and we all hope happier, life.

  29. Ottomatik says

    Give me a break. This guy constantly denied his sexuality for years and years…
    Now you’re going to give him praise. Please.
    Like it really matters now. What an idiot. Who cares if this nobody(now) comes out. What is he good for at this point? A Lifetime movie? F-U, Mr. Thorpe!!!

  30. Carson says

    “For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight. I’m attracted to women, I love children and aspire to have a family one day … I know what it’s like to grow up and be told what your sexuality is, then realising that it’s not the full reality. I was accused of being gay before I knew who I was.”

    That is what he wrote in that “autobiography” in 2012. I hope this deeply disturbed man is getting help. One public confession is not a cure-all.

  31. stick says

    I knew I could count on a lot of mhy gay brothers to make snide comments about him. And I was not disappointed. Why must so many gay people try to be so cynical about everything?

  32. robroy says

    Ughh- are we really going to pretend this guy is a nobody? He is now the most successful out athlete we have give or take Louganis who seems to not merit discussion. And the real sad part is that when he became famous as a teen he never got the chance to step away or transition to another place and realign with his sexual identity. Its easy to judge but who the hell on this board was a worldwide phenom when they started e looting their sexuality????

  33. R says

    I think it should be noted that a lot of people who have been commonly suspected or thought of as gay have done so in ways that didn’t put gay people themselves down — people like George Clooney, NPH, etc.

    Many of those people end up being gay, many of them don’t… but all of them I think deserve a lot more respect as humans because they didn’t fall into the trap of spreading bigotry as a way of “proving” oneself straight.

    There’s a reason why some of the most homophobic people end up being gay themselves. I’m not saying Thorpe descended into quite that level, but the statements he made over the years trying to assure people of his ‘straightness’ could easily have been seen by many LGBT teens and kids in Australia as a validation of homophobia, not equality.

    I’m glad Thorpe is coming out. He deserves credit for that. But unfortunately I can never suggest putting him up there as a leader — and not because he didn’t come out early, but because in trying to stay in the closet, he said and did things that were hurtful to the LGBT community.

    Hopefully he can turn that around and become more of a leader on LGBT rights issues today.

  34. AZXPAT says

    Christ on a cross! Do any of you have any empathy whatsoever about what it means to be human, and fallible? About what it might feel like to maintain a public image? And how that image might develop a life of its own? Dude needs a warm, accepting embrace, despite flaws. Not a pillory.

  35. OberonOZ says

    Regina: FYI Ian Thorpe turned 18 in October 2000 and was therefore not 22 at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney [which were also not a decade ago :) ]
    As for Ian Thorpe, I think pretty much everyone was sure he was gay, regardless of what he said about it. Most everyone I knew, if the subject came up, was sure he would come out someday. Im glad he has, not because of some perceived benefit to the community at large, but because he has seemed so very unhappy in the last 5 or so years. I hope this allows him to live a much happier and more relaxed life and to find love and happiness. While I dont ever feel that Thorpe put down being LGBT or was ever negative about us in any way [other than denying he himself was gay] I do think it will be much healthier for him to be able to relax now. He looked so tortured when Parkinson asked the question! Sad. Who knows what he might have been able to achieve had he been able to be honest with himself and the world.

  36. Kath says

    Ian Thorpe is 31 now, which means that he was only 16-17 at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He may have looked like a grown (gigantic) man, but he was a kid who was being asked questions about his sexuality that were totally inappropriate. I found it odd that he continued to deny his orientation for so long, but I guess once he was on the record he felt the need to stick to the story. From his interview with Parky, it doesn’t actually sound like he’s ever been in a relationship with a man, which is incredibly sad.

  37. Kath says

    OberonOZ: you beat me to it re: Ian’s young age in 2000. It is sobering to realise that in this day an age, coming out should cause someone so much torture. I hope he is pleasantly surprised at how much support he has – especially here in Australia.

  38. Regina says

    OberonOZ: yes, you’re right, thanks for correcting!

    Azxpat: Doing one ‘good’ thing doesn’t mean not reflecting or taking responsibility.

  39. Wilberforce says

    I never judge anyone about coming out. People have careers, and they have unique circumstances that only they understand. So only they are qualified to make the decision.
    Self-righteous queens, who’ve never lifted a finger to help others, or to stop HIV, need to feel better about themselves by pretending that their own coming out was some great leap for justice. Part of that is dissing others.

  40. Ben says

    Good for Ian Thorpe. I wish him the best. It’s worth noting that in his coming out interview, Thorpe states that he did not start discussing the issue with family and friends until two weeks ago, and that he really did date women previously. So I don’t think it’s fair to classify this a case of saying “I’m straight” to the media, while privately living an openly gay life. His He clearly struggled with his sexuality for a long time, and it caused him much psychological grief.

    Coming out is something you have to do for yourself. You don’t know Ian Thorpe personally. He owes you nothing. Let me repeat that: NOTHING. Certainly, his 20s would have been a much happier time for him if he had come out in 2000, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t ready. That choice belongs to Ian, not to anonymous internet trolls who sit around criticizing him.

  41. JackFknTwist says

    You guys are giving Thorpe a lot of grief for
    “lying about his sexuality”.

    But lying about being gay/not gay is very very different from acting against your own tribe, a la Melman.
    Thorpe was just saving his own skin; Melman was throwing us under the bus.
    I hope he has a great boyfriend to help him through this.

  42. Joseph Singer says

    People need to lay off giving him schit for coming out now. He does not “owe” coming out to anyone except himself. People come out when they are ready. Mind your own business.

  43. stranded says

    @ Little Kiwi.

    Hi. I usually agree with you on a number of subjects but are you sure Thorpe was lying? How does anyone make sure that he was not genuinely into women at all? Is sexuality only “black or white” to you? Sorry but we need to stop assuming what goes on inside someone’s head.

  44. TJ says

    Congrats to him!!! Everyone who is criticizing him, please step back and remember that coming out is a unique and personal process. He said he wasn’t gay for years, and to him he wasn’t. Is it possible that he didn’t understand his feelings and attractions, who are we to judge, is there a benchmark for coming out? If so, who created it?

    I truly hope the man finds happiness as he looks like he is still “wrestling” but things. I actually feel for him!

  45. says

    I think he definitely has his issues, but then again, who doesn’t? I’ve always thought he was hot and I’m glad that he’s come out. I wish him well on the next chapter of his life.

  46. RW says

    On some sites Ian Thorpe has been condemned for lying in the past; for not coming out of the closet earlier etc. etc.
    Just a few points.
    1. Coming out of the closet while still in the public eye would be too daunting for many people as it was for Ian Thorpe. Add depression to the mix and it became near impossible for a long time.
    2. Why aren’t straight people made to “come out” with their sexual preferences like gay people?
    3. In the US (still within living memory) after WW2 there was HUAC (the House of Un-American Activities). The Communist witch hunt that dragged hapless victims before it demanding that they sell themselves and their friends down the river were confronted with this question: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
    I’m sure you can see where this is going. Fast forward to 2014 and the question that is constantly demanded of gays (sometimes by gays themselves) is eerily familiar: “Are you now or have you ever been a homosexual?”
    We still have a long way to go.

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