Ian Thorpe, despite his humble demeanour, is probably figures very familiar with making history. He is Australia’s most successful swimmer, with a slew of Olympic medals as well as world records. He revealed to Michael Parkinson that he was gay and made history. Last night by becoming Australia’s most prominent gay sportsperson.
Thorpe, a 31-year-old man, would have witnessed significant changes in his attitudes. Toward homosexuality throughout the course of his adult life. He spoke with Parkinson about the homophobia he experienced at his high school. For all men and the effects it had on his life as a teenager. He also mentioned being subject to homophobic verbal abuse, even before he came out as gay.
Thorpe’s announcement that he is gay suggests that he believes Australian society has improved significantly in recent years. Maybe Reverend Fred Nile’s tweet, which stated simply, “You are champion. That is all that matters,” is a confirmation of his rightness. He is a conservative politician who is well-known for praying for the Sydney Mardi Gras in the 1980s.
Are Openly Gay Public Figures Important?
Together with other researchers and the National Library of Australia I am part of the Australian Lesbian. And Gay Life Stories oral historian project. To find out what it was like to be gay or lesbian in Australia. We are interviewing 60 men and women. We have realized how important openly gay public figures are for many of our lesbian and gay friends as we go along.
Many Australians over 50, especially those born before 1940. Remember feeling isolated growing up, and homosexuality was largely hidden from the public. When asked what the most significant changes they have seen in their lives regarding homosexuality. Nearly all the interviewees mentioned the increasing number of public figures who are open to identifying as gay or lesbian, and the inclusion of homosexuality throughout popular culture.
Generational Changes Figures
Participants born after 1960s are now of age during a period of dramatic increase in visibility for lesbian and homosexual people in popular culture. Numerous lesbian interviewees, even those from rural areas, referred to Ellen DeGeneres’ public coming-out in 1997 and her popularity among mainstream TV audiences as important factors in increasing acceptance of homosexuality.
We have found that the younger participants, especially those born in 1990s, bring a different perspective to the project. It is important to remember that homophobia remains a problem in Australian society. However, Australians born after 1984 are now able to access a large number of lesbian and gay public figures. The internet allows for easy access to a global gay/lesbian culture.
Many of our younger participants told us that they knew of celebrities who were gay and lesbian before they met one in real life. It has been fascinating to hear the stories of many younger participants about how being more aware of gay and lesbian public figures has helped them in their lives. Many gay and lesbian youth grew up in isolation. However, it has become possible to live a happy and open gay or lesbian lifestyle.
Although the interviews show that attitudes toward homosexuality in Australia have improved rapidly over the past 30 year, it is clear that many lesbians and gay people still face homophobia.
Ian Thorpe was born in New South Wales, 1982. He began his life in a time when it was still illegal to have sexual intercourse with men. Before he began training with his first swimming team, the HIV/AIDS epidemic exacerbated homophobia in some Australian communities. He was exposed to homophobic questions and invasive sexuality as a teenager. Thorpe’s decision last night to come out will accomplish at least two things.
The first is that young Australians will be able to see the dismantling homophobic stereotypes about gay and lesbian people. Ian Thorpe is a long-standing Australian icon and one of the most prominent gay men. His visibility will also challenge homophobia in sport, which has long been known for having problematic attitudes towards lesbian and gay people.
While Ian Thorpe’s decision not to be openly gay was not an easy one, it is a significant milestone for Australia and him personally. His public announcement shows a personal comfort level with his sexuality. Let’s all hope this comfort can be shared across the country and that we can recognize the rich contributions of gay and lesbian citizens in public life.