Ian Thorpe Jamie Lambert
It's been a busy week for high profile comings-out. But also one of contrasts. In Australia, Olympic swimming superstar Ian Thorpe finally came out to loud approval after many years of denials. In London, Singer Jamie Lambert, member of Britain's Got Talent winners, Collabro, came out to a surprised but "so what?" reaction. Maybe the differences reflect, still, a gap in attitudes between the UK and our former colony.
Ian Thorpe and friend at Wimbledon. Plus Parkinson
Just two years after declaring in his autobiography "I am not gay", Thorpe, 31, used a television interview with Sir Michael Parkinson to reveal that over the previous two weeks he had finally become comfortable admitting that he was not straight. "I don't want young people to feel the same way that I did," he said. "You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay. I was concerned about the reaction from my family, my friends."
Explaining his many denials, he said: “The problem was, I was asked at such a young age about my sexuality. I went to an all-boys school, so if you're accused of being gay then the first answer is 'no' and you get ready for a fight. Yes, I lied about it. I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man. My parents told me that they love me and that they support me. Part of me didn't know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay. But I'm telling the world that I am.”
The interview, broadcast on Australia's Channel Ten prompted a wave of congratulations, echoed in an editorial in Sydney's Sunday Telegraph..
"Since 1982, when Ian Thorpe was born, Australia has undergone an enormous social transformation," it said. "In 2014, it is still a momentous and deeply brave act to come out and declare the truth about one's sexuality. We congratulate Thorpe [and] we're confident he will discover a wonderful wellspring of warmth and affection from Australians who, more than anything, just want him to be happy."
Though there was some criticism of Thorpe for repeatedly lying publicly about his homosexuality, the 31-year-old's decision received plentiful displays of support, particularly among the sporting community.
Grant Hackett, another Olympic swimmer, said:"Thorpie is and will always be a superstar in my eyes!!!" "Ian and I grew up together – At the end of the day ... who really cares? It's 2014, I don't think anybody's really too concerned about his sexual orientation."
Jamie Lambert in the middle.
By comparison, Jamie's coming out was low-key and free of any hysteria.
"No-one asked," he said. "I have nothing to hide from anybody. I think it's really important that all gay people in the public eye just talk about it. The more that happens, the more normal it becomes. I remember when Stephen Gately from Boyzone came out and it was a really massive deal. But I think nowadays it's about being comfortable in your own skin and comfortable with who you fall in love with. It doesn't make a difference whether it's with a man or a woman."
Jamie on the right.
Lambert also revealed that the other members of Collabro know about his sexuality and have been supportive. As he pointed out, being gay is "only an aspect" of who he is. "It's not all of who I am," he said. "I would hate for people to see me as 'the gay one', rather than the one who sings that line."
Collabro were signed by Simon Cowell's record label Syco shortly after winning Britain's Got Talent. They will release their debut album Stars on July 28.
Lustralboy concludes: Coming out as a high profile sports star in Australia clearly, for many years, was a step too far for Ian Thorpe. He suffered depression as a result of his entrapment in the closet. Compare his suffering with the ease with which, earlier this year, diver, Tom Daley, at the time still nineteen, anounced that he was gay. Jamie Lambert's experience has been similar, if much quieter, reflecting his relatively less celebrated status. We wish all three continued good fortune. but are left wondering, like many others, whether Ian could have had a happier twenties had he bitten the bullet earlier.
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