Australian swim champion and Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe has spoken about the homophobia he’s faced since coming out as gay in 2014.
“It’s weird, because you have to think about; ‘Do we hold hands or not?'” the 34-year-old, who has 22 World Records, told the ABC’s Anh’s Brush With Fame this evening.
“And we should be holding hands. But, you know, there is still homophobia out there.”
Watch: It’s time Australia legalised marriage equality. (Post continues.)
Thorpe spoke about the last time he experienced blatant homophobia.
“I pecked my boyfriend in the back of a car and I was told to show some respect. [The driver said] ‘That’s disgusting. I don’t want you in my car. You should get out.'”
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to be in your car. Drop me off here’.
— ABC TV Australia (@ABCTV) May 10, 2017
“I was rattled. I didn’t realise that in Sydney, in 2016, this can happen. I was shocked.”
He said moments like these, more than anything, show the desperate need for marriage equality.
“I think it’s important to have marriage equality in this country,” he said.
Mia Freedman discusses gay marriage with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Post continues below.
“Because I know what it was like to grow up as a young person thinking you are a second-class citizen, thinking, ‘I don’t have the same rights as what other people do’.”
“I feel as though what I’m doing is wrong. That’s what’s implied when you don’t have the same kind of rights, and human rights, as other people.”
During the show, Thorpe also admitted he initially struggled talking to his family and friends about his sexuality, but after confiding in those closest to him he was ready to announce it on television.
“It was really hard for me to tell my closest friends and family. I mentioned to them, ‘Do you know, I’m thinking of coming out on TV, just so it’s done’. And people were like, ‘Ooh ,maybe you should just get used to it first’. And I was like, ‘No. I will… No, I’m going to do it’.”
He said coming out has allowed him to live his life over again.
“Once you’ve come out, it’s an incredible experience because it’s almost like you get to have your life over again. That’s how it feels. I was finally able to be the person I am.”