It’s a rare paparazzi picture* that brings tears to my eyes, but today that happened.
Seeing snaps of Ian Thorpe strolling hand in hand with his boyfriend, kissing and hugging made my heart sing.
This is a young man finally free. To be himself. To live the life he wants.
A young man who has lived with incredible scrutiny since he was 14.
A man who was forced – by virtue of his superhuman talent in a swimming pool – to navigate his sexuality in public. To have it questioned endlessly. To deny it – to himself as much as anyone else. And to have that contribute to debilitating depression.
A man who in 2014, at 31 years of age, sat down with Sir Michael Parkinson to tell the world in a television interview he was gay.
Thorpe’s interview had a huge impact on his fans around the world. Watch a clip of it here (post continues after video):
It was impossible to watch the ‘Thorpedo’ speak about his experience and not feel deeply for the boy he was and the man he became.
Coming out remains fraught for many men and women – even without the glare that comes with living in the spotlight. A glance at the suicide rates within the LGBTI community is tragic proof of this.
Every time a politician – or anyone else with a platform – explains why same sex relationships aren’t quite as “equal” as traditional marriages, the message is clear: if you’re not heterosexual then you aren’t quite as good or adequate or welcome as everyone else. It’s no wonder that coming out in Australia can be difficult for so many.
A young gay man or woman wouldn’t have to cast their eyes far to find a reason someone else think they should feel inadequate.
The fact that Australians feel that way is a national disgrace. But it’s also why the photos of Ian Thorpe and his new BF are so bloody wonderful.
Ian Thorpe is now unshackled from the hardship of hiding himself. He looks happy and free.
Let these photos be a source of optimism for anyone who can relate to the pain that Ian Thorpe carried for so long.
And a source of inspiration for anyone who has ever endured the darkness and wants to live in the light.
Congratulations, Ian Thorpe. Australia couldn’t be prouder of you and of every Australian who lives with such courage, grace and pride.
*At Mamamia, we have a policy of not using images taken by paparazzi, so you won’t find those pics reproduced here today.