Sunday 13 July 2014

Opinion: Thank you Ian Thorpe for coming out

He came out
Yesterday evening, I got to my hostess’ place and heard the news that Ian Thorpe, the amazing Australian, athlete and swimmer had come out as gay on a Michael Parkinson interview in Australia.
That we still have to greet this news as brave and courageous is indicative of the global community we live in, even so in Western liberal societies where being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or intersexual is generally accepted.
The struggle
Yet, the bigger struggle is with the individual, the idea of self, the acceptance of self, the conflicts and inner turmoil of the mind, the fear of rejection, ostracism, persecution, abuse and excoriation, the guilt, the shame, the self-loathing, the tendency to conform as if what you are can be done away with by the use of willpower, the list of emotions and battles is endless.
Then, many are blessed with the situation that they can care less of what others think because they have become whom they want to be and have begun to thrive and excel with the full expression of self, we are almost envious and jealous of them because they are in the process of completing their lives in the pursuit of happiness.
The society
Certain societies cannot countenance sexuality that deviates from heterosexuality predicated from religion and what they call their culture or traditions to the extent that they have not only criminalised homosexuality, but created criminal justice systems to punish severe what in more ‘civilised’ societies is regarded as normal as for any other person.
The individual then has to decide which battles to take on or live a kind of double life, satisfying the public needs of heterosexual expression whilst finding private fulfilment of their somewhat suppressed sexuality, living on the down-low.
Ian Thorpe ran the gauntlet of media interest in his sexual preferences all through his active swimming career as if it is anybody’s business what a person’s sexuality was or who they decide to have sex with.
Depression taking hold
Within the miasma of this personal struggle of conflict, concealment, fear and adjustment, Ian Thorpe fell into deep depression maintaining an identity that was not his that he drank heavily and contemplated suicide.
Thankfully, he went into rehab and has come to the point as he said in his interview, “I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man. And I don’t want people to feel the same way I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.
This is the point where a person has in an adaptation of the K├╝bler-Ross model, for every encounter of adversity, be it grief, disease, struggles with sexuality, failure or any similar circumstance, we traverse with varying degrees of impact and periods of time of introspection and expression, the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Acceptance leads to freedom
Until we reach the point of acceptance, it is nigh impossible to get on with life and move on to the next stage beyond what ails us.
Yet, we have scored victories with the model in terms of grief, maybe disease in my case and also failure in many cases of my life story, but are stuck in the rut of sexuality, usually not on the acceptance of who we are, but on the bold acceptance of who we are to others.
That freedom eludes many and the freedom is a great release, for he is now looking towards finding a partner and starting his own family.
The reality
This is the world we inhabit, one that freely expresses homophobia that takes licence to abuse, malign, harangue and persecute for who we choose to love and how we express our love.
It is however heart-warming to read of the deluge of support from around the world to Ian Thorpe’s coming out, more so, the real human story of the pain he lived through before being confident enough to accept his own identity and the expression of it would be one to witness to many that we do not need to suffer for the fact that we are not heterosexual.
Focus on the person
If those who have known us for so long and have respected us for who we were then decide on learning of our sexuality that we are no more worthy of their love, fellowship, understand, acceptance and respect, it should be a reflection on them rather than ourselves.
Sexuality should never be a function of respect, rather it should be the personality, the character, the integrity and the virtues of the person, in goodness, compassion, thoughtfulness, empathy and developing relationships.
Maybe in our lifetime, all across the world, it would not matter to anyone who we love and when we touch, kiss, celebrate and talk of our lovers, it would just be as normal as it is to be human and part of humankind.
Thank you, Ian Thorpe for making it easier to be who we really are, thank you.

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