THE BLOG
07/13/2014 10:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Defending Ian Thorpe: Coming Out Is Never Easy, I Know

To paraphrase Abba, "Coming out is never easy, I know."

For someone such as Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, it was a question he was hounded about since he was 14 and represented Australia in the World Championship.

Thorpe has now said he is a gay man and was never comfortable enough to say so prior to now. He said that in the last couple of weeks he only told the people closest to him.

Coming out isn't easy. Everyone is unique. Everyone's situation is different. Repeat after me: "We are all individuals." You know what I mean. None of us are the same. None of our experiences are the same. We know that instinctually.

Well, apparently not all of us know. Take the sanctimonious Jonathon Moran, an entertainment news editor at the Daily Telegraph in Australia. His beat is celebrities, not real news. He is acting like a glorified gossip columnist, dissing over the fence with the other gossips.

Moran was one of those who previously thought it was his obligation to hound Thorpe about his private life -- Moran's logic is that an athlete who gets sponsorships doesn't have a private life and thus is fair game to snoops. He was granted an interview with Thorpe on condition that he not hound the young swimmer about his sexuality. Moran, with typical journalistic integrity, broke the agreement and asked anyway. Now, instead of questioning his own lack of ethics, he whines about Thorpe's.

Once again, Moran has a chance to seek glory and fame by writing a snide column about Thorpe and bragging about how he, Moran that is, "came out at the age of 17." Mr. Moran doesn't get the part about how each of us live unique lives under different circumstances. Moran is absolutely clueless as to what pressures a young swimmer like Thorpe might have been under because he was never a world-famous anything. Moran's experiences with pressure would be quite different than Thorpe's.

Given we all come from different families, with different dynamics, different friends, and different circumstances, we ought to be humane enough to recognize we all have different "right times" to come out. Moran thinks 17 was the right age for him, but why not 16 or 15? Should we chide him for failing to come out as young as others -- or is he the Goldilocks of coming out -- his time is "just right" and everyone else is too late or too early?

Moran damned those reporters who suggested Thorpe's coming out "will help a lot of young gay men and women." Moran says, "I think it's the opposite." It's the opposite because "he's taught young people to stay in the closet, to fear retribution of coming out and to hide their true selves for as long as possible."

What a pompous ass! Moran says Thorpe taught people to "fear retribution," while heaping retribution on Thorpe for not following his time schedule. What is Moran doing? He is sending the message that bitter individuals, such as himself, will heap scorn on people who have been closeted until now. So, if you want to avoid the bitterness of the Morans of this world, stay in the closet. Instead of helping people come out, Moran is giving them an incentive to stay closeted.

I am sure there will be people, especially fans of Thorpe, who will take inspiration from his honesty and come out. I'm not sure Moran inspired anyone to do anything, but, if there were a world championship in bitterness he might have a shot at it.

It comes done to one simple thing: Ian Thorpe, like everyone else, has the right to live his own life, for his own sake. If his coming out helps others, that's great, but he is under no obligation to come out on a specific schedule, or at all, just because others would be helped.

He is not the property of others. Thorpe's first obligation is to himself and that means coming out on his terms, not those of Mr. Moran, the paparazzi or anyone else.

The prime beneficiary of Thorpe's decision to come out should be himself. If others benefit as well, that is gravy, but the benefit of others alone is not sufficient reason for Thorpe to come out.

What could be the consequence of coming out before one is ready? Misery, pain, suffering, needless conflict, perhaps worse. Urging people to come out according to your time table, and not their own, is a demand that they sacrifice their happiness for your political agenda.

Nor is there a guarantee this will serve your agenda. If Thorpe were forced out before he was ready then perhaps the depression he was already suffering, and the suicide he was already contemplating, would have taken control. Is that the example you want for young gay people? Come out, worsen your depression, and kill yourself?

None of us can live other people's lives for them. They, and they alone, must be free to live their lives on their own terms. That includes celebrities, even Olympic swimmers.

Thorpe's life, Thorpe's decision. I happen to think he made a good one. And he made it on his terms, when he was ready. I can support that and applaud that. As for Mr. Moran's column, think of loud raspberry noises with a certain gaseous odour as my proper response. Even then, I'm being too generous.

No, coming out is never easy, I know. But, it's the best thing you can do -- when you're ready.