Olympians Out in China

It was with interest, and by accident, this morning I stumbled upon Matthew Mitcham. Not literally, but by noticing a number of facebook friends had become ‘fans’ of his. It wasn’t until I started looking into it I realised that it’s not just because he’s a good looking diver, like the others I’ve mentioned. He’s also gay and came out publicly in Australia this year.

Interesting reading how struggling with issues in his life has made him stronger. The Sydney Morning Herald said:

Mitcham thinks he would not be going to the Olympics if not for the hardship he endured.

He said: “I probably wouldn’t have as much of a fighting spirit. The more you have experienced, the more you have to draw off. I look at the last 20 years as a long, winding path of lessons and some hardship. I hope the rest of my life isn’t straight because that could be boring. I hope it continues to wind, but maybe not so tumultuous. I hope I do have a long and winding path and more lessons to learn. I look forward to that.”

He’s not the only gay olympian this year. It’s good to see out athletes who can compete alongside other athletes at the games. It’s great for sport, and it’s great for gay people growing up who may feel alienated, as I did, from sport.

And surely, it can’t be a bad thing for China where gay people in some ways feel the same in society as gay people around the world in sport can: that you have to hide who you are.

One of China’s gay campaigners says: “Many Chinese gays – burdened with ignorance, discrimination and fear – are unable to comprehend their homosexual yearnings and close themselves off from society, tormented by self-hate. After the age of 30, more than 90 percent of gays get married – because social pressure makes them believe they have no choice”. Intimidated by society and the police gay people in china tend to live secret lives. (more)

How great it is for gay olympians to be competing in China. It’s a wonderful way to show China and the world that gay people can be part of a diverse group of people. I wish them good luck and hope that young gay people all around the world realise that they can achieve what they want to and that sexuality should not be a barrier.

5 Responses to Olympians Out in China

  1. thelayoftheland says:

    Interesting blog post I hadn’t picked up on about Matthew Mitcham here: http://colinlieu.wordpress.com/2008/08/08/same-difference/

  2. londonkitton says:

    I completely agree with your statement that it’s fab that openly gay & lesbian athletes are competing and succeeding at the Olympics.

    However, it’s kind-of sad that we need to happy about it. After all, we’re all just people in the end, and sexual preference should have no influence on athletic performance. Unless, as in Mitcham’s case, previous experiences related to a person’s sexual orientation cause them to be even more competitive and determined that they would have been otherwise.

    I’d like to think that drug cheats would be a far greater concern for all Olympians than competing against ‘out’ athletes.

  3. thelayoftheland says:

    it would be wonderful if sexuality wasn’t an issue and, as Matthew Mitcham said, it wasn’t relevant if an athlete was gay, but sadly that’s often not the case in sport… people often feel they cannot come out – it’s not a matter of choice. Though, what is certainly a positive thing about gay Olympians being out is the message it sends to young gay people struggling with their sexuality, or to gay people in China – it’s OK to be gay…

    Interesting news item on gay Olmpians here: http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/18082008/58/beijing-2008-only-ten-gays-village.html

    “Only 10 of the 10,500 athletes competing in the Beijing Olympics are openly gay, according to a study by a gay website.

    “Some gay athletes fear that coming out would bring disapproval from fans and team mates, others worry about the damage to endorsements, Outsports.com said. Unwarranted media attention could also detract from their performances, it added.

    “Nine of the gay athletes named by Outsports were lesbians and their sports ranged from fencing to cycling. Just one, Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, was a man.

    “Australian diver Mitcham said he just wanted to be known as a successful Australian diver and argued that his homosexuality should not be an issue.”

  4. cosmodaddy says:

    Oh I think you’re right – Matt’s presence and then his historic victory will have made an enormous impact. Being gay, out and utterly dignified as well as talented will have a huge ripple effect out from Beijing. What bugged me was that the BBC practically ignored it, thinking (wrongly) that Tom Daley was more important. As you say, the power of his example to inspire could be unlimited.

  5. […] Mitcham and Out Sports Following my earlier post about Matthew Mitcham, the only openly gay male in the Beijing Olympics, he won, much to my […]

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