The world is this morning waking up to some “major news”, which is expected to be confirmed in a television interview this evening: Ian Thorpe acknowledges he is gay.
It’s highly unlikely that I will watch this interview. Ever since the Meg Ryan debacle, I’ve found it difficult to watch Michael Parkinson – his arrogance gets in the way of his subject (not unlike Ian Mcnamara in this respect). Maybe it is a great interview, but I fear it will 60 minutes of extreme close-ups, awkward (thoughtful?) silences and ad breaks that are dramatically and inappropriately inserted for ratings suspense. I’ll just read about it later on the internet. Or beforehand, as it happens. We’re still about 7 hours before it goes to air, and multiple news sites are running with the headline that the great Thorpedo is about to finally reveal the truth about his sexuality. Most are just sort of alerting us to this information and are clearly a useful piece of promotion for the upcoming interview. Others are offering some sort of interpretation and commentary on the issue, including one piece by Peter FitzSimmons, which I read this morning and felt a little bit uncomfortable about.
I’d just like to spend 5 minutes saying why.
You can’t claim that this is a non issue and private business and express sorrow for him in the same article where you dismissively stereotype gay men, act like its some amazing achievement you knew this about Thorpie before he did and then be all “its just his business but here’s my highly narrow-minded view on the fact that he lied to us all” which I suppose is just my interpretation of what this article is about, but my interpretation it is, nevertheless.
First of all, the gripping and sensitive (please note use of irony) opening to the article really seems to miss the point:
Look, it’s not that being cultured, sensitive, softly spoken, discerning, philosophical and cosmopolitan with a huge interest in fashion are the exclusive preserves of gay sportspeople in the oft macho and proudly hairy-chested sports world we live in. But as Thorpe, by his own admission, has long ticked all those boxes, of course there has been speculation for many a’moon that he is “that way inclined,” as they say in the classics.
Repeated use of a phrase such as “the gays” and then talking about how they’ve claimed another high profile person with excellent achievements seems a little bit counterproductive. In fact, it seems to fairly well betray a belief that gay people in our society are some sort of “other” and whether or not you’re being ironic, or trying to reach the not yet converted, or whatever, actually it really just reinforces the division that sadly does some times exist in terms of the way people view sexuality.
I’m uncomfortable, also, with the implication that Ian Thorpe has being lying, manipulating and otherwise dishonestly conducting himself with regard to this issue for the past 15 years. It is undeniable that Thorpe has, for a long time, not wanted to discuss this publicly, and has made statements that are contrary to the announcement that he is allegedly going to make in tonight’s interview. I think it would be generous to allow for the fact that all people need time and opportunity to discover their own identities and build their own sense of self, up to and including issues of sexuality. I might be way off base, but I imagine that being thrust unexpectedly into the media spotlight at age 15 just because you happened to be quite good at something; having your every move scrutinised; having hoards of people you can’t even conceive of the existence of speculating about who you’d like to have sex with at an age where you’ve probably not even thought that much about it yourself probably doesn’t make for the easiest climate in which to sort yourself out.
There’s going to be a lot of media around this, and I’m pretty sure that most of it is going to reveal exactly why Thorpe didn’t want to discuss this publicly for the last 15 years. Please remember, dear media, that dignity and decency should be a part of everything you do. Sarcasm, stereotypes, labels casually and thoughtlessly applied help no-one.
The article in it’s entirety: