New Zealand Olympic rower Robbie Manson may not be as well known as Michael Sam, Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers, Ian Thorpe or Tom Daley, but his coming out publicly as gay is just as important for other gay athletes who may be currently struggling about the idea of coming out due to fear of rejection. In a blog penned for Outsports on Tuesday, Manson shared his coming out story and what he has learned about himself.
Like so many others who struggle with identity and dealing with their sexuality, Manson says he knew he was different from an early age and tried to hide it by becoming very quiet and shy. His fear was that someone might discover that he was gay and it wasn’t something he was ready to deal with at an early age. By turning to rowing at the age of 16, he felt he was further hiding his dark secret. He felt by being an athlete, no one would ever suspect he was gay. In part, he trying to convince himself that he wasn’t what he knew deep down inside that he was.
“I thought that I would be inadequate if I was gay,” He wrote. “That people would treat me differently. If anyone mentioned anything or anyone ‘gay,’ I would feel desperately uncomfortable, like I had to escape to avoid them seeing that I was bright red. I was so scared. I felt like I would implode.”
Manson quickly learned that the way he thought people would look at him if they found out he was gay was just in his head. The “scariest decision” of his life to come out as gay just two years ago turned into something very positive and led him to learn so much about who he is and how he is perceived.
“I have learned so much about myself and what it means to be gay over the past couple of years, and also what it means to be gay in a competitive sporting environment. And it’s all been hugely positive.”
By sharing his story, Manson hopes to help others who compete in sports not be afraid or even hate themselves for being gay. He also wants to inspire, which is why public figures coming out as gay is news and will continue to be important. As long as acceptance is still a struggle for many LGBT youth and athletes, stories like the one shared by Robbie Manson will need to be shared. In ending he writes:
“There are already a lot of great gay sporting role models, and a lot who have achieved far more than I have, but I hope that my story can add something to what is already out there. To show other people who might be struggling with their sexuality, not only that it’s ok to be gay, but it’s a good thing, and it won’t change who you are or limit what you can achieve. At the end of the day, it’s only one of the many things that define me as a person.”