3 things Ian Thorpe’s gay announcement represents
11 world titles. 5 Olympic gold medals. 23 records set overall. To outdo the Thorpedo will take another individual immense effort. Today, Ian Thorpe has joined a list of public personalities who have embraced and publicly announce their homosexuality.
Ian Thorpe isn’t the first – the list is long (Radar Online has a snippet) but it made it much harder for Thorpe – he was in Australia, a country that isn’t ready to accept the concept of LGBT love, let alone be represented by one. He was in a sport that would make other speedo-cladding straight men uncomfortable simply because of the unknown – many don’t know much about the LGBT lifestyle and assumptions or myths have never been debunked.
Not every country and its citizens can embrace Parinya Charoenphol like Thailand did. But Ian Thorpe and many of the influential public personalities whom have stepped forward have played a crucial role in moulding tomorrow’s future. Here are three big impacts Thorpe will have.
Ian Thorpe represents a voice.
We’ve always seen celebrities championing movements against poverty and causes they believed in. They are ambassadors to big charities, lending their influence to help raise funds or awareness of social, medical and world issues that need attention. These causes and people need celebrities to have their voices heard.
Minority groups have always needed someone to speak up. Someone brave enough, strong enough to tell the world we need to appreciate difference and embrace our similarities. Until the world truly understands there are genes involved in sexual orientation and not everyone is made the same, personalities like Ian Thorpe will always be a voice (willing or unwilling) for the LGBT individuals.
Ian Thorpe represents courage.
The world isn’t free from discrimination, we just classify them differently. Discrimination also takes place everywhere – at the workplace or at school or in religious institutions; no one is spared. We discriminate appearance, race, gender, ability, qualifications and much more. We discriminate against hair colour, baldness or too much hair. We discriminate against age, weight, height, skin colour, nose length, speech, foreigners, names, diet types, and the list goes on. As long as there can be differences, there will be overt and covert discrimination.
Think about it – do our families discriminate something (meaning to favour or deny equal treatment, no matter how small)? What do our friends consider unacceptable? Do our loved ones consider something more acceptable than another? Imagine that, and consider if you were what they’ve always shunned away from. How do you tell them who you are? How will they react and what can you do to be accepted for who you are?
Being accepted – that is the biggest battle minorities face. And often, being accepted means suppressing your true self, your talents, your difference. This is why Ian Thorpe represents courage – because everyone is afraid of being excluded because we’re different.
Ian Thorpe represents what it means to be human.
What does being human mean? A comment by one Johnny Atman on TED Conversations got us thinking:
What does it mean to be human? Being human has many interpretations to different people in various groups, cultures and societies. And there isn’t a right or wrong definition to what “being human” means. It is this diversity and openness of who or what we are that is highlighted every time an individual or a minority group speaks. And each time that happens, we learn a little more about ourselves and what being human really means to us.
Life isn’t the best teacher, but the lessons are incredible.
Image credit: n24.de