At his first official LGBT event, the Olympian lashed out at the media’s obsession with his sexuality.
Ian Thorpe has told a Mardi Gras panel on LGBT people in sport that he might have come out earlier if he hadn’t been pushed on the subject since he was a teenager.
Thorpe – who recently discussed his “stressful” love life – said he knew he was gay “a long time” before coming out two years ago, after being asked about it publicly for the first time when he was just 16.
“If I had a little bit more time when I was younger, I would have come out. I would have been comfortable with that,” he said.
“But because I told that lie, I was trying to suppress that part of me.”
Thorpe also spoke about the pressure of being a role model for the LGBT community, now that he has been honest about his sexuality.
“In some ways, there is an expectation that you will be the voice of this group, which none of us can do,” he said.
“It’s made up of many voices, and I’m very new to this. I don’t have the experience.”
However, Thorpe added that being a role model is a “beautiful and powerful thing”, even if it does carry a lot of responsibility.
Speaking alongside Thorpe were other current and former LGBT athletes – including diver Matthew Mitcham, footballer Sally Shipard, rugby player Casey Conway, basketballer Shelley Gorman-Sandie, and swimmer Daniel Kowalski.
The panel spoke at length about a range of subject facing LGBT sport people – such as the difficulties of coming out as an athlete.
Diver Matthew Mitcham – who is retiring from the sport – said “in an ideal world” all LGBT athletes would be out, but that’s not the reality.
“Everybody’s situation is different,” he said.
“It’s 20/20 hindsight – you can say it once you’re not in that environment anymore, but when you’re in that environment it’s fear of the unknown.”