Team GB swimmer Mark Foster reveals he does have ‘someone special in his life’
Olympic swimmer Mark Foster who came out as gay this week has opened up about the reaction to his announcement.
Mark Foster, now 47, is a former world champion swimmer who represented the UK at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
In an interview with the Guardian, Foster publicly acknowledged that he is gay earlier this week.
Then in his first interview since coming out, Foster has opened up about being with someone special, and the positive reaction to his coming out.
Speaking to the Loose Women panel, Foster acknowledged why he decided to come out now.
He said: “If I look back, I first met my first partner when I was 21 years of age, I was in a relationship for 19 years, then I met somebody else and fell in love with them for seven years. To friends and family, I was out. It took me a long time to tell my mum, a couple of years anyway.
“When I went to work, which was swimming, friends there and swimming colleagues, no one knew. I never shared it. I was completely Mark the swimmer there and Mark the real person when I came home.”
He added: “Going back to when I was a kid, being gay was wrong. Typically, you should meet a woman, get married, have kids, get a house and that’s the way it worked in a sense. That’s what you get taught. When I did meet someone and started have feelings towards men I was kind of going, well that’s wrong, you shouldn’t be having these feelings. I had girlfriends as well when I was younger, I just kind of knew what I preferred. I just got so used to tucking things away and hiding stuff away.”
The Olympian went on to say that he had a difficult year leading up to his coming out.
He said: “A bit of a difficult year. Dad died in June, there was so many sorts of bits in pieces whereby I never talked about lots of stuff with him,’ Mark said. ‘He obviously knew and knew my partners, but there were some things I wished I had asked [for example] when mum and dad split up, what was it like for him?”
“End of last year was quite a difficult time. I split from my partner and had a break. All these things were going on.”
Of the reaction to coming out, Foster addd: “The reaction has been brilliant. And I do have someone in my life.”
The former athlete, who has appeared on Strictly Come Dancing and is a regular pundit on swimming shows, admitted he had kept his sexuality private previously.
He said: “I tiptoed around the issue for so long.
“I got really good at the dance of telling half-truths. I’ve supported the Terence Higgins Trust, Stonewall, Ben Cohen’s Stand Up to Bullying campaign.
“But I’ve always done it under the radar. At the Sochi Olympics [in 2014] I did a piece for Huffington Post. I was shocked by the treatment of gay people in Russia and needed to say something – without revealing anything about myself.
“So I half-said something. It’s always been half-truths in public.”
Of the decision to come out, he said: “I’ve just swerved and swerved. Telling half-truths and not being my true self is only hurting me.
“I’m 47, a middle-aged man, and I’m no longer competing. And I’m not the first gay sportsman to come out. Gareth Thomas and Tom Daley led the way.”
The former sportsman added that he “started seeing a therapist at the beginning of the year”, adding: “I then lost my dad in June. He knew I was gay but we never talked much.
“We had so many things we never shared. I now want to share my feelings.”
He said: “I’ve lived an openly gay life to my friends and family. But I always hid it as a swimmer.”
“When I was younger, I thought my feelings were just a phase. I had girlfriends. I never had a boyfriend.
“But I had sexual experiences with boys. At swimming competitions I would go with women to divert attention from the real me.
“It’s not like I didn’t enjoy the act – I just preferred boys. But I accepted I was gay when I fell in love with my first partner.”
The sportsman added: “I was worried about how coming out might affect my work. My swim schools cater for children and there’s this insidious perception that gay equals paedophile/child molester.
“So I understand what’s stopping gay footballers coming out. I’ve been to many football matches and seen that aggressive mob mentality.
“Because of dressing room ‘banter’ they don’t want to show their real selves.
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“Football is a weird testosterone-driven world and it’s the last bastion. But if a gay footballer came out it would change so many attitudes.”
He added: “I always get asked: ‘Are you married? How many kids?’ They just presume because most people’s perception of gay men is what they see on TV – camp chat-show hosts.
“They can’t put me in that box. I’m conditioned not to share so I’ll usually say: ‘I’ve got no kids but I’ve got a partner.’ If they ask ‘What does she do?’, I will either correct them or just say: ‘They’re a civil servant’ or ‘They’re an antiques dealer’.
“I’m very clever at dancing around stuff. But it’s tiring and sometimes I have been honest and said: ‘No, I don’t have kids. I’m gay.’ And a guy will surprise me and say: ‘Oh, but you could adopt kids.’ That’s refreshing.”