Openly gay Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy has said that the time he spent in the closet was “a blur of depression and anxiety.”
Kenworthy opened up about his experience of coming out during his acceptance speech for the Point Leadership Award, which is presented by the Point Foundation, an organisation that provides scholarships to LGBT+ students.
In the wide-ranging speech, the 27-year-old from Colorado hit out at United States President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and criticised their track record on LGBT+ issues.
Gus Kenworthy said he used to pray that he would ‘wake up and not be gay anymore’
In the speech, he said he wished he could have been open about his sexuality when he was growing up.
“I wish that I had been comfortable enough in my own skin to acknowledge who I was and to share that person with the world. But it took me many years to get to that point,” he said.
“The adolescent years of a queer person’s life are not easy. They involve a great deal of stress and anxiety. We often face ridicule and we fear torment,” he continued.
While he said that “not everything was bad” during those years—he went professional in skiing and won his first Olympic medal while still in the closet—he said he “didn’t really enjoy those moments to the fullest.”
“The person on stage in Russia bowing their head to have a medal put around their neck was me, sure, but it wasn’t the real me. I remember just not even being able to feel the gravity of that moment because I was so distracted trying to keep up a façade, trying to continue to make the world believe that I was someone that I just was not.”
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“I wish that I had been comfortable enough in my own skin to acknowledge who I was and to share that person with the world.”
– Gay Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy
He also said he prayed during those years that he would “wake up and not be gay anymore.”
Kenworthy finished by telling young people to be themselves, and said: “There are countries like Brunei where gays are being stoned to death in the streets. Even here in the US we have a president who has made repeated attacks on our community and our trans brothers, sisters, and gender non-binary siblings. We have a vice president who still believes in conversion therapy, for f**k sake.”
Gus Kenworthy knew he was gay since he was five years old
At 11, he came out to his dog, Mack.
“He was my best friend. I guess he was the first person I told I was gay. I remember whispering it to him and being like don’t tell anyone. He didn’t,” Kenworthy quipped.
It wasn’t until Kenworthy reached the age of 22 that he decided he wanted to tell people that he was gay, but he was anxious about his career as a professional skier.
After coming out to friends and family, he came out publicly in 2015 as he wanted to help young LGBT+ people who were still in the closet.