19-Year-Old Olympic Luge Athlete John Fennell Comes Out As Gay
19-year-old Canadian Olympic luge athlete John Fennell has officially come out as gay. He shares his personal account with the Calgary Herald, opening up on the pressures inherent in being in the closet and the weight that's been lifted since coming out.
The Calgary Herald writes:
John Fennell wants the world to know he is gay.
No more secrets. No more changing pronouns in conversations about personal relationships. No more fretting over perceived cracks in the story.
“It’s suffocating,” Fennell says of life inside the proverbial closet, even in the year 2014. “You have to play this game of, ‘who knows?’ You can’t let off any vibes or secrets. You have to act super macho. You have to be hyper aware of your mannerisms and to not let off any vibes that could get detected. It’s very exhausting.
“It’s an all-consuming paranoia of who could find out through what means.”
So Fennell is going public in hopes of stepping out of the shadows and serving as a role model for those still suffering in silence.
Still, in his first taste of the Olympics, Fennell felt isolated and alone. Sure, Calgary-based speedskater Anastasia Bucsis made headlines last summer by going public with her sexuality, but no Canadian male athlete did the same.
“I was a little distraught over the lack of leadership going into Sochi,” he says of competing in country with laws forbidding “propaganda” of homosexuality to minors. “There were a few out girls, but to my knowledge there weren’t any out guys, and I know they’re there.
“I’m an athlete. Realistically, I put on a spandex suit and slide down a mountain. I’m no message board for political movements. But we need to have leaders in our sport community. If it takes a 19 year old to step up and to that, I’m more than willing to use my voice or the platform that I’ve been given to give a figurehead to gay youth in sport.”
Still, he had the courage to come out to Sam Edney, the "elder statesman" of the Canadian luge team. On Fennell's decision to come out Edney says:
“I have the utmost respect for him. You could tell this was something that was taking away from who he is in the sport. I can tell you if I had something like that on my mind all the time, I wouldn’t be ready to give the 110 percent that’s needed to be the best in the world.”
And Fennell now has the capability to fully realize his potential. He tells the Calgary Herald:
“You know that feeling when you’re falling asleep and you have that feeling that you’re falling, and you hit the ground, and you’re suddenly awake?” Fennell asks. “Well, that’s what it was like for me. I was totally, fully conscious all at once. A whole new aspect of myself opened up and it’s very liberating.”
Congratulations, John! The truth shall set you free!
(H/T: The Gaily Grind)