The struggles people face while being in the closet is no joke.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, out athlete Gus Kenworthy opened up about how he was torn with hiding his true identity and the toll it took on his mental well-being. He went on to say the experience of living in the closet while on a media tour following his silver medal win at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia was particularly difficult, especially when he had sex with women.
“I was trying to keep up this façade I was straight,” the Olympian says. “It sounds grimy, but there’s also a culture around those events where you’re pulling girls at parties. I was sleeping with women and really trying so hard to fit this other narrative, but I cried after sleeping with women sometimes. It certainly was never the same after I slept with a man.”
Team USA swept the slopestyle event at the Sochi Games, and his fellow American medalists were single and straight. Kenworthy had a boyfriend at the time, and he was paying a heavy price by living an inauthentic identity.
There is one particular interview that haunts his memories.
“We competed on February 13, and on Valentine’s Day, we were on The Today Show talking about our celebrity crushes, who we would want as our Valentine, and our favorite kind of girl,” Kenworthy recalls. “I just lied. I went on this whole media tour where I felt I was lying the entire time. I was very depressed and absolutely hated myself.”
Fortunately, everything took a turn for the better when he came out at the top of his career in a 2015 cover story for ESPN Magazine.
“I am gay,” he posted to social media. “Wow, it feels good to write those words. For most of my life, I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself. Recently though, I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m very proud to finally be letting my guard down.”
Kenworthy made history again in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, South Korea, when he and figure skater Adam Rippon were the first two openly gay American male athletes to compete representing the U.S. Before his qualifying run in Pyeongchang, Kenworthy shared an on-screen kiss with his then-boyfriend, actor Matthew Wilkas.
The moment was broadcast live and made headlines around the world.
Now competing in his final Olympics, this time for his birth country of Great Britain, Kenworthy says life is so much better.
“I’m just much happier now than I was back then when I wasn’t living my life authentically,” he says.