Michael Gunning Proves Gays Can Compete & Black Men Can Swim

Image via Instagram @michaelgunning1

Michael Gunning is opening up about being an openly gay athlete and being a Black swimmer.

Speaking to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, 26-year-old Michael Gunning talked about the racial prejudices and homophobia he experienced growing up. While he grew up in the U.K., Gunning was born in Jamaica. The Caribbean nation is unfortunately known for its homophobic atmosphere. There have been many cases where citizens take the law into their own hands in order to push anti-gay violence against LGBTQ citizens.


Thankfully, Gunning’s family eventually moved to the U.K. But the young Gunning then experienced a different kind of prejudice. Racism. “Black people don’t swim,” Gunning remembers being told growing up. Thankfully, he didn’t let the situation end there. Gunning decided to show his bullies just how wrong they were.

“For me, it was just a motivation to prove them wrong and get selected for Team [Great Britain] and be away for weeks from school and then come back and show them my medals,” he told Reuters.


Of course, that didn’t stop his problems. Gunning then started to experience a new hurdle, his blossoming sexuality. Gunning notes that his difficulty with handling his sexual orientation actually led to a deeper push in sports as, “because I wasn’t ready to address my inner feelings, I put all of that effort into swimming and had a good junior career.”

Gunning went on to win several championships, titles, and medals. Gunning, who holds citizenship in both Jamaica and the U.K., has competed for both countries and has broken records in both nations. Then the tragic bombing at the Ariana Grande Manchester concert, which Gunning attended and led to the deaths of 23 people, made Gunning realize his next step… to compete for Jamaica in the Olympics.

While the summer Olympics have been postponed to next year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gunning is still planning to compete for his birth nation.

“We’ve worked so hard for it for so long, and yes, we’ve had a little dip in the road, and it’s been pushed back a year, but I’m so excited,” he shared.


For Gunning, life has been a dynamic, rocky, and compelling experience. This includes not only competing in swimming competitions but also appearing on the British reality show The Bi Life hosted by drag queen Courtney Act. In the end, Gunning has continued to pursue a life that makes him happy. We hope to see him swim to that honorable goal.

Source: The Thomas Reuters Foundation,

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