An Olympic athlete has come out as gay in an emotional online essay.
Canadian swimmer Markus Thormeyer, who competed in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay team in the 2016 Olympics, posted his coming out story on the website OutSports Wednesday, beginning his narrative by revealing that “the secret I was keeping” was “holding me back” when he began training with his team in Vancouver in 2015.
“Creating these intimate bonds with my teammates was amazing, but it also made me feel guilty at the same time.” the 22-year-old athlete writes. “They were exposing their most raw essence in the pool every day, but I would come to the pool emotionally guarded and not do the same. Following every interaction with my teammates, I would feel a bit sad because they weren’t getting to know the real me, just some surface-level shell I fabricated.”
He goes on to explain, “I wanted to keep it a secret that I was gay for multiple reasons. I was scared they wouldn’t accept me. I did not want to create drama in the training group, I didn’t know how they would react. I was scared of negative responses.”
He also says that he feared his sexuality would “compromise” the team’s chances of making the Olympics. “I didn’t want to take that chance, so I kept my walls up and generally avoided talks about sexuality and dating,” he says.
At first, the swimmer says, he “thought it would be easy” to hide his secret, but “the following months in the closet” were much more difficult than he imagined, and got “progressively harder every day.”
“Some days I dreaded going to the pool in fear that my sexuality would be exposed,” Thormeyer writes. “I’d show up late and leave early to social gatherings and workouts. Some days it would even spiral and I would question why I was swimming and be scared of my own goals.
“Having to deal with that was awful. Every day felt like a threat and not an opportunity.”
In the end, the pressure of keeping his secret led to an emotional breakdown.
“I felt helpless on my bedroom floor, but I also knew that I couldn’t keep living like this,” he reveals. “At this point I knew that I would either burn out and or take control of my destiny. I decided to take control (…) and come out to my teammates. I always wanted them to know I was gay, but now I was ready for them to know.”
Because he is “not a dramatic person,” he says, the swimmer decided to slip the revelation casually into a conversation that came up with his teammates about relationships.
“I casually said that I had never been on a date with a guy before and I was kind of scared of it. That I’d probably be a nervous wreck and ruin it.
“Then, without a sliver of judgment or skipping a beat, my friends told me that I’d probably be fine on a date as long as I just had a good time and just was comfortable being myself.”
The instant acceptance and support changed everything for the Olympic then-hopeful.
“Knowing that I had such amazing teammates supporting me so strongly regardless of my sexual orientation was one of the best feelings in the world,” he says. “There was no drama and it was exactly what I wanted.”
“Feeling safe in my training environment and having no distractions allowed me to push myself to new limits in the pool,” he goes on to add. “My training got better, I got stronger and my technique got sharper. Not only that, but I also broke down some walls between me and my teammates and our relationships flourished. Training with them fostered relationships that will last a lifetime.”
After coming out to his fellow competitors, the swimmer and 6 of his teammates went on to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Thormeyer himself has enjoyed continued success, winning the gold in the 200-meter backstroke and bronze in the 100-meter backstroke in the FINA Champions Swim Series in China. He plans to join the Olympic trials this Spring in order to qualify for this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo Olympics.
He concludes his inspiring story by announcing his decision to join Team Canada’s OneTeam, an organization which promotes LGBTQ inclusion and respect in schools and sport throughout the country.
“I want to share my story and be able to spread the message that it’s OK to be gay. Life is much better when you fully embrace you for who you are.”
10 LGBTQ events this week
It is Black LGBTQ Pride and Memorial Day Weekend
Below are our picks for some of the most fun and creative things to do this week in D.C. that are of special interest to the LGBTQ community.
BenDeLaCreme “Ready to be Committed”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” alumni BenDeLaCreme performs “Ready to be Committed” at the 9:30 Club Monday. Doors open at 7 p.m. Seating is first come, first serve.
Mystery Reveal Party
Meet the mystery guest at a mystery reveal party hosted by Jaxknife on Wednesday. Mystery drink specials include $3 shots and $7 beer/shot combos.
Black, Gay and Thriving
Gay Professional Men of Color (GPMC) holds a networking event on Thursday at the beginning of Black Pride Weekend in D.C.
LGBTQ+ Evening Out in Del Ray
Join a free gathering and make some new friends at the Bar No. 9 Lounge (upstairs) in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Va. on Thursday.
Thursday, May 26
1519 17th Street, N.W.
A show featuring all trans performers at JR.’s includes host MasVusi, Silver Ware, Chata Uchis and St. Patrick Star.
RuPaul’s Drag Race British Invasion Tour
See the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K. as the British Invasion Tour makes its Washington, D.C. stop at the Warner Theatre on Friday.
Friday, May 27
1335 Green Court, N.W.
Enjoy a Kicks & Giggles dance party at the Green Lantern complete with DJs and glow paint. From 9 to 10 p.m., if you’re wearing body paint on your chest or back, you drink for free!
Anything But Clothes Party
Saturday, May 28
21614 National Pike
$5 cover before 10 p.m. / $8 cover after 10 p.m.
Join Capital DJ Chase for the “Anything But Clothes Party” at The Lodge on Saturday. There will be a most creative outfit (not clothes) contest at midnight.
Black Pride Brunch & Babes
Sunday, May 29
11:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Karma Night Club
2221 Adams Place, N.E.
Celebrate Black Pride with the Capitol Ballroom Council at a ballroom performance with a catered brunch buffet and bottomless memosas- Sunday, May 29, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Black Pride Brunch & Babes at Karma Night Club.
Flashy Memorial Day Weekend
Celebrate Memorial Day Weekend Sunday night into the wee hours of the morning at Flash. Music by DJ Twin, DJ Sean Morris and DJ Lemz.
If you would like to let us know about an upcoming event, email [email protected] with details.
PHOTOS: Summer Kickoff Party
Washington Blade holds annual event at The Pines in Rehoboth Beach
The Washington Blade held its 15th annual Summer Kickoff Party at The Pines in Rehoboth Beach, Del. on Friday, May 20 with special guest Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.).
(Washington Blade photos by Daniel Truitt)
PHOTOS: Worthy Mentoring Pride Brunch
Carson Kressley serves as emcee for LGBTQ fundraiser
Carson Kressley of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” served as the emcee for the Worthy Mentoring Pride Brunch at the Four Seasons Washington Hotel on Sunday, May 22. Worthy Mentoring is a nonprofit that connects mentors and mentees in the LGBTQ+ community through a mobile iOS and Android App.
(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)
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