Life Relationships Ian Thorpe’s tell-all interview about nothing
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Ian Thorpe’s tell-all interview about nothing

Ian Thorpe
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If I have to hear about Ian Thorpe’s sexuality one more time I’m going to pass out from boredom. It’s been “dogging” him – and us – for the last 15 years. Enough!

Is it because we think he’s been lying to us? That he’s been lying to himself? That he has a responsibility to be honest with the public about his private life? Honestly.

“It’s okay if you’re gay Ian,” Channel Ten seem to be purring. “Except it’s NOT okay if you’re gay and not telling us.”

The breathless promos of Channel Ten’s upcoming ‘no holds barred’ interview between Thorpe and (the frankly pretty daggy) Sir Michael Parkinson would have you believe an EXCLUSIVE is on the horizon.

But this is not news – the champion swimmer has always been different to his contemporaries in the pool, laddish blokes such as Michael Klim and Grant Hackett who were easier to categorise.

Thorpe is interested in fashion. He’s never been married. It’s unlikely we’re going to see him be the next contestant on The Bachelor. So why the witch hunt?

“It’s okay if you’re gay Ian,” Channel Ten seem to be purring. “Except it’s NOT okay if you’re gay and not telling us.”

As Grace Dent said in the Independent, our compulsion to grill Thorpe about whom he’s been shagging says more about our own prejudices.

“I feel the next stage … will be to accept that for millions of human beings ‘sexuality’ is such a fluid, ever-fluttering concept that there’s no point in these public declarations of ‘out’ or ‘in’ at all,” Dent wrote.

“My rule of thumb with being in the closet is, as long as you’re not spending Sundays thumping a bible about Sodom … I’ll respectfully await your return ticket from Narnia, if, and not when it comes.”

In the UK they wouldn’t blink over a faded sports star rolling out of the closet ten years too late (check out the low-key reaction to diver Tom Daley’s coming out). It can even revive a flagging career – Ricky Martin hasn’t looked back.

Perhaps this is the price of fame, and one simply can’t earn millions of dollars from media attention and then cry over unwanted intrusion.

But things always seemed different for young Thorpe. Like the nations’ awkward, talented nephew, pure freakish skill propelled him into the spotlight. We watched him cameo on Friends and then watched him stumbling in the post fame abyss, pursing lips at stories of depression and infection. If he won’t be drawn on speculation about his sexuality – that is his choice. He must have his reasons.

Professional sport is not the most condusive arena for coming out. High-level sport (and professional acting) seems to be stuck in the 80s when it comes to the closet, the received wisdom being that it will damage career longevity.

There are rare exceptions such as diver Matthew Mitcham or comedian Josh Thomas but you can name them on a few hands. Plenty also fly under the radar for years without needing to address their apparent gayness – hello Jodie Foster and more recently Ellen Page.

Channel Ten is playing its cards close to its chest about the actual content of the interview, so this may not be the Hallmark moment we’ve all been told we’ve been waiting for (I wouldn’t put it past Ten to employ some dodgy editing in a desperate bid for viewers).

We’ve come so far, they said. It’s okay to come out, they said. Don’t trust them, Ian!

Let’s hope that G, L, B, T, I, Q or otherwise, Thorpe escapes future tell-all interviews and lives a happy life – something that seems to have evaded him until now.

Parkinson’s Ian Thorpe interview airs on Ten on Sunday July 13

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