Australian Rower Chris Bush Tells His Coming Out Story
"That's alright mate!"
Coming from my best friend, this was the most unexpected answer. Coming out was not meant to be this easy. When you wait 21 years before you tell the first person in the world the truth about who you are you expect your world to end.
The reality is that this was the response that all of my friends had upon hearing about my sexuality. No one seemed to mind. Which of course made me feel fantastic, but also made me wonder why on earth such homophobia had existed among my friends, classmates and crew members in the years before.
Why is it that we as young men grow up learning to hate and ostracize same-sex attracted individuals? When in actual fact the overwhelming majority of people have no problem with homosexuality at a personal level. Discovering this I wished I had come out years before. I wonder now, knowing how much more relaxed I am, how happy I am with my boyfriend, how less stressed I am from not living a lie and covering my tracks, if I would have performed better at the highest level?
Don't get me wrong, I did well enough; I rowed and won in state level teams, pulled 5:59 for 2km on the ergo, trialed and narrowly missed out for the Australian national team and rowed overseas in The Netherlands and the UK before deciding that I had rowed enough. Or was it that I was sick of living a lie and the only way to confront the truth was to do so when I was out of the boat? If only I had my time again.
I was so worried about whether anyone would want to row with a gay guy. Can gay guys row as hard as straight guys? We are brought up to believe that gay people are weaker, more effeminate. What rubbish. But until we know someone gay who is close to us perhaps we don't learn to challenge such thinking.
The locker room was always a place for debriefing from the night before, or the session just rowed. It was full of homophobic slurs that used to grind at me every time; I'd keep my head down and stay quiet. Interestingly after I came out, a number of friends came up to me and apologized for the things they used to say – they were mortified to realize that the things they said without thought could have hurt someone so much.
I would love to have my time again, to be brave enough to come out earlier, to trust that my friends would stick by me, to not worry that I would be left to row alone. So now with my time past, I want to make things better for the young people going for their first row, run, ride or practice session. I want to be part of making the world a place where young people learn to stop using such homophobic language and instead say to each other "it wouldn’t matter to me if you were gay." Chances are that the friend or teammate they say it to brushes it off. But then there will be the young guy, fresh out of high school, who’ll smile to himself, perhaps stay silent till he’s ready, but will now know, deep down, that it doesn’t matter who he loves, there will still be a place for him in that sport, in that team.
That would be alright.
Contact Chris at email@example.com