Coming out as gay can be particularly stressful when you're an athlete and part of a team.
Olympic swimmer Markus Thormeyer just publicly came out as gay in a moving piece for OutSports.
The Canadian athlete competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics, but says that holding onto the secret that he knew he was gay hindered his progress towards achieving his dream.
“Creating these bonds with my teammates was amazing, but it also made me feel guilty at the same time,” he said of training alongside 11 other swimmers prior to competing. “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.”
I just love water so much you can take the boy out of water but you can't take the water out of the boy #BULKINGSZN
A post shared by Markus Thormeyer (@lilmarquenis) on Aug 20, 2018 at 6:53am PDT
In his essay, Thormeyer details the fear he felt that his teammates wouldn’t accept him — a concern often shared by closeted queer athletes who train with close-knit teams, whether the fear is warranted or not — and said he worried coming out would create a divide that negatively impacted their Olympic chances.
“I didn’t want to take that chance, so I kept my walls up and generally avoided talks about sexuality and dating,” he admitted.
Officially starting my transition into a spider #spiderman
A post shared by Markus Thormeyer (@lilmarquenis) on May 13, 2019 at 7:01am PDT
But it wasn’t long before Thormeyer realized keeping this secret was going to be so much harder than he imagined, and that it was actually distracting him and causing both his performance and his relationships with his teammates to deteriorate.
“Every day felt like a threat and not an opportunity. This mentality was not healthy and paired with the combined pressure of wanting to qualify for the Olympics became too much,” he wrote. “I knew coming out would possibly solve these issues, but I was still scared because I didn’t know what would happen. I feared the unknown.”
Happy homecoming! Remember to stay hydrated
A post shared by Markus Thormeyer (@lilmarquenis) on Sep 15, 2019 at 12:53pm PDT
Finally, he realized he had to come clean. But rather than make a big deal out of it, Thormeyer approached his coming out to his teammates in a way that suited him best.
“One day, we were all hanging out and the topic of relationships came up in conversation. This was my moment,” he recalled. “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.”
BDE - Big Dream Energy
A post shared by Markus Thormeyer (@lilmarquenis) on Nov 3, 2019 at 12:37pm PST
Thormeyer credits the relief that came from sharing his sexuality with his teammates and realizing how unfazed they were by it with a notable improvement in the rest of his training season. He was able to qualify for the Olympics and enter the competition free from the burden of secrecy.
“Coming out to the team taught me to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of being different or gay,” he said. “It gave me the confidence in the pool, which eventually spread to every other part of my life.”
While Thormeyer hasn't been secretive about his sexuality over the last few years, he's decided to address it publicly now in his essay so as to help others who may be in a similar position, afraid to come out and afraid of rejection. He’s also set to join Team Canada’s OneTeam, to help promote LGBTQ+ inclusion throughout sports.
“Life is much better when you fully embrace you for who you are,” he said.0
Olympic Swimmer Markus Thormeyer Shares Heartwarming Coming Out Story0