That is the message from Brian Oliver, a Victoria Park resident and Town councillor, for fellow members of the gay community in the aftermath of Australian sporting legend Ian Thorpe’s revelation in an internationally televised interview last week that he is homosexual.
Compelled to share his thoughts with the Gazette as a way of supporting others pondering sharing their sexual identity with family and friends, he said Thorpe’s ‘coming out’ had highlighted how difficult it was for men and women, famous or not, to share that information publicly. Even in 2014.
But he felt there was more available support and community acceptance than ever before and encouraged people to seek help to come out because without that final step, people could not be free to be themselves or fulfil their potential.
Mr Oliver (28) said he told his family a decade ago that he was gay, and although there was no right time, believed there was merit in getting it over with sooner rather than later ” much like ripping a band aid off ” so those affected could start living an authentic life.
‘I came out at 18 to my family. Probably the hardest thing I have ever done,’ Mr Oliver said.
‘I went to the doctor and told him I was gay and thinking of coming out to my family. I wanted to know what to do next but he said there was no formula and to follow my gut instinct.
‘I told my family, including my grandparents, at a family dinner. Initially my mum and dad were shocked but nothing is ever as bad as you think it’s going to be.’
While he felt disappointed for Thorpe that he had not felt comfortable enough until now to ‘come out’, he hoped his story would generate more conversations about sexuality.
‘Not necessarily asking/saying to people ‘It’s ok if you are gay’, but about creating inclusive, supportive and comfortable environments at home, work and socially so that people feel confident enough to come out,’ Mr Oliver said.
Relating a story about a 26-year-old friend who came out to his parents in recent weeks, Mr Oliver said his parents were upset he hadn’t told them earlier.
‘I guess it just highlights the difficult path of a gay person, and the fear of the unknown, not knowing what life will be like,’ he said.
‘You want to feel secure, that your family will still love you for who you are. But you don’t have to hold it in and struggle, the support networks are there.
‘I haven’t had to worry, but have used all my energy to focus on the important things.’