In his second cover interview with GAY TIMES, Gus Kenworthy reflects on the “privilege” of being an openly gay athlete as he prepares to represent Team GB at his third – and final – Winter Olympics.
The 30-year-old freestyle skier memorably made history in 2015 when he became the first action sports star to come out as gay.
Three years later at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Kenworthy kissed his then-partner Matt Wilkas on live television before his qualifying run in the men’s slopestyle; which has since been lauded as a significant moment for the visibility of LGBTQ+ athletes.
“It was the visual representation of my games: getting to be one of the first openly gay athletes to compete at the Winter Olympics for the US,” he tells GAY TIMES.
“That will always be quite high on my list of accomplishments – not necessarily the kiss itself, but the kiss is sort of a clean visual of how I felt during that games and what I got to experience there.”
Now, Kenworthy is one of the world’s most high-profile LGBTQ+ athletes with 1.2 million Instagram followers. He also boasts television credits such as RuPaul’s Drag Race, American Horror Story: 1984, Will & Grace and Coming Out Colton.
Kenworthy says being an openly gay athlete is a “privilege” that comes with certain responsibilities, and that he supports Tom Daley’s call to ban countries where people are persecuted for being LGBTQ+ from the Olympics – not just as a point of principle, but as a “catalyst for change”.
“If the leaders want their country to be in the Olympics – and they want that sense of pride and prestige it brings – then they should have to change their policies first,” he says firmly.
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In our interview, Kenworthy also speaks passionately about being an ally to trans athletes – stressing that solid allyship involves “trying to amplify their voices and not speaking on behalf of them” – and the lack of openly gay professional football players.
Josh Cavallo, who plays for Adelaide United in Australia, is currently the only top-flight male footballer in the world to have come out.
With youth soccer the most played sport on the planet, Kenworthy says any high-profile footballer who comes out would be “helping a lot of queer kids”, adding: “I played soccer in high school and I remember feeling like it was kind of homophobic, so imagine the impact that person could have?”
In time, Kenworthy says coming out could benefit a gay footballer’s career. “Taking that bold stance to speak their truth and say who they really are would be an opportunity for them to create a much bigger name for themselves as well,” he explains.
“It’s scary being the first [to come out] – I was the first in my entire sport – but a lot of my fears were unfounded. And the amount of support that it opened up for me, especially from the [LGBTQ+] community, is so much greater than I could have ever imagined.”