Olympic legend Greg Louganis and young diver Aaron Ach are reflecting on their experiences as gay athletes, decades apart.
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Greg: I’m Greg Louganis, I’m almost 60, can’t believe I’m turning 60. But yea, 5 time Olympic medalist, New York Times best selling author (5 weeks in a row), and I speak as an activist for the LGBT community. And I’m still here.
Aaron: My name’s Aaron Ach. I’ve been a diver for eight years. I started just before I entered high school and for the last four years I’ve been a diver at Princeton for the swimming and diving team which has been an amazing experience, and really love for the sport, and my love for the divers on the team have kept me in it.
Greg: Back in the ‘70s, ‘80s, it really wasn’t too cool to be in sports and be gay. There were a lot of closeted individuals. I didn’t feel comfortable — I was out to friends and family, people that were close to me — but to be able to speak about it in public, that was kind of the stopper. I had agents and managers who said you’ll lose endorsement contracts, you’ll never work again. So we had a long way to go at that time. Sometimes, we were a small team, you know diving is a small team and we’re traveling internationally, and there was an issue of ‘Ok, who’s gonna room with the f*g?’ And I can look back now because there’s been some time and space, and a lot of those divers that I used to dive against, I really don’t know how much of it was true homophobia. I think very little of it was true homophobia, I think it was jealousy, because I was winning at the time. So they thought, ‘Well maybe we can get him this way.’ So I really didn’t put a whole lot of stock of the harsh words that were directed at me.
Aaron: I really have — obviously I wasn’t living then, I was born in 1997, I’m only 21 years old after all. But it’s just remarkable to me how much has changed since then. And I know that people say that often. But just to provide context, I was not — I had people, not just big figures like yourself who had done it a number of years before I ever had to. But I had, a couple people, even at my high school, who had started blazing a trail before I published that column or told my family or this or that. I think it’s so important to recognize how cumulative those effects are. Obviously the marginal power of the first people, the first visible figures like yourself, whether that be as a gay man or as an Olympic-level person who’s living with HIV, something there are so many misperceptions about. Hearing those stories are incredibly important and it provides such a strong foundation that people can keep building up higher and higher.
Greg: What most people know is what they see on the TV and if they do profiles on you, they get such a superficial look at who an individual is. It was interesting because a lot of people will ask, ‘When did you come out?’ And that’s a hard question for me to answer. Because I was out to my friends and family, people in USA Diving knew about my sexual identity … and so it was just my policy not to discuss my sexuality with members of the media, because, understandably so, I feel like everyone’s entitled to a personal life, so I kept my personal life personal. But the divers and most people knew about my sexual identity. It’s just that the general public, it wasn’t out there in the media.
Aaron: Things stayed pretty mundane until my junior year of high school. By then both my brother and sister — I’m the youngest, I’m the baby — by then, both had left for college. And it was the first time that I was home alone with my parents. And even though I would have given anything to have them back for my last two years of high school, which, I’m somebody who put a lot of pressure on myself academically, athletically, as so many people do. I did get provided a really necessary space, and one that is in a lot of ways responsible for my story. And it allowed me to start wrestling with things like identity more so than I previously had been willing to.
#Divers #Diving #Gay #LGBT #GregLouganis
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