Does coming out still matter?
Coming out is tough but it can be especially difficult when you’re in the public eye, writes Geoff Field.
- Ian Thorpe talks coming out with Michael Parkinson
- Overwhelming support for Ian Thorpe on his coming out
- The backlash to Ian Thorpe's sexuality is coming from us
Before I give you my thoughts on this issue, may I wish Ian Thorpe all the best in the future and honour him for his decision to be true to himself. In spite of all the media attention over the ‘revelation’ in the interview with Sir Michael Parkinson, I know he will find a greater sense of peace in himself.
That said I really believe a person’s private life is exactly that, private, but seeing Ian has previously stated he’s ‘heterosexual’ I think it was important he decided to be honest. This matters not only for his own sense of wellbeing, but also to countless other young gay and lesbian people who might now find the courage to no longer live a life in the shadows.
I have been in Ian’s shoes. Back in 2004 when I began working on the nationally syndicated 2DayFM drive show I was asked by the hosts if I was happy to be “myself” on-air. At first I had no idea what this really meant, then it dawned on me that if they were talking about what they did on the weekend with their partners, I would have to be open about my life with Jason too.
Above: Sir Michael Parkinson interview Ian Thorpe.
So, the following day hundreds of thousands got to hear about my relationship with Jason. The impact of that hit me the following week when a newspaper published an article about me being the first openly gay radio newsreader on Australian radio!
I became known across the country as Geoff on radio, “the gay newsreader”.
To be honest, although I had my reservations I’m glad I did all that because back in 2004 being gay was rarely mentioned on-air. Coming out helped change that. It meant that being gay was not something to be hidden from the public. In fact Jason and I decide to get married on national TV and radio in an effort to highlight the discrimination that we still face. This was a catalyst for the now thriving marrriage equality campaign.
My coming out has been a profound and exciting journey.
Above: Geoff Field (right) with partner Jason Kerr in 2005.
You might well ask what I make of “the gay newsreader” label? At the time I was fine with it, however 10 years later I think it’s time for society to move on. Being gay is part of who I am, it’s not a label. In a perfect world it would be nice to think that after Ian’s interview there is no need for people to announce that they were gay. My dream is to live in a world where people are people and not labelled by their sexuality.
Sadly there is still a lot of homophobia in the world and it’s not always easy for people in the LGBTI community to be completely honest about their sexuality, but I believe Ian Thorpe has helped break down barriers by being true to himself and showing people there is nothing to be ashamed of.
In the end if we all just respected our differences this whole subject will be redundant.
This article was first published on Geoff Field's website: www.geofffield.com.au