Fuse is celebrating Pride Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future LGBTQ History before our eyes. Today we're honoring Gus Kenworthy, the Olympic medal–winning freestyle skier who is noted as being the first action-sports star to come out. And less than two years later, now acts as a shining mentor to anyone questioning their sexuality.
"I am gay," can be some of the most empowering or some of the scariest words a LGBTQ person can say out loud and Kenworthy did so with a high-profile ESPN Magazine cover story. Before the story published, the athlete took to his own social media to share his thoughts and reflections in his own words. "For most of my life I’ve dreaded the day that people would find out I was gay," he wrote in an Instagram post. "Now, I couldn’t be more excited to tell you all the truth. Whether you've suspected it all along or it's a complete shock, it’s important for me to be open and honest with you all. Y’all have supported me through a lot of my highs and lows and I hope you'll stay by my side as I make this transformation into th5jme genuine me—the me that I’ve always really been."
I am gay. Wow, it feels good to write those words. For most of my life I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself. Recently though, I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m proud to finally be letting my guard down. My sexuality has been something I’ve struggled to come to terms with. I’ve known I was gay since I was a kid but growing up in a town of 2,000 people, a class of 48 kids and then turning pro as an athlete when I was 16, it just wasn’t something I wanted to accept. I pushed my feelings away in the hopes that it was a passing phase but the thought of being found out kept me up at night. I constantly felt anxious, depressed and even suicidal. Looking back, it’s crazy to see how far I’ve come. For most of my life I’ve dreaded the day that people would find out I was gay. Now, I couldn’t be more excited to tell you all the truth. Whether you've suspected it all along or it's a complete shock, it’s important for me to be open and honest with you all. Y’all have supported me through a lot of my highs and lows and I hope you'll stay by my side as I make this transformation into the genuine me - the me that I’ve always really been. I am so thankful to @ESPN for giving me this opportunity and to Alyssa Roenigk for telling my story to the world. I think about the pain I put myself through by closeting myself for so long and it breaks my heart. If only I knew then what I know now: that the people who love you, who really care about you, will be by your side no matter what; and, that those who aren’t accepting of you are not the people you want or need in your life anyway. Part of the reason I had such a difficult time as a kid was that I didn’t know anyone in my position and didn’t have someone to look up to, who’s footsteps I could follow in. I hope to be that person for a younger generation, to model honesty and transparency and to show people that there’s nothing cooler than being yourself and embracing the things that make you unique. Click the link in my bio to read the full story and keep your eyes peeled for the Nov issue on newsstands soon!
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Since his coming out, the Telluride, Col. native has been open and genuine in navigating life as a newly out gay man. Gus has become a major advocate of LGBTQ rights (most recently becoming one of the faces of MeUndie's Pride Month campaign) and other vulnerable populations (he raised money for friend Miley Cyrus' LGBTQ-focused Happy Hippie Foundation when he competed on ABC's Celebrity Family Feud), along with his constant support of animal rights (one of his earliest media moments was when he and ex-boyfriend Robin Macdonald brought attention to the stray dog population at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia).
At the end of 2016, the 25-year-old and current boyfriend Matt Wilkas posed on the cover of Out Magazine's Love issue. The interview was a candid conversation about the two meeting at inconvenient times in their lives (Kenworthy was in the closet, Wilkas was getting over a past relationship) and the journey they had to saying "I love you" out loud. The athlete is particularly candid about him being new to the gay community and how little experience he has with guys.
From "I am gay" to "I love you," Kenworthy's journey has been documented in magazine interviews and social media, and is hallmarked by positivity and openness. Anyone struggling or questioning their identity—Gus shared that he was even suicidal one point over his sexuality—can see the skier as a real-life example that it does get better and there is love and light to find with one's true self. In the sports world where there are very few openly gay athletes, Kenworthy's story is all the more important for all to see as a healthy, happy and growingly successful gay person.
Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future LGBTQ History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.