Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blake Skjellerup

Short track speed skater Blake Skjellerup (b. 1985) competed at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, and he’s training to represent New Zealand in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. At the age of ten he suffered a broken arm as a rugby player, causing him to switch sports to speed skating. He placed 16th overall in the Vancouver Olympic Games, and he came out publicly shortly thereafter.

Blake, whose boyfriend is also an athlete, lives and trains in Calgary, Canada.  He is an advocate for Pink Shirt Day, a nationwide campaign to fight bullying in New Zealand. Along with Matthew Mitcham, the gay Olympic swimmer from Australia, Blake was named by the Federation of Gay Games as ambassadors to the 2014 Gay Games to be held in Cleveland, Ohio (not a typo! – Cleveland beat out Boston, Miami and Washington, DC).

From Blake Skjellerup – May 30, 2010:

“My choice to come out was not an easy one...I had to weigh up the impact coming out would have on me personally, on my family and my sport. With a decision like this I knew not everyone would be accepting of my decision. The Olympics had been and gone, and I had time to reflect on my journey. The opportunity to speak to DNA [magazine] about the Olympics resurfaced. I realised that the opportunity to share my story with other athletes and mums with gay sons and sports teams with a gay teammate would help redefine the perception of being gay and being in sports.

My passage into...accepting my sexuality took quite a long time. I had my first experience with another guy when I was 16. The eight years after that until I came out were full of highs and lows. I struggled with accepting how I could be gay, be successful and get everything I wanted out of life. In my teenage years there was no Gareth Thomas or Matthew Mitcham. Reading their stories and witnessing how comfortable and nonchalant Mitcham was about his sexuality at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 really opened my eyes.

I came out to break the stereotype of gay men and gay athletes. We can be anybody. We are anybody. My friends, family and team know me; they know I don't wear a skirt! I am no less of a man because I am gay...

There is still very apparent discrimination against gay people. I was an angry teenager at some points. I never felt comfortable with telling anyone about being gay. From a young age and through high school I was that kid who got called faggot and homo. It was apparent to me that being different was not an option, but the one thing that got me through was that I knew, one day, I would be better than they were. I reminded myself that everyday. I know first hand that hiding something puts a tremendous pressure on a person. Hiding my sexuality is something I regret, as today, being an openly gay man and athlete, I feel much greater and more significant than ever before.”

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