Crammed around the family TV Sunday night in the commune that is my house, I was struck by how one man, one of our greatest champions, still has the ability to make an entire family stop and cheer.
Ian Thorpe’s interview with Michael Parkinson was powerful, brave and an eye opener to our sickly obsession with the private lives of celebrity. If only he had never been inappropriately asked about his sexuality at age 15.
When he said “Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” I felt so very sad. Even though each and every one of us yell and holler that it doesn’t matter, that we knew all along and didn’t care, someone, somewhere must have told, advised, whispered or gossiped that it did, and an impressionable young man listened.
My favourite tweet of the night said something along the lines of “We know, now give us a hug”. I hope Thorpie felt that huge national hug and that the best is yet to come for him. But chatting about it on my radio show yesterday, the issue that came to the fore was what to tell the kids.
Parents are grappling with how to explain to their children what exactly was going on Sunday night and why it was such a big deal.
And I’m not talking about being gay. I feel pretty confident that in this day and age, with the media right behind marriage equality, most children know that some men love men, and some women love women, and that’s just the way it is and that’s OK. As I say to Millie, one day you will make someone very happy, and I am okay with who as long as they love you like I love you, deeply and unconditionally.
At two years old she has no idea what I’m even saying. But like Aibileen in the movie The Help when she says to the children in her care, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”, I feel if I keep on saying it, it will one day sink in.
The real issue of the interview was, through no fault of his own, the fact that he lived a very public lie. In amongst the talk of past victories, living with crippling depression and his amazing work with indigenous communities, the reason this interview was so different to others, the main reason we all cared, was because of his truthful admittance of his untruthfulness. For a very long time, our champion did something we educate our children not to do, and that is tell lies.
But like everything around us, Sunday night’s interview was an opportunity once again to educate. To educate our children about the different kinds of love and accepting it. About being aware of being sad — not just sometimes in sad situations, but if they are sad all the time, to tell someone and get help.
But most importantly, that lying is not okay. That lies ultimately hurt people, and the person you hurt the most, is YOU. But what is okay is having the courage to admit you lied, because when you find that bravery, you will be surrounded by love, just like Thorpie.
Because no matter how powerful the lie, what is more powerful is forgiveness.