On Thursday, the 24-year-old athlete added one more distinction to his resume — he became the first male X Games athlete to come out as gay.
The decision to come out wasn’t easy, though. In a long read posted by ESPN the Magazine, Kenworthy admits that for years he thought if anyone knew his true sexual orientation he would no longer be an idol to young kids. He thought perhaps he’d have to forego a payday from sponsors. Things were so bad, he said, that he even thought about suicide at times. To cope with the pressures, Kenworthy said he chose to conform to what he saw as the norms of his sport.
“In skiing, there’s such an alpha male thing about pulling the hottest chicks,” Kenworthy told ESPN. “I know hooking up with hot girls doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world. But I literally would sleep with a girl and then cry about it afterward. I’m like, ‘What am I doing?
I don’t know what I’m doing.’ ”
He added: “They say [action sports compose] a community of individuals and everyone is doing their own thing and it’s not a team sport, so you get to be yourself, but you don’t, really.”
Kenworthy says his mind-set changed, however, when he finished last season ranked as the best freeskier in the world. A later injury then gave him time to contemplate what he really wanted, and that was what he calls “a TV boyfriend.”
He’s looking forward to never having to find an excuse to tell interviewers why he doesn’t have a girlfriend. More so, though, he wants to look up on the big screen at January’s X Games and see “Gus Kenworthy’s boyfriend.”
Time will tell how receptive his fellow athletes will be to the truth, but the X Games and the U.S. Olympic Team both quickly showed support on Thursday.