New Zealand Olympic Rower Robbie Manson Comes Out

New Zealand Olympic Rower Robbie Manson Comes Out

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Robbie Manson competes during the Mens premier single sculls final at Lake Karapiro on January 26, 2014 in Cambridge, New Zealand.  (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
Robbie Manson competes during the Mens premier single sculls final at Lake Karapiro on January 26, 2014 in Cambridge, New Zealand. (Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

New Zealand Olympic Rower Robbie Manson joined the ranks of Michael SamBrittney Griner and Jason Collins when he decided to come out publicly as gay.

Manson, who came out in a column with OutSports November 4, has been out to friends and family for two and a half years.

He realized he was “different” from an early age.

“I desperately tried to hide that ‘different’ side of myself,” Manson wrote. “In doing so I inadvertently became very quiet and shy, shutting myself off and avoiding attention for fear that someone might discover my deepest, darkest secret: I’m gay.”

At 16, Manson started to row with his younger brother Karl, which he said helped further hide his secret as he was always competitive and “far from flamboyant.”

Manson was terrified his teammates would find out he was gay. He thought it would ruin his future in rowing, and he himself had some issues with gay people as well.

“Also, in a strange way, I looked down on other people who were gay, and to a degree felt sorry for them, thinking to be gay was to be ‘less than,’” he said. “I knew I was gay too, and I hated myself because of it. I would get quite depressed about.”

Manson feared coming out would make others treat him differently and that he’d be “inadequate.”

“The worst part of the whole situation: It was all in my head,” he said.”

At 19, Manson didn’t want to face his own sexuality so he denied his feelings. Then, his older brother came out.

“I was initially shocked,” Manson said. “But then I sat back and realized that there had been little clues all along – I had just been blindly caught up in my own struggle. But I was in no way ready to admit that I was gay to myself let alone come out to anyone else.”

Manson finally made the leap at 21 and came out to his brother. Ten months later, he told his mother.

“I thought Mum was never going to have a problem with it, but knowing that she knew made me feel a lot better.”

A few months later, Manson found a man he had a crush on and asked him out. It developed into his first relationship that ended up not working out, but was the push that Manson needed.

Manson told his first group of friends after a few drinks after he was named to the New Zealand rowing team for the London Olympics. Over the next few months, he told more and more people.

“Much to my surprise, everyone was fine with it,” Manson said. “I didn’t have a single bad reaction, and most people were demonstrably supportive.”

After coming out, Manson finally had confidence to be himself, and is now proud to be gay.

“I wouldn’t want to be any other way,” Manson said. “I think it makes me more interesting, and it’s something that does make me different in a good way. I learned that I’m a lot stronger and more resilient than I gave myself credit for, and that other people are far more accepting than I thought they would be.”

Manson hopes to show people that “your talent determines what you achieve, not your sexuality.”

“There are already a lot of great gay sporting role models, and a lot who have achieved far more than I have, but I hope that my story can add something to what is already out there,” Manson said. “To show other people who might be struggling with their sexuality, not only that it’s ok to be gay, but it’s a good thing, and it won’t change who you are or limit what you can achieve. At the end of the day, it’s only one of the many things that define me as a person.”

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