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Saturday 11 April 2015

NZ rower: I am proud and glad to be gay

Posted in: Hall of Fame, New Zealand Daily News
By staff - 5th November 2014

New Zealand Olympic rower Robbie Manson has spoken publicly for the first time about being gay. He hopes his story shows "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."

Manson, 25, is a member of the New Zealand Elite rowing team, who represented the nation in the Quad Scull at the London Olympics, finishing in seventh place.

He’s a former Under 23 World Champion in the Double Scull, a discipline he’s also won three World Cup Regattas in – and currently represents New Zealand in, rowing with his brother Karl.

Manson has shared his story in a piece for Outsports, explaining that two and a half years ago he made “the scariest decision” of his life, to start coming out.

“I feel like there has always been a confident, outgoing side of me dying to come out. But from an early age I realized that I was different from most other guys. I desperately tried to hide that ‘different’ side of myself. 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.”

He says as his rowing career progresses, he was terrified of anyone finding out he was gay, especially his teammates.

“I seriously thought that if anyone found out I wouldn't be able to row anymore. The thought of coming out, in my mind, felt so limiting and terrifying.”

How big brother coming out helped, but it still took two years before Manson told him, and later his mum. A relationship, which didn’t work out, did give him the push he needed. It was right after he was named in the 2012 Olympic team that he told a few friends he was gay.

“Slowly I told more friends over the next few months, and by the end of the Olympics everyone knew, including the rest of my crew. I'm sure word spread a lot faster than I told people, and for a while it was a bit of a guessing game of who knows and who doesn't.

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

Manson says his perspective has changed so much, that now he is not only proud to be gay, but is glad he is.

“I wouldn't want to be any other way. 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.”

He says while there are lot of gay sporting role models, he hopes his story can help too.

“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.”

Read the full Outsports story here

   Bookmark and Share staff - 5th November 2014