The speculation is back. Again. "Is Ian Thorpe gay?" It's a common search term bringing people to Outsports.com and has been for years. For whatever reason, the Australian Olympic swimming champion simply cannot shake questions about whether he is gay or not.
In a TV interview this Sunday, he'll be asked again - this time by Michael Parkinson. The big tease for the show is that Parkinson will ask Thorpe to comment, yet again, on whether he's gay or not. The way Parkinson fashioned the question, and the video that's circulating to support the show, certainly leave you wondering what the answer is:
"You've always said that you're not gay. Is all of that true?"
Thorpe has answered pretty clearly over and over again. He said in his 2012 autobiography that he is not gay and that all of his sexual experiences have been with women. He also said he's frustrated with the seemingly constant speculation because it implies he's lying:
The thing that I find hurtful about it is that people are questioning my integrity and what I say. That's the only part I find hurtful, that this is something I would be embarrassed about and that I would hide. ... I try to explain it but I don't know either, but I think it's because I don't fit into the typical stereotype of what a straight athlete would be in the past.
He was first asked about it in 2002, then again in 2007. Both times he said flatly he is not gay. In 2009 he was asked again and again said, "In the past, on several separate occasions, I have answered questions about my sexuality openly and honestly with the media ... my situation in this regard has not changed," he said.
Now again we have Thorpe having to answer the question of whether he is gay or not.
I have no problem asking anyone if they are gay. I don't think it's something to be ashamed of, and I think the question is completely legit. If being called "gay" isn't even grounds for defamation in North Carolina (it hasn't been in a decade), then asking someone if they are gay is legit.
This, however, has gotten out of control. For a dozen years, Thorpe has answered this question the same way. Even if he is gay, he's made it clear he doesn't want to be identified as such. It's gotten to the point of harassment. The "tease" of the show is all about asking Thorpe the question. Again.
If he answers it with a "Sorry, I'm still straight" answer, Parkinson should be hung out to dry. I'll leave open the possibility that Thorpe has expressed an interest in answering the question because maybe he isn't straight and maybe he does now want to talk about it. But if Thorpe still has the same answer to the question, Parkinson should get ripped to shreds for it.
Either way, the producers and network will get what they want: a hyped show and higher ratings, all on the back of asking an elite athlete for the 372nd time if he's gay.