Simon Dunn, an openly gay bobsledder and rugby player who became an advocate for LGBTQ causes, died Saturday in Sydney, Australia. He was 35.
Dunn’s body was found at his apartment by police, who did not disclose the cause of death but said it is not being treated as suspicious.
Dunn was on social media as recently as Thursday, two days before he died, when he posted a shirtless black and white photo of himself staring in the mirror with the caption, “I think it’s time for another photoshoot?!”
The Sydney Star-Observer noted that, “In November 2022, Dunn and his partner of five years, Felix Maisey-Curtis, announced that they had parted ways. Dunn and Felix made headline news around the world in 2018 when they were captured kissing on the rugby pitch. Dunn said that the couple had mutually decided to go their separate ways ‘after a rough year of personal loss.’”
Dunn had long been a advocate for LGBTQ people in sport, raising money for charities and organizations, public speaking and using his social media presence to post pleas for inclusion, while at the same time pushing a sex-positive message with frequent shirtless photos.
“He was a passionate advocate for LGBTQIA+ representation in sport, speaking about his experiences of homophobia in his younger years,” a statement from the HIV support group Bobby Goldsmith Foundation said. “He was determined to make a positive change in sporting culture throughout the world and his tireless efforts to promote inclusion and equality in sport will continue to inspire future generations.”
Dunn played rugby with gay-oriented teams in London and Sydney and then moved to Canada while he tackled bobsled, hoping to qualify for the Olympics. A torn biceps in 2021 ended his shot at competing at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
Tributes to Dunn poured into social media after news of his death. Australian gymnast Heath Thorpe, himself gay, posted a loving tribute to his friend on Twitter:
I’ve said enough words for today but damn… my heart hurts in ways that words can’t describe— Heath Thorpe (@thorpeheath) January 23, 2023
Still in shock.
Finding the words to grieve a life lost, one you were intertwined with in any aspect, is hard to describe. Often we find ourselves speechless and incapable of describing the shock, pain and denial we are in the process of facilitating. The end of a life is the one certainty and constant in this world that we have — yet we never know how to confront reality when it comes.
I hope this letter provides a medium of comfort and familiarity to those reading. This is a letter to you Simon. I can’t message or talk to you again... so this will have to serve as a goodbye.
Simon, I met you a few years back. Our commonplace was advocacy and we found ourselves in the same workplaces. The drive and devotion we had to bettering the lives of our community and consequently our chosen families, was the understructure that allowed our souls to cross paths.
I know I can speak for so many people worldwide when I say that you have inspired and changed people’s time on earth for the better. Whether it was destigmatizing queerness in sport, raising awareness for HIV as an ally or using your platform for other charitable causes, your work is honorable and something that will continue on as a legacy for many years to come. ...
Dunn died way too soon. May he rest in peace.