Olympian Gus Kenworthy opens up about coming out in the homophobic world of free skiing

Olympian skiier Gus Kenworthy has talked about the experience he had dealing with homophobia as a skiier in training and eventually how coming out as gay transformed his life in a new video series from PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly called, 'Coming Out Stories.'

Gus talked about the moment he discovered he was different. "I probably first knew I was gay when I was about 5 years old, but I didn't even understand what that meant at all," he said.

"I just knew that something was different about me than my brothers. And because I was afraid of being different, that became my secret."

He continued, "When I was 14 or so, I really actually tuned in to what that meant... but I wasn't ready to accept that at all. When I started skiing professionally, I definitely pushed myself further and further into the closet because I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing, did the wrong thing, the wrong person found out that I was gay, that it would all be taken away from me."

The United States Olympic Freeskiing Team in Park City, Utah. (Getty Images)

Gus described the homophobic environment that surrounded skiing, sharing, "There's a culture within free skiing... the language that everyone uses is really homophobic. Anything that's bad - the judging, the weather, the course, everything's 'gay.' Anyone compliments you, they sorta like follow it up with 'No homo,' like the snowboarders call the skiiers 'Skiier fags.'"

Gus talked about the first person he told. "The first time that I actually started telling my friends was when I was 22 years old, " he said.

"It was right after the 2014 Olympics, and I had actually been really desperate to tell my best friend, Bobby [Brown]. We were sharing a room at the Olympics, and there was all this anti-LGBT legislation in place, and I really just wanted to open up and tell him, but I was so scared that I was going to ruin his Olympic experience."

He continued, "So I didn't tell him, and right when the games were over, I came out to him and his girlfriend. And it was very emotional, I was crying, and they were like, 'We know.' And I was like, 'What do you mean you know?' And they're like, 'Yeah, we know. We've been waiting for you to tell us.' So then it kind of gave me the confidence to start telling other people."

From L-R: Bobby Brown, Joss Christensen, and Gus Kenworthy (Getty Images)

Gus talked about how their response encouraged him. "I told a couple of other friends, I told my mom.... With each person I told, I felt this massive weight being lifted off my shoulder. It just made me feel so good, so real, and I had never ever felt that."

He described one of the biggest moments of his coming out experience. "I decided that I wanted to do it publicly. I wanted to come out in a big way and hopefully help people who are in a similar situation to me when I was a kid and not feeling like they had someone to identify with. So I came out publicly in October of 2015 on the cover of ESPN."

When asked what he woudl tell his younger self given the chance, Gus said, "I would have told that younger person not to be so afraid to let everyone else know that I was gay because it's been incredible. I think if I could have told my younger self, 'Just wait. When you're older, you're going to be out and proud."

Gus Kenworthy (R) and his boyfriend Matthew Wilkas (L) (Getty Images)

He added, "And you're gonna have a boyfriend, and you're going to be so excited to share yourself authentically with the world, and it's gonna make a difference for other people.' I think it would have given that young kid a lot of confidence moving forward." Ever since Gus came out, he has received a flood of support on social media.

If you have any views or stories that you would like to share with us, drop us an email at writetous@meawwworld.com

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