(Photo: Getty Images)
I first heard of Matthew Mitcham back in 2008, when he won his first Gold Medal at the Beijing Olympic Games. At the time he was the one of the first openly gay athletes participating in the Olympics. I thought to myself “What a brave individual” to be who he truly is and not let it get in the way of his own success and accomplishments.
In an interview Matthew has said “I don’t see sexuality as influencing my beliefs or opinions or perceptions of anybody, whether they’re gay, bi, trans, experimental, I don’t care. I see it as very uninfluential factor in people.” I believe that’s what makes our community of LGBT unique. I think the public and ourselves sometimes spend so much time focusing on our orientations, than to who we truly are. We all have our own successes and we all have our own hopes, dreams and goals in life. Like Matthew I don’t allow who I love and lay in bed with define who I truly am. When Matt won the Gold medal and ran up to kiss his partner-I knew he began to open the gates to acceptance in the Olympics and around the world.
Back in 2008, I didn’t know we were heading to be on the path to better acceptance in both The United States, Australia and around the world. In 2008 Barack Obama was elected the First African-American President and that same night the People of California defined Marriage between ‘One man and One woman’ in a close vote on Proposition 8. While my hard work paid off on the Presidential election, I felt once again a second class citizen with the California Prop 8 vote. Even though I was not a resident of the State, I knew that vote affected not only our community in America-but around the world. Between than and now, the world has changed so much for acceptance of the LBGT community.
In 2009 Matthew took fourth in World Aquatics Championships in the 10M Platform in Rome. He’s also won four silver medals in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Now since his Olympic appearance in 2008 the heart’s of the world and the acceptance for the LBGT community rapidly changed. On May 9th 2012, US President Barack Obama stated his support for Marriage Equality. In the United States, 54% of American’s now support Marriage Equality vs. 47% in 2008 and a larger 64% of Australians now support Marriage Equality in their country. Many politicians around the world also stepped in on the support. We still have a long road ahead of us. But Every step forward is placed by people like Matthew Mitcham, and other athletes, celebrities, news anchors, family and friends who come out of the closet to open the hearts of the people in their lives. Then there our Leaders like President Barack Obama of the United States, Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain, Jay Weatherill Primer of South Australia and Lara Giddings Primer of Tasmania who are pushing for equality for all throughout the world.
(Photo: Matthew Mitcham Twitter)
Fast forward to the London Olympic Games, I was very excited to know he made it onto the Australian Olympic team competing in London, England. I could not wait to see him do what he does best. At this time I started to follow Matthew on Twitter. I quickly became amazed by how fast his fan base grew and how much he meant not only to the LGBT community, but to his own country and his fans around the world. The great thing about Matt is how he interacts with his fans and followers. He answers their questions, shares his thoughts on all sort of things, and also shares his love for the sport and his everyday life while at the London Olympics. Once in awhile he would post an adorable video of him singing and playing the ukulele, while he had down time in the Olympic Village.
Now after his amazing performance at the Preliminaries, he moved onto the Semi-Finals where he fell one spot short to compete in the Finals. As many of his followers on Twitter watched every dive and cheered him on, I noticed the moment the results to move to the finals were not in his or our favor- I knew he inspired so many, by just being who he was and how he enjoyed every minute of it.
I once read a quote from Oprah Winfrey. It was a big “AHA” moment for me because so many times I would be down about not reaching a goal or succeeding in something I worked so hard for. The quote went like this:
“I don’t believe in failure, It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.”
(Photo: Wesley Sabugo)
I’m a true believer in this advice because no one fails, just because they haven’t reached their goal-the only way we fail is if we never ENJOYED the PROCESS. I know for a fact that Matthew enjoyed every moment of the process. We all felt it EVERY TIME he smiled, waved and gave the camera a Thumbs Up after a dive. He’s enjoyed tweeting us every photo and enjoyed sharing his other talents of singing and playing the ukulele. He showed enjoyment when he would interact with us all on Twitter. He touches so many lives and I’m hoping in my heart he knows it. He inspires people of all nations, he also inspires young and old gay men to be who they are and not allow who we love define us.
I am forever thankful to find inspiration from him. I’ve gained some pretty awesome friendships with some of his followers in London and in Australia.
To me he has already won the Gold Medal-for having an amazing heart and inspiring us all.
Thank you Matthew.