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Olympic swimmer Sean Gunn comes out as gay

Olympic swimmer Sean Gunn opens up about his struggle to come out
Olympic swimmer Sean Gunn opens up about his struggle to come out

Olympic swimmer Sean Gunn is out and proud, and it turns out he has Kentucky of all places to thank for it.

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Gunn made his debut representing his African home nation of Zimbabwe at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games, which he told Outsports brought him to tears. He wasn’t unfamiliar to the international stage at the time, having competed in the FINA World Swimming Championships as a teenager. He also broke some school records on relay teams at the University of Kentucky.

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His time in Kentucky, of all places, helped him realize he was gay.

“Initially, I was not out at all,” he said. “I dated girls for the first few years. I had some really great relationships with girls over the years and really loved them. Obviously over time that changed and I started dating guys later on. But my team, and everyone who did know, was very supportive and happy for me.”

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Kentucky is pretty low on the list of places most people feel comfortable coming out, but Gunn said, “If anything, friendships just became better. I think in my head I built it up for so long, and I was terrified that the way they acted or treated me would be different. But I was really lucky that everyone was so amazing and wanted me to be the happiest version of myself.”

Although his friends remained supportive, he withheld his sexuality from his family until later. Now that he’s completely out in the open, he’s living with his boyfriend in Cape Town, South Africa. His swimming career ended after the Olympics, but he’s happy to put that in the past.

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“I really needed the break, and it took a long time for me to be able to enjoy swimming again,” he said. “My life really is in such a good space right now, and I have so much to be grateful for.”

Part of that gratitude is being able to be authentic with his family, which he said, “As someone who did struggle with coming out and only did come out at 27 to my family, it makes me so happy to be surrounded by friends and family and so much love, and am really grateful for them all.”