The first openly gay GAA star, Donal Og Cusack, has urged youngsters confused about their sexual identities to confide in their families.
The hurling star stressed that telling his family and friends that he was gay was one of the best decisions he ever made.
Cusack (33) — speaking to 600 schoolchildren and teachers at a Cork Mental Health Foundation event at the weekend — said he was taken aback by the incredible support shown to him.
Last year, Cusack confirmed he was gay in his best-selling sports memoir. Now, the GAA star has urged any youngster uncertain about their sexuality to confide in their family.
There are no real quotes so it’s hard to say whether his words have been misconstrued or if that is actually what he has advised kids to do. The Times goes with a different interpretation of his comments:
Speaking at a Cork Mental Health Foundation conference last week, the 33-year-old goalkeeper urged teenagers to talk to their friends about their sexuality.
“Talk to people. I was afraid to talk to people in the early days, but I can guarantee, and this is the truth, that there was no adverse reaction from any of the friends I talked to. If anything, our friendships became stronger.”
Maybe, to the people who write these stories, the distinction is minor, irrelevant.
For those of use who’ve had to come out and those of us who still have to, it’s a really important distinction.
Would you recommend gay kids talk to their parents first? I wouldn’t.
Yes, parents love their children. Mostly they love their children as little extensions of their own egos. This might explain what happens when a kid comes out to her supportive, loving parents and they go bananas and kick her out.
I know my case isn’t necessarily typical, but if I’d told my parents before I told anyone else, it would have gone even worse. My mom — when I told her, years later, when I was confident and able to cope — suggested ex-gay therapy and marrying a man would help me. “Sex isn’t everything in a marriage,” she told me. Can you imagine getting this response when you are young, new to all of this and more vunerable? Not pretty.
I was lucky. It just so happened the university’s student counsellor was a lesbian, so I knew coming out to her would be easy. She was also able to help me talk about coming out to others.
While it’s lovely that Donal Óg had a great response from friends and family, that isn’t the case for everyone. Kids need to chose someone who is a “safe bet” and preferably someone on whom they are not financially dependent. Coming out, unfortunately, often requires growing up a little bit more than one would have to otherwise.
Who do you think kids should talk to first?