Four years ago during the Winter Olympic in Sochi, U.S. freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy was “totally in the closet” and “too scared even to go watch” a gay pride parade in his Colorado hometown.
Clearly, he’s over that. On Sunday, the 2014 silver medalist will be grand marshal at the 10th annual Miami Beach Gay Pride parade on Ocean Drive.
“It’s definitely been a complete 180,” says Kenworthy, 26, who came out publicly in October 2015 on ESPN.com, becoming one of the Olympics’ few openly LGBTQ athletes to compete in February during the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
He and boyfriend Matthew Wilkas got worldwide attention after NBC broadcast their good-luck kiss before qualifying on live TV. The next day Kenworthy tweeted: “Didn't realize this moment was being filmed yesterday but I'm so happy that it was. My childhood self would never have dreamed of seeing a gay kiss on TV at the Olympics but for the first time ever a kid watching at home CAN! Love is love is love.”
About a month ago, the Beach pride committee invited Kenworthy to be this year’s celebrity marshal, his first time heading up a gay pride parade. “I’m doing a few this summer, but this is my first one. It will be my first time to Miami, my first time to Florida,” he says. “I’m happy to travel anywhere without snow.”
Kenworthy says pride parades cause him to choke up. “Seeing so many people embracing who they are and loving one another — it’s just a day of kindness. My favorite part of the entire day is seeing the parents from [LGBTQ family group] PFLAG walking with signs that say ‘I love my gay son’ or ‘I love my trans daughter.’ Whatever it is, it’s just amazing. It makes me cry, it’s so sweet.”
He’s comfortable being an out role model and amazed at how comfortable young people are today.
“One of Matt’s friends has a daughter who’s 14 and she said to her parents, ‘I’ve only been attracted to boys but I don’t know if maybe I’m bisexual.’ It’s very fluid and comfortable and it’s just very different than when I was growing up and certainly a generation before me and before that and before that.”
Kenworthy, who was born in England and grew up in Telluride, Colorado, offers coming-out advice for young people:
“I basically encourage you to try and reconcile with yourself whether you’re gay or think you might be gay. It’s important to kind of look inside and sort of get a hold of your feelings and get an understanding of them and embrace them. And love them and love yourself and be able to share that part of yourself with the world.
“I don’t ever want to tell anyone to come out or when to come out or how to come out because it’s so incredibly personal,” he continues. “For some people, maybe coming out immediately isn’t the right option, but I think it’s important to recognize who you are, and accept who you are and love who you are. If you can’t love yourself, then there’s no way you’re going to love anybody else. And there’s no way anybody else is going to truly be able to love you, because you are not sharing yourself authentically.”
Miami Beach Gay Pride
Olympian Gus Kenworthy will attend the Miami Beach Gay Pride VIP gala 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday at Faena Forum, 3300 Collins Ave.
He will ride as celebrity grand marshal in Sunday’s noon pride parade along Ocean Drive in South Beach. NBC6 anchor Roxanne Vargas is this year’s ally grand marshal