Mark Foster has discussed life since coming out publicly as gay last year, saying ‘the response has been amazing.’
Speaking to GSN at the Stonewall Equality Dinner in London last Friday, the British swimmer added: ‘I’ve come to events like this celebrating the community before, but in the shadows. It’s much easier now.’
The 47-year-old furthermore added: ‘I wouldn’t have spoken to you a year ago. And you probably wouldn’t have spoken to me! I would come in and go out. I was good at swerving stuff. It’s nice not having to do that. It’s nice wherever I go to not worry what I say and do.’
‘I’ve had a text message from someone who wants to talk’
Mark also revealed that another LGBTI sportsperson has gotten in touch with him since he came out.
‘I’ve had a text message from someone who wants to talk, yeah,’ said the BBC TV presenter. My thing is – and it sounds stupid; I’m 47, I’m a middle aged man! – people have got to do it in their own time.’
Also in attendance at the fundraiser at Sheraton Grand Park Lane was TV star Gok Wan, Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix and Years and Years frontman Olly Alexander.
During his keynote speech, Olly received a standing ovation after opening up about his experiences of depression and anxiety.
‘I fell in love when I was 21 – I had someone who looked after me’
Responding to King singer Olly’s speech, Mark said: ‘Olly’s story about when he was younger – that shocked me. That hasn’t happened to me, but I feel it when I hear it.’
‘[For me, dealing with my sexuality at a young age] was one of these situations whereby I didn’t try and commit suicide, I didn’t self harm – I was very lucky. I fell in love when I was 21; I had someone who looked after me. It was a love thing. I felt so comfortable at home, that protected me. So my own self, I didn’t have a dark story going on in the background.
‘I’ve had two partners. One for 19 years, current one for seven years. So, to friends and family – let’s say I did the big bit first. Telling my sisters, telling my dad. But I always found I had my own life, and my work life, which was sport.
‘I suppose being in the public eye and standing on a block and being very vulnerable, from a very early age I got used to hiding stuff, and it became a secret. The secret got bigger.’
Speaking about the importance of fighting for equality, Mark furthermore added: ‘Until it’s not a problem for Premiership footballers to come out, until there aren’t countries where people are killed for being gay and it’s not a crime for being gay, it’s not “so what?”
‘For me it was about joining the community in a very public way. And hopefully helping people come to terms with their sexuality or struggling with being themselves.’
For more information about Stonewall, visit Stonewall.org.uk.