Silver medal-winning Olympic skier and American Horror Story: 1984 star Gus Kenworthy shared an intimate and revealing conversation with soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe on Instagram last week where he revealed that coming out not only helped him perform better as an athlete, but also was the best thing for his mental health that he's ever done.
In the conversation, Kenworthy, who won the silver medal in Men's Slopestyle at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, told Rapinoe that being closeted not only hurt his personal life, but also his professional life as an athlete. "For a lot of my career, and my coming up in the sport, my mental health was kind of put on the back burner, and I feel like I was really compartmentalizing," he said.
For Kenworthy, being in the closet took so much of his mental time and energy, that he couldn't always concentrate on competitions or training. He said that as a youth at training camps he would always make sure he was the last to fall asleep, as he was afraid he would sleep talk and accidentally out himself.
"There were so many little things like that," he said. "It's exhausting."
"I was not out of the closet, so I was hiding a huge part of myself and my life, and there was so much time and energy put into harboring that secret that I think it really took a toll on my mental health," he continued. "I struggled with depression and at moments in my life thoughts of suicide." He said when he did finally come out publicly in 2015, "it was the best thing I could've ever done for my mental health."
At first, Kenworthy thought being out would maybe be a hindrance for his sport, but he quickly found the opposite to be true. "My following year after coming out was my best season to date," he said. "I felt so liberated, I had a huge weight off my shoulders, and just being able to ski openly, honestly, and authentically, and sharing my whole self with my competitors and the judges and the audience, it really did make a huge, huge difference."
The conversation was a part of the A&F Conversations with Megan Rapinoe series, a seven-part Instagram series from Abercrombie & Fitch where Rapinoe interviews other inspiring figures about their mental health. Later episodes will feature conversations with model and trans activist Leyna Bloom, Paralympican Scout Bassett, former NFL player Ryan Russell, founding member of the Compton Cowboys Randy Savvy, model and LGBTQ+ activist Laith Ashley, and influencer Halle Hathaway.