Rebel Wilson Outing Was Destructive and Disrespectful | Opinion

When I first saw this week's story about Rebel Wilson and how she came out, publishing a picture with her girlfriend after a newspaper had informed her that they were planning to reveal her relationship, I thought: Why are we so interested in dabbling in other people's lives? Why should it matter?

Why does someone care about who I'm sleeping with? Is it someone else's business? What year is it?

Rebel Wilson
Rebel Wilson photographed in March 2022. Wilson was attending the Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by editor Radhika Jones at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Things have changed a lot since I came out over 20 years ago [with an appearance at the 1994 Gay Games]. Back in the day when I was diving and living in the spotlight, reporters were respectful. I'd discuss the aspects of my personal life that I saw fit and that was it.

Now, with so much social media around, people share their lives a lot more openly, but also get into other people's lives a lot more. It makes things a bit blurry; while everybody agrees in principle that people are entitled to a personal life, rumor and gossip have found their natural home on social media.

However, while things have changed a lot since I was dealing with it, it's not true to say revealing a gay relationship is the same as revealing a straight one. When it comes to sexual identity, we want to tell those people who are close to us, and share that part of us, rather than have them read it in a tweet.

When I came forward with my HIV status [in 1995], that was the big one for me. I didn't want to have people read about it before it was made public, I wanted to make sure my friends and family knew. They would be concerned because of their love for me and I wanted to honor that and have that information come from me.

When I came out, it was on my own terms, For me to come forward and say, "This is who I am," there's power in that.

But if someone were to go behind my back, say, "Did you hear...?" or write something in a paper, trade in hearsay and speculation and all that stuff, that would be really destructive behavior. It reflects on the individual doing the gossiping, and I question why you're putting your energy there.

Some people still think closeted gay public figures owe it to their fans to come out and set an example, but I don't believe anybody owes anybody anything in that regard. Coming out is a journey, you have to honor that journey and work through it, and everyone works to their own time scale.

Greg Louganis at Seoul Olympics 1988
US diver Greg Louganis won the gold medal in springboard diving at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. His victory came after he'd hit his head on the board with an earlier dive. Manuel Ceneta/AFP via Getty Images

When my book first came out, and I was at Gay Pride in New York, a young kid came up and screamed at me, "It's about time you came out." It was harshly delivered and really critical, but I smiled and said, "Thank you." That same person later came to an event where I was speaking and he apologized to me. I hadn't fed into his reaction, which allowed him to do more research and have a bit more empathy for me. "You've been through a lot," he said.

In certain areas of the country and certain countries, we've come a long way in regards to acceptance. It is a non-issue in major metropolitan areas, but in other areas it continues to be challenging. A lot of people's ideas, concepts and beliefs have been passed down, generation after generation, so we still have a lot of healing to do.

While we wait for that healing, we have to realise the double-edged sword of reacting to a story like the one this week. We're all shocked and we end up becoming salacious in response. We shouldn't conspire to become the very same thing we are condemning. We can do better.

Greg Louganis is a four-time Olympic gold medalist diver, author, trainer and coach, speaking about LGBTQ+ issues, mental health, peak performance and more. The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.