In the latest episode of our podcast series, 22 Voices, we mark Pride Month with Team Jamaica swimmer Michael Gunning, who’s making waves as a global advocate for LGBT+ rights.  

In the podcast episode, the swimmer speaks to presenter Samantha Johnson about coming out as gay on the celebrity dating show The Bi Life in 2018, two years after he switched allegiance from Great Britain to Jamaica, where his father was born. He says the reaction in Jamaica has been positive, even though it’s still illegal to be gay there:

“Since coming out, they haven’t really spoken about it, and for me that’s a really positive thing. You see so much homophobia around the world, so for me to be able to be my authentic self and not get questioned or hate for it has been really amazing.”

It was so nice to walk poolside and not pretend to be someone I'm not

Gunning says being able to live as his authentic self has improved his performances in the pool, too:

“It was so nice to walk poolside and not pretend to be someone I’m not. I always had a smile on my face, I was always quite flamboyant, so for a lot of people it wasn’t a shock. I don’t know why I thought people would treat me differently, but it was the best feeling and I’ve definitely seen the results in my swimming get better.”

Gunning has since become a global advocate for LGBT+ rights, winning the Pride Award at the Attitude Pride Awards in 2019 for his work in raising LGBT+ visibility in sport. He says the best advice to anyone scared of being open about their sexuality is to speak to someone:

“When I was younger I never told anyone about my sexuality, I just suppressed it so much that it made being myself so hard.  So, I think my message to anyone that is struggling is talk to someone, whether it’s a family member, a friend, even online.  Once you tell one person it just gets so much easier and it’s a massive burden, a relief that you just let go of.”