Michael Gunning in a speedo

Michael Gunning is working on a new project in the Canary Islands. Though the barrier-breaking pro swimmer won’t reveal many details about his new gig, he isn’t leaving much to the imagination on his Instagram page.

On Thursday, Gunning announced he was in the Spanish tropical haven for professional purposes.

Not too shabby!

“Suns out… guns out!,” he wrote. “Away shooting something really exciting this week in the Canary Islands… they say when you love what you do… you’ll never have to work a single day in your life! I couldn’t agree more!”

The 29-year-old is using platform to make an impact for the Black and LGBTQ+ communities.

Over the last month alone, he’s partnered with Speedo to encourage young people of color to take up swimming; started his own racing clinic; and presented at the Just Like Us Awards, which celebrate those improving the lives of LGBTQ+ youth.

Oh, and he attended his first London Pride–looking spectacular as always.

Raised and originally competing in the U.K., Gunning fought through stereotypes to become an elite swimmer. He nabbed his first national swimming title at age 13, despite being told Black kids don’t belong in the pool.

“At school there weren’t many mixed-race people” Gunning told the Guardian last year. “I had lots of voices telling me Black people can’t swim. I should do something Black people would succeed at, like athletics. … It’s only in recent years that I’m proud to say I’m a swimmer.”

The desire to disprove biases is one of the reasons why Gunning opted to represent Jamaica at the international level. More than anything, Gunning wanted to inspire young Jamaicans to take up swimming (he holds dual citizenship in Jamaica and the U.K).

He competed for Jamaica in the 2017 and 2019 World Aquatics Championships swimming butterfly–inspired by U.S. Olympic legend Michael Phelps.

Gunning says one of the most pivotal moments of his life occurred when he attended Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert in 2017, and narrowly escaped tragedy. A bombing terrorist attack killed 22 people, leaving him to wonder why he was spared.

“In that moment, I didn’t really help many people – I just ran,” he told the Independent.

That was when Gunning decided to come out as gay. He realized life was short, and he couldn’t keep hiding.

Telling his parents was the first step.

“We were very emotional and I remember thinking: ‘This shouldn’t have to be a thing.’ My mom was great, but I didn’t have the guts to tell my dad. I said to my mom: ‘Can you tell dad and the family?’ It’s one of my regrets now,” he said.

Gunning was hesitant to tell his dad, due to his Jamaican heritage. The Caribbean nation is regarded as one of the most homophobic nations on Earth.

“My dad knows how gay people are treated in Jamaica and he was concerned but after we spoke he was absolutely fine. He just wants me to be happy,” he said.

In 2018, Gunning came out to the world. He made the announcement on Rupaul’s Drag Race alum Courtney Act’s queer dating show, The Bi Life.

Being an out gay man and swimming for Jamaica was difficult. In a recent Pride interview, Gunning revealed that he received death threats from fans.

“Many people felt they had a free pass to hail abuse at me,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, the positives definitely outweighed the negatives, but the negatives were very, very dark.”

Still, Gunning wanted to represent Jamaica on the Olympic stage. He’s one of the most accomplished swimmers in country history, holding the national records for the 200-meter butterfly and 200- and 400-meter freestyle events.

But then COVID struck. Stuck in Great Britain, he wasn’t allowed to train in the U.K.’s professional swimming facilities. Bereft of access, he wound up not making the Olympics after all.

Shortly thereafter, Gunning announced his retirement from the sport.

While Gunning may no longer be racing competitively in the pool, he’s visible everywhere else. Whether it’s exposing underprivileged youth to swimming or standing up for the LGBTQ+ community, he’s always making a difference.

We can’t wait to see what he’s working on in the Canary Islands. In the meantime, more speedo pics will do! Gunning is an inspiration and a cutie. 😍

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Driven features stories and interviews highlighting the thrill of the queer journey, celebrating tenacious LGBTQers whose courage to be themselves fuels their drive to succeed.

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