International Relations

Why Matthew Mitcham Almost Skipped the World Series

Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitcham — who finally has a sponsor! — considered skipping out on diving’s World Series event, since its first two rounds of competition were in Qatar and China, two places where being openly gay might not fly to well with locals. But he tells Sydney’s The Morning Show that legal advisors told the 21-year-old to just not “fly the flag” and he should be alright. And he was! Except in competition: He came in second to Zhou Luxin, the Chinese diver he beat at the Beijing Olympics.

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  • rogue dandelion

    The olympics were in china, and he was out then, right?
    So this is more about qatar?

  • rogue dandelion

    Also what are the chances, that the only openly gay male athlete at the games would be such a stunner?

  • bigjake75

    who said he would ‘fly the flag’ anyway…how wierd is that? I’m sure the guy just did not want to end up in a fucked up chinese or muslim prison…they kill you for being homo in those cultures. Each day that goes by I realize more and more just how far we have to go for equality. One day…

  • John in CA

    Homosexuality has been legal in China for over a decade now. Which is more than we can say for this country.

  • Sampson

    What is lovely is that both the presenters were able to talk about his sexuality maturely and with kindness. My word, the station even sends a float to gay Mardi Gras.

  • dgz

    @John in CA:
    um, what? homosexuality has been legal in all 50 states since Lawrence — a lot longer than a decade.

    in other news, Mitcham is fantastic. glad he wasn’t stoned to death in qatar.

  • John in CA

    @dgz: A decade = 10 years. Lawrence was decided in June 2003. That’s less than six years ago. It appears you’re having some difficulty with simple arithmetic.

  • Mike

    He is the cutest thing ever. But what he’s saying about Qatar and China is really dumb. Can’t tell if he’s just bringing these topics up for attention or if he actually believes what he’s saying

  • dgz

    my bad, you’re right. got confused with Bowers v. Hardwick.
    but no need for the ‘tude, dude.

  • rogue dandelion

    @Mike: i don’t think he was talking about china- the gulf states are another story.
    wander off the reservation, and it won’t be pretty.

    here is an interesting (and well-written!) article on the darkside of dubai. (which is another member of the UAE) Inside it reveals dubai has become a mecca for arab gays, while homosexuality is still illegal there, punishable by up to a decade in prison.
    the rest of the article is much more disturbing.

  • The Gay Numbers

    His point is that the security for a world game is not going to be like that for the Olympics. IF i had to guess, that would be the point I gathered from it rather than assuming he’s upt to smething. But that’s me. I tend to read between the lines rather than project cynical.

  • Alec

    @rogue dandelion: What an uplifting story:

    Beneath a famous international hotel, I clamber down into possibly the only gay club on the Saudi Arabian peninsula. I find a United Nations of tank-tops and bulging biceps, dancing to Kylie, dropping ecstasy, and partying like it’s Soho. “Dubai is the best place in the Muslim world for gays!” a 25-year old Emirati with spiked hair says, his arms wrapped around his 31-year old “husband”. “We are alive. We can meet. That is more than most Arab gays.”

    Ah, the joys of the Emirates.

    And once again, of course, quasi-pederasty in response to gender segregation (a la ancient Greece) results in “real gays” going to Dubai:

    “In Saudi, it’s hard to be straight when you’re young. The women are shut away so everyone has gay sex. But they only want to have sex with boys – 15- to 21-year-olds. I’m 27, so I’m too old now. I need to find real gays, so this is the best place. All Arab gays want to live in Dubai.”

    As for the rest of that article, I’ve always thought Dubai was a good Babylon metaphor.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    “but no need for the ‘tude, dude.”

    Quite right.

    I’m going to still that.

    Put a smile on my face.


  • Jude

    He was worried about his safety? How about not going as a statement against the way gay people are treated in these countries?

  • emceebee

    I like the way he explained off why it took so long to get a sponsor. Very diplomatic. I don’t think him being gay actually did scare off too many sponsors, more that diving is a low profile sport over here. But it’s weird that Uncle Toby’s haven’t picked him up. I know why I won’t ever see him on a box of Weetbix.

  • Jimmy85

    @ Bigjake 75

    End up in some “fucked up Chinese prison?” Yeah, OK give me a break. People need to stop being ignorant and get the idea out of their minds that China is some super socially conservative country.
    Hello, every heard of communism? Yeah, it’s a left wing ideology. The Chinese government is very oppressive and draconian when it comes to political issues, but as for being LGBT, the government couldn’t care less. As for the people, yes they are traditional, but they are surprisingly OK with homosexuality; there’s more of a “it’s none of my business attitude.” Anyone was has actually been to China can vouch for this. We in the West need to stop perpetuating the lie that our countries are all “free” and “tolerant,” because the fact is, most of the US still uses BS religious excuses to justify their prejudice. While the West is generally more progressive, it isn’t always the case for LGBT issues. BTW, hate crimes in China and East Asia in general against gay people are almost unheard of.

    As for Qatar, well that’s a whole other matter.

  • Alec

    @Jimmy85: Kind of. Sodomy law in place until the 90s, homosexuality classified as a mental disorder until 2001 or so. Ongoing government censorship and familial pressure to marry. It is different in China than it is in the West or Muslim countries, to be sure, but it isn’t some sort of ideal. On the other hand, it may be the only recent example of a one party state that eventually leaps forward (no pun intended) on gay rights, as attitudes seem to be changing quickly.

    But…yeah…I don’t see why Mitcham would have a problem with China when it came to gay rights. Unless he’d object to, say, Japan, the US or until a few years ago, his own country for the same reason.

  • The Gay Numbers

    Jude- the statement would be to go. Not going says nothing. That’s the again the lesson of history- always go where they don’t want you.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    You’re surrealy optimistic!??

    HE was just playing the media game…and good for him!

    Dude, it was because he was GAY.

    G A Y

    If Americans are getting their pants twisted over men/women having same sex marriage for chrissakes, why would people thus NOT want to support a gay athlete..

  • Alec

    Upon watching the clip, it is clear that he only had Qatar in mind, not China, at least when it came to gay rights. He refers to China once, and to Qatar about three times. Given the context, he obviously sees the difference.

    Apparently, not the author of this post, so much.

  • dgz

    @Alec: yeah, i only got him criticizing qatar from this vid, as well…
    he only obtained legal advice for the world championships, not for the big O.

  • Mike

    I have lived in the Middle East, been to Qatar and known people who have lived there. He would have not been in any danger there of getting arrested or persecuted, what he’s saying is outright ridiculous.

  • dgz

    @Mike: well, there was that 1996 case of a U.S. gay being flogged and imprisoned in qatar for being gay…,QUERYRESPONSE,,QAT,3deceae24,0.html
    and here’s a page with other news/tidbits:

    while mitcham would probably be safe, i think his lawyer was quite right to advise him not to “fly the flag.” but then again, i haven’t ever been there, so your personal experience may have differed. (can’t say i really *want* to go, though…)

  • Jude

    @ The Gay Numbers: Not going and saying why you’re not going has more weight than going and not saying anything. Athletes usually stay in their own bubble, out of the real world. Or you can go AND make yourself heard.

    The way he’s talking now is good too, since it’s getting us to talk about Quatar, but the image he gives of himself is not so good. My first reaction was “how selfish”, which I don’t think he really is.

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