“I woke up in the emergency ward, with a nurse telling me they considered inducing me in a coma”
SIMON DUNN, the world’s first out gay bobsleigh athlete and underwear selfie star, opens up about homophobia, love and rejection.
Back in 2015, Aussie bobsleigh star Simon Dunn become a world-wide phenomenon. Not just because he was spending most of his waking day posting deliriously sexy underwear selfies, but because he was the first ever OUT gay bobsleigh athlete to be on a national team.
It wasn’t long before gay guys the world over took Simon to their hearts and voted him the hottest man in the world in Attitude’s Hot 100 readers poll.
But although he has the looks, the swagger and the body, there is more to Simon than meets the eye.
Here, the muscular Aussie reflects on a vicious gay bashing that almost left him in a coma, the negative reactions he received when he came out and why he wants his new found fame to help change the lives of other young gay men.
You’ve just moved to London – what was behind the move?
I’ve always wanted to move to London, it was actually my plan to spend a year in Canada before moving here. But obviously I ended up spending a few more years there training and competing in bobsleigh.
How come you decided to retire from bobsleigh?
There’s a long list of reasons, but the clincher was having my pilot retire, which left Australia with only one. With twice as many brakemen now trying to make the one team I knew the Olympics were a long shot. So I’ve decided to go back to rugby and will reevaluate bobsleigh after the games.
Was it tough for you being gay in the sporting world?
It’s definitely not easy. It was part of the reason I gave up all competitive sport for around seven years when I was younger. Most sports and their culture are still really homophobic, placing emphasis on being hyper masculine and macho. These are things that gay men traditionally aren’t viewed as. I’ve seen it slowly changing since I was a teen but we still have a long way to go.
How did your bobsleigh team react when they found out you were gay?
I made sure they were aware of it before I even tried out. I had issues about my sexuality with a rugby team I used to play with as a teen. I didn’t want to put all the effort into making the Australian team only to have to go through all that again.
How was it coming out to your rugby team when you were a teenager?
When I was a teenager it was tough. I was going to a really working class school in which no one had ever come out. As one of the senior players on the team I thought I was in a position to do so and hopefully change the culture. But that was a big mistake. The comments and ridicule from my own teammates, some life long friends, eventually caused me to quit.
How was your coming out to family?
Foolishly I thought it would be a good idea to come out during an argument with my mother. It certainly had the desired effect because it stopped the argument straight away. Unfortunately, the next day she asked me to leave home. I remember it like it was yesterday. It took me a long time to forgive my mother and have a proper relationship with her again, perhaps even years. I totally forgive her for it now, this was something I’d taken my whole life to come to terms with she didn’t have this luxury. Moving forward to now I think she’d be more upset if I told her it was a phase and I was straight.
In spite of your rugby build, you were a victim of a hate attack. What happened?
I don’t remember too much from the night as I was knocked unconscious. I was out one Saturday night with a teammate having a few beers after rugby earlier in the day. We decided to call it a night and leave. We’d only walked about 50 metres down the road when a group of six men started calling us homophobic names and started following us. Then we were set on by them and I ended up being hit from behind, falling and striking my head on the kerb. I woke up the next day in the emergency ward, with the nurse telling me they had considered inducing me into a coma because they thought I had a blood clot on my brain. It was at that point I realised how lucky I was to be waking up.
You became famous around the world for posting underwear selfies and for being the first out gay bobsledder – what are you most proud of?
Obviously being the first out gay bobsledder. My selfies are just something I do for fun, not really something I plan on telling my kids about.
How has being such a public face (and indeed body) changed you?
I like to think it hasn’t changed me, I have a really good circle of friends who like to keep me grounded and not let it all go to my head.
With so many people looking up to a strong gay man in sport, do you feel like a role model?
One of my main motivators about being so public with my sexuality in sport, is I want to be the role model I never had growing up. Openly gay athletes are few and far between and I feel this is why gay teens don’t feel they have a place in sport. Therefore, the more public we are the more people who will be inspired to follow there dreams.
You won Attitude’s hot 100 back in 2015 – that must have made you feel invincible?
It kind of become a burden, because people constantly felt the need to tell me I wasn’t the hottest person in the world. Which is something I’m very much aware of! It also made it very apparent my following are very passionate and love voting for things.
Have you always felt comfortable about who are and what you look like?
I still don’t feel comfortable about it today. In a world of social media we’re constantly bombarded with images of beautiful people who seem to have perfect lives. It’s only human nature to compare yourself to them.
As you’re such a public figure – and a rather dashing one at that – have men treated you differently?
I definitely get a lot more attention but now people already have a preconceived idea of who you are. Sometimes it’s completely off!
Is it hard to date guys with your very public profile ?
I’ve been single for several years. I’ve learnt to really love being single and appreciate it for all its worth. In saying that I’m certainly open to the idea of dates, it’s just been hard as I’ve spend the last three years working and training fulltime which leaves little time for dating.
Life’s about to start afresh for you here in London but what has been your greatest achievement so far?
I think having the opportunity to represent my country in bobsleigh and also being the first out gay man to do so. Although it was a lot of work and time it’s something you can never take away from me. It’s in the history books now.
And what is the dream?
The dream for me is to continue using my profile to champion LGBT athletes and causes. That plus a husband, 2 kids and the white picket fence