A New Zealand born swimmer who competed in the 2012 Olympic Games has come out as gay, despite studying at one of the most conservative campuses in the US.
Twenty-three-year old Amini Fonua represented Tonga at last year’s London Olympics. He’s been studying telecommunications and media studies at Texas A&M, where he was captain of the swimming team.
While it appears that he’s been out among friends and fellow swimmers for some time he recently went public in the campus newspaper, The Battallion.
In the article he defended the school, despite it being ranked as the seventh most homophobic university in America by the Princeton Review.
Fonua said that the school’s honour code included not lying, cheating or stealing “And if you’re living in the closet, you’re living a lie.”
He insisted that his experience as an openly gay student and athlete at Texas A&M had been a “fairy tale”.
Fonua revealed that when he started at the school he had been taken aside by the then swimming team captain who said he should let him know if he was harassed in any way.
“I think that sort of set the precedent for my journey here because everyone’s open-minded, people don’t judge, and at the end of the day if you’re good at what you do, anything else and everything else is secondary,” Fonua said.
“Homophobia is at every university; it’s not just A&M. It’s everywhere,” he added. “It might be a little more prevalent here, but I do think that people will sensationalise how something really is.”
Fonua went on to say: “I think the reason people are so fascinated with [homosexuality] in sports is because there is this very hyper-masculine idea attached to being an athlete, especially a professional athlete. But at the end of the day, that’s what they are ﾗ they’re professional athletes.”
After his coming out became international news, Fonua tweeted: “Thank you for all your support! I really appreciate all the kind words & lovely tweets. Don’t let anything get in the way of your dreams.”